If you’ve read my article on Catastrophic Thinking, then you’ll have a rough idea of where I’m going with this article.
It’s so very tempting, when we start anything new, that we get excited and go overboard. On a new diet we’ll zealously over-restrict; on a new training regime we’ll go to every possible class at the gym; on a New Year’s Resolution we’ll stick to it for maybe a day or two…
‘All or Nothing’ thinking (aka Catastrophic Thinking) is often a big factor in why New Year’s Resolutions rarely last past the 7th January. When we make a small slip up, our thinking tells us that we’ve now blown it and there’s no way back. In reality, we’ve just had a slip, and the best thing to do is get straight back up and try again.
Well, first things first. Make sure that whatever you’re trying to change or do is YOUR decision. Make sure it’s something that you want to do, and are ready to do. Make it personal. If you don’t believe in what you’re trying to achieve, if you don’t believe you can do it, chances are when push comes to shove, you won’t carry through on your intentions. Make sure that whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it because YOU want to, and not because someone else is doing it or has suggested that you should do it.
Secondly, ensure that your goals are SMART.
Specific – not just “I want to lose weight” or “I want to get more toned”. Set specific goals that, when you achieve them, you’ll know about it…and if you don’t, you can then look into why you didn’t get there.
Measurable – when you make your goals measurable, you can see without a doubt whether you’ve hit them or not. If you’re trying to lose a few pounds (or stones!), then weighing yourself or measuring yourself (or both) is a good way to go. Or maybe you can measure your progress by how well you look in your clothes. Taking photos wearing the same clothes, in the same light, at the same time of day is another good way of measuring your progress.
Achievable – can you do what you’ve set out to do? Maybe you need some expert advice on this area. Do you need to learn a new skill to help you achieve your goal? Do you need some guidance on time management? Seek it out and get as much input as you need.
Realistic – the aim may be realistic for Usain Bolt, but unless you’re him, then the aim will probably not be realistic for you! This is where it helps to know your strengths and weaknesses, and to match your goals with your lifestyle and current fitness / health conditions.
Time-based – give yourself a set time in which to achieve something. When the time is up, you can review your progress and tweak your plans if needed. Just having an open-ended “I want to achieve…” will not help you to focus your strength and energy into getting the task done.
I am a visual and kinetic learner. I like to see things, and to be able to do things alongside someone a bit more expert than myself. I use several strategies to help me stay on track, and to get me back on track after I’ve slipped up.
Photos – I keep some photos of people, places and events with me at all times. I have a few in my handbag, and a keep some in my car. I also have some at home in my lounge. When I feel a ‘wobble’ coming on, I’ll take a moment and look through these photos. I go back to the event (in my case a previous Physical Challenge where I’ve overcome something I found tough to do) and imagine myself in that situation. I try to feel the emotion of that moment, the struggle I had, and then the joy and excitement of winning through. Focusing on previous positive events helps to remind myself that I can do things that, at the time I thought I couldn’t.
Journaling – I’m a big fan of writing stuff down. For me it helps to get the ramblings of my brain out and down on to paper. When I’ve written everything down I find it easier to work through the ‘black and white’ of feelings etc. I also find it useful to look back through my journals and remind myself that I can get through situations which, while going through them, felt very overpowering and intimidating.
Support – build up a good support structure around you. As humans we’re not meant to be alone; I believe we are designed to need each other for help and support. So build up a network of people who you can observe and learn from; who you can ask questions to; who will stretch, challenge and encourage you to think ‘out of the box’. Social media can be great for this. Join forums; listen to TED talks; go to conferences and seminars; take online courses (I’ve found both Future Learn and Coursera to be particularly good); read articles which you don’t fully understand or agree with. Sit with a dictionary and / or Google terms and ideas which you don’t recognise.
On Day 5 I’ve had to remind myself to write things down and also to resist my default ‘all or nothing’ thinking. Writing things down has helped me to focus on what needs to be done. Avoiding the wrong thinking helps me to not be too hard on myself and to encourage myself when I’ve hit my daily targets.
Over the past few weeks I’ve read a couple of books: The Weight Issue by Dr Alison E Oates, and ‘Mindless Eating’ by Brian Wansink. Sadly the website which Dr Oates quotes in her book doesn’t exist when I checked the other day. However, the Mindless Eating website does, and has some useful FREE downloads available. I’m using the Mindless Daily Checklist to keep my three small, sustainable changes in mind and to help visualise my progress.
Over the next few blogs I’ll discuss some points from both of these books which have made me stop and think. Some points I’ve agreed with, others I haven’t. That’s ok. It’s what makes for an interesting journey of growth and development.
So, until next time… keep moving forward! “So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us… Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.” Philippians 3:16 (The Bible – Message version)