Here’s something you might not know unless you know me in person: I’ve struggled with my weight for the past ten years. It’s not a dramatic story; I just go through bouts of eating well, and not eating well, and watching my body change in different directions. The first direction, I slowly gained 50 pounds. The second direction, I followed the Weight Watchers program and lost the 50 pounds. Then I gained back thirty over a period of four years.
I’m not here to bore you with diet talk– that’s not fun for either of us. But I do want to give you my very personal testimonial because it leads directly into what I’ve learned about knowing what my goal is, and staying on the path towards it.
That’s because I’ve been actively finding new ways to stay motivated. I thought I’d share them with you, since they can be applied to most every goal (in fact, what goal wouldn’t this work for?).
Write Out Your Goal
Start by writing out your goal. Use active language, be specific about what you want, and give yourself a time limit. Mine was, “I am losing 30 pounds and will be able to walk a mile briskly without any heavy breathing, by October first of this year”. Write it out, multiple times, and place it in everyday places, so you are reminded of your vision. I have it written in my wallet and my Filofax. Use nice paper, and write it in ink. The last thing you need is that goal fading away.
Make a Plan
If you are reading this, you’re obviously computer savvy enough to open up a text file and get started mapping out your vision. I like to use my beloved email program to send things to myself, so I can look them up on my phone when I need them. When you have the blank document in front of you, start writing down the tools and ideas you have to get you where you need to be. Create a separate section for any and all questions that come up along the way. I like to divide things up into weeks: a heading for Week 1, Week 2, etc. Week 1 might have listed under it, “walk for 20 minutes, 3 times a week. Eat whole foods for all meals, except for three, which will be well-balanced vegan meals.” A goal is far more manageable if you choose to look at it as a series of steps along the way to seeing a larger result. This is the time to lay out your parameters and mini goals (specific goals for each segment of time). Be merciless. Think of this as your customized game plan.
Also, make sure you write down WHY you are creating this goal. What has brought you to this point? How will your life improve after you reach your goal?
Visualize Your Vision
You didn’t think you’d get through this without a vision board, did you?! Seriously, it really helps. Pick up a cork board and put it up on your wall. Write out your goal and tack it up there. Comb through magazines and books that encapsulate what you want, and stick these up next to your goal. Think about power words and make sure those get up there too. Whatever reminds you of your goal goes up on the board– pictures of role models, quotes, things that speak to how you want to feel when you reach your goal. Spend a good chunk of time on this, probably an afternoon or a few hours. This will get your brain amped up for what you want. Now, go get em, Tiger.
Grow Your Support Group
Remember those questions you wrote down while you were writing out your plan? Now’s the time to pull them out. Find your experts! Think about people who can answer your questions– optimally people who are in your orbit and in your life. They will be the most likely to help you out. And if there really is no one, then go ahead and use Google.
A huge part of any success in any capacity is creating a support group. Look for your experts, but also look for people who want to grow with you, people who will share what they have learned on their similar journey. My favorite place for crowd sourcing of this type is Facebook. Cheesy, I know, but so easy and succinct! I posted that I wanted to start a weight loss pool, and was met with interest right away. Within a week, we had created our little group, our goals, and the time limit and parameters that the weight loss pool would abide with. Each week, we weigh in and share what we’ve picked up along the way.
Track Your Progress
So necessary– and something to look forward to! I definitely do better reaching my goals when I track my progress. I have a dedicated space in my Filofax for a weekly check-in; this time around, it’s a weigh in on Monday mornings. I also have an app on my phone to enter every little thing that I eat every day– so I know exactly how much of what I am consuming. I know this might sound anal retentive, but when you have a goal and you WANT IT, it’s a great way to really focus. Tracking your progress helps you to take those very important small steps to get get you to your larger goal; it makes that larger goal totally reachable and a reality.
Create “Rewards” Along The Way
As much as I’d love to have a flippin’ vegan cheesecake every time I reach a weight loss goal, I know (duh) it’s the worst idea evs. I’ve created a rewards system that feeds my vanity, not my stomach (forgive me. I had to. I won’t get pissed if you start calling me Cathy). Every time I drop a size, I head to my favorite thrift store and pick out something for myself in my new size. Look, whatever works. Just be clever and pick a reward that doesn’t play on what you are giving up– instead, it needs to keep you pushing in the right direction.
Prepare for Weakness
This past week, I got super tired of the food I was eating. It was starting to feel repetitive, and I was torturing myself thinking about little “cheats” just because they were around. I managed to plow through the feeling, but only because of the promise of a new day. UGH. It was awful! I had to take action.
I picked up a new vegan cookbook to get some ideas, and my husband picked up the slack on my meals (he was fully informed of my parameters and goals, and cooked accordingly). When reaching your goal gets rough, you gotta change it up. Try something else. Pull out that text document and add another section: “What I’m Struggling with and What I’m Going to Try Differently”. Start researching (hit up those carefully selected experts and your support group) and write all of their advice down, even if it sounds like it won’t apply to you or doesn’t sound doable. The more info, the better.
Now go back to your Game Plan, and insert that advice. And abide by it.
You can (and should!) also hit up these rad people when the feeling of weakness is striking hard. Sometimes all it takes is typing out your challenge as a text message to a friend to give you some perspective.
If you fall off your plan, or feel like you are on the verge of doing so: remind yourself why you set your goal in the first place! Look at that text file– those should be listed in there.
I’d also like to mention something that we all don’t like to talk about: timing. You might have a goal, but you know, the timing might not be right. I’m talking about, in no other words, other things being priorities. Try as you might, your particular goal might not be that high up on your priority list. I think that’s ok– a year ago, I didn’t have all my ducks in a row according to my Game Plan, and so I couldn’t make myself do the work. It just wasn’t happening. My efforts were being put into different things. I’d still encourage you to write out a loose Game Plan and make a vision board. That way, you still have the goal in sight, even if it isn’t being attacked at that moment. You can check back in on your goal when you feel you are better able to dedicate yourself to it. Something is always better than nothing, so don’t just disregard what you want as pie-in-the-sky and completely unattainable.
Eliminate The Naysayers
Oh, but that sounds so mean! All I’m saying is there is a good chance that there will be an obstacle in human form blocking your ship at some point, Captain. That human might be very well intentioned. In fact, they probably are, and that’s the hard part. Gently remind them of your goal, and that you are prepared to work hard to get there– you are serious about making it happen. I’d even pull them aside (or rather, away from the situation itself) to do this. Most of the time, that’s all they will need to respect what you are trying to do…even if they might not believe in it yet. And if they are mocking your efforts or being outright mean, let them know you’re really bummed, but you won’t deal with that sort of behavior, and if it continues you’ll be forced to leave. And then leave. That shit is so not cool.
Prepare for Success
I mean, of course you reached your goal. You’re awesome! But preparing for success means preparing for after you reach your goal. My problem was that after I had lost heaps of pounds on Weight Watchers, I didn’t stay on track afterwards. I’ve learned from that experience– and I know exactly how I’ll be eating to maintain my goal weight after it’s reached. This is really satisfying for me to think about, and I couldn’t resist also writing this out in my text document. It’s really important to think about how your life will change after you get what you have worked so hard for, and what you can do with it. I wanna take care of and protect all of my hard work, so this is a lovely practice for me. I think you’ll like it too.
Good luck! And let me know what you do to motivate yourself. After all, we are nothing if we do not share!