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I can tell you what it doesn’t look like: falling short of a goal that you set and then swearing to yourself that you will NEVER do that again.
Setbacks are hard. Really hard. They’re also the most necessary part of the journey to our goals! They teach us valuable lessons about ourselves—but those lessons that can be easier for us to take to heart when we have more successes than setbacks. To keep “sticking with it,” let’s look at how you can keep your goals both fresh and realistic.
As a certified health and wellness coach, my favorite tool to help patients keep their goals fresh is a formula supported by the American Heart Association and other organizations: frequency, intensity, time, and type (F.I.T.T.). Let’s say that one of your fitness goals this year is to hop on the treadmill three times each week. When you feel yourself starting to lose steam, you can mix up your routine by changing the frequency, intensity, time, and/or type of your workout regimen:
The F.I.T.T. formula can also be used with nutrition. Let’s say that you’ve been eating three full meals a day and you have a new diet of fewer daily calories. Whereas before you felt fine in between meals, now you’re hungry to the point of distraction, and you’re snacking on the first foods you see. To stave off hunger in between meals, you can mix it up here as well:
Maybe you’re consistently falling short of your goals. Not a good feeling. Consider the possibility that it’s not you; it’s the goals themselves.
But before you revisit your goals, revisit your intention—or what I call your “vision statement.” This is foundational to who you are and it reminds you why you’re doing what you’re doing. Michele Bauer, one of our behavioral health clinicians, offers three steps to set and follow your intention.
While your intention is sacred, your goals can and should be evaluated early and often. There are many ways to “live” your values and there’s no shame in choosing a new one.
At Vivacity Care Center, we’re big fans of starting goals with the words “I will” and making them S.M.A.R.T.: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. At least one study has proven that S.M.A.R.T. goals inspire more action. So when you’re reevaluating your goals after having struggled with them, consider focusing on attainability first:
One of the biggest things I notice about patients who tend to meet their goals—however many setbacks along the way—is positive self-talk. A little self-compassion goes a long way.
Another thing they tend to have? Support. As Michele points out in her intention-setting article, making your goals known makes you likelier to achieve them. I would add that support from others gives you an important sounding board where you can articulate both your values and your goals. Your words and their reactions form a well of inspiration from which you can draw.
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