New year, new goals, new you…right?
Maybe…if you resonate with that mantra. To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of the “new year, new you” mantra. Because if you weren’t doing something continuously to build new habits since early December, then the chances of you following through are diminished.
Don’t get me wrong - I’m all about waking up one day and stepping into new habits and new ways of being. And January 1st can be a great anchor point to do so. However, it takes time to build new habits and new neural pathways to ultimately create a “new you.”
These new changes also depend on what your habits were previously. For example, if you desire to workout every day and eat vegan for the rest of your life, awesome! I’m not here to judge your goals and desires. But if your habits consisted of eating meat in every meal and working out only once per week, you’re setting yourself up for potential failure. This isn’t to say you can’t do it. I’ve seen some radical shifts in people who transform their way of being overnight.
But there are a few reasons why they were successful with it long-term which I’ll get into soon - keep reading.
When the gap between where you are now and where you desire to be is too large, feelings of shame, guilt, and unworthiness settle in overtime. In the beginning, it’ll seem easier because it’s new and your nerve system loves novelty (see previous blogs on the concept of novelty). After about 2 weeks, that dopamine hit off of the novelty will begin to wear off. It’s less exciting and more routine, perhaps even more mundane. But isn’t this what a habit is? It sounds boring, but simply put a habit is a behavior performed over time that becomes automated over time.
On a neurological level, the new neural pathways from the repetitive behaviors have been established, polished, and refined so therefore it requires less energy for the brain to perform the same habits overtime. Remember your brain is trying to conserve and be as resourceful with energy as possible. This is the simple process of neuroplasticity and rewiring your brain. However, when we begin new habits that seem far out of our normal ways of being, it requires way more energy to begin to form these new habits and neural pathways. Again, if this gap is too large, you have higher chances of failing and defaulting into old ways of being simply because it’s easier on your brain and nerve system.
This probably isn’t the positive message you were hoping for in a new year, right?
Well, the positive news is coming, I promise! As you know, I find it valuable to understand why your brain does what it does first before you dive into strategy. That way you get to know yourself better and own your habits, emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors.
Here are a few principles you can begin to apply to your life to help you set and achieve goals that ultimately align with you and your values in life.
1. Get clear with your values.
I witness so many people attempt to set goals that don’t align with their values. They get into “comparisonitis mode” about how they think their life should be when in reality those goals have nothing to do with what they individually value in life. For example, my top values are my health/energy, education/learning/teaching, and business/entrepreneurship. Most of my time, energy, and resources are dedicated to these values. I would rather spend 2 hours in the gym versus 2 hours with my family. Does this mean I love them any less? Of course not, but ultimately we have to pick and choose what we do within a day as we are all gifted the same 24 hours.
One way you can begin to determine your top 3 values is look at what occupies space and time in your mind most often. You can also look at when you have free time away from work what your brain engages with when it comes to podcasts, TV shows, conversations, etc. Where do you spend your time, energy, and money? When you think about your values, think about what inspires you and what you would continue to focus on even in the face of pain and challenge. What inspires you to get out of bed and start your day with?
You might be surprised when doing this exercise as to how often (or how little) you’re living in alignment with your values. When you begin to live in alignment with your true values, your world begins to change and achieving goals becomes much easier.
2. Set realistic goals that align with these values
As you just read, family isn’t within my top values (at least in this chapter of my life). So for me, setting a goal to spend more time with my family might not resonate with me. However, setting a goal to be on stage at a body building competition in October 2021 fully inspires me. It’s also realistic in the sense that I already had a workout routine so adding a few more days of lifting wasn’t a huge stretch (remember the gap?). It also aligns with my values of learning and education. I’ve been able to learn more about performance, proper lifting technique, body transformation and so much more. And because this aligns with my values, I will be inspired to continue pursuing my goals even in the face of challenge (i.e. sleeping in, skipping a workout, etc.).
Once you know your top values, choose a goal that stretches you about 10%. If you hit the goal, you can stretch yourself another 10%. Remember, there is no one right way and you can always set new goals even in a year timeframe!
3. Break it down into bite-sized action steps
Once you know your goal, break it down into small, bite-sized chunks. Sometimes a goal by itself can feel daunting and unachievable. It’s the tiny habits and actions that add up to big results. As my mentor Dr. Alok says, “Micro-wins lead to a macro-life.”
To give an example, here is the layout I’ve taken this far to get myself closer to stepping on the body building stage come October 2021:
Hire a coach
Renew my gym membership
Purchase at home weights in case (because COVID)
Research and purchase sustainable protein powders
Research best body building foods
Follow professional body builders in instagram to learn
Restudy the musculoskeletal system for proper muscle engagement
Set up lifting routines
Keep track of progress on notes on my phone (progressive overloading)
Take progress pictures every 2-3 weeks and send to coach
Save progress pics on album on phone and computer
Research proper body building suits
Study how to properly come off of a show via food, lifting, etc. as to not mentally crash
Schedule body scraping 1-2x per week
Schedule in off days
Shop and meal prep on the weekends
Purchase training suit for progression pictures
Set date for competition in calendar to be mindful of 8 week prep pre-show
4. Get accountability
As the dopamine effect wears off, you will be faced with challenges when it comes to hitting your goals in life. Peer pressure, fatigue, boredom, family opinions, and more are there to challenge you and make you stronger. When these challenge arise, it’s important to have accountability because let’s face it - we’re all human. There have been many days I want to skip a workout and eat more sugar. Having a coach helps me stay on track and provides support when I am feeling down.
No matter what category your goals fall within, a health and wellness coach can be an incredible asset to your team. Our team member, Coach Michael is always available to connect and support you on your health and wellness journey. If you have any questions, please reach out to him to schedule a free consult at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also grab his free Vitality Cookbook at his email as well.
Know that we are here to support you through all the ups and downs of life. We believe that the more fulfilled you are, the better world we create.
Cheers to an aligned 2021,
Dr. Mel and Michael