Goals can help you measure incremental progress, but they may not be enough to transform you into the person you want to (and can) become.
Think about it this way:
You decide you want to lose 10 pounds. So, you spend 3 months eating healthier and going to the gym. And sure enough, one day you step on the scale and you've reached your goal weight. Hooray!
But a few weeks later you find that you're back up two pounds. And a few weeks after that, it's 6 pounds. You were able to get to your goal but had no strategies or habits to help you maintain it. Therefore, you spend way too much time and energy cycling through weight loss and weight gain. It's frustrating, disappointing, and ultimately futile.
Now, consider the same person takes a different approach.
Instead of saying, "I would like to lose 10 pounds", she says, "I want to be a healthy home chef." Boom. All of a sudden her goal is no longer about one day when she steps on the scale and sees the number she's been waiting for. It is about making a desirable change to her identity.
As she starts shopping for healthier foods, eating fewer meals away from home, and learning about cooking, she is pleasantly surprised that her weight is down 10 pounds. And a few weeks later, it's down 15!
This is just one, simplistic example of a goal versus a change in identity. But think about other examples in your own life where you set a goal and were proud of yourself for achieving it, but it didn't lead to a long term change.
A 30-day diet, a step-challenge, sober October - even if you reach that goal, it hasn't changed you. It hasn't changed your fundamental routine or motivation to change. You're likely to return to old habits because that's what your body and brain are most used to.
Furthermore, if you give up on your goal before completing it, you lose the momentum you had. But on a journey to be the ideal version of yourself, a single-day setback is no big deal.
Now I do not want to vehemently discourage goals. I think they can be a useful short-term tool during your journey to becoming who you want to be. But they are not the end-all-be-all of our existence. We don't define ourselves by the goals we have reached but by actions that reflect who we are as a person.
Putting this into practice necessitates a little bit of self-reflection. First, how would you define and describe your ideal self? It could be things like,
- I am a runner
- I am a morning person
- I am a reader
Once you have defined the traits of your ideal self you can translate them into behaviors. A runner runs, a morning person is productive in the morning, and a reader reads. That part is simple. But the process of becoming a certain type of person doesn't happen overnight. There are smaller interim steps you can take to make your ideal self your real self.
If you want to learn more about behavior change, I would highly recommend James Clear's book Atomic Habits.
And if you want someone to help guide you through the process of transforming your current habits into healthier ones, contact me today. I work with men and women who are seeking long-term change, not just living life one goal at a time.
Read next week's blogs for more on the importance of building healthy habits.