Everyone has goals – they give us something to aim for. But sometimes achieving those goals seems overwhelming and out of reach.
Often when we make a decision to do something, like make healthy lifestyle changes, we go at it full force and end up burning out.
I know someone who ate meat and cheese every day but…
One day, after watching a particularly powerful documentary on the meat industry, he decided to switch to a Vegan diet. He threw out all animal products from the house, then hit up the nearest health shop and stocked up on vegan foods.
His vegan diet lasted 3 days!
He set his goal and made his intentions, but the change was too big (and unplanned!) for him to be able to sustain it.
On his second attempt, he had a clear plan, visualised how he would achieve it, and started making small changes over time. He started eating red meat only twice a week and incorporated more vegetables into his meals. Then he switched his dairy milk for soy and introduced more beans to his diet. Eventually he cut out meat entirely and stopped eating cheese.
He kept making these little changes – each time he became comfortable with a change, he’d add another new one.
He’s been vegan for almost 3 years now.
Regardless of what your goal is – whether it’s to lose weight, save up to buy a home, get fitter, or go vegan! – the method to achieve it is the same.
5 Simple Steps To Positive Change
1. Set mini goals
Having an ultimate goal is great because it gives us something to work towards. But it can also be overwhelming, especially if achieving that goal seems far off.
Set yourself mini goals that will help you to achieve your ultimate goal. Breaking it up like this not only makes it more manageable, but also gives you a continued sense of achievement as you achieve your mini goals.
Things like ‘This week I will take the stairs instead of the elevator’, or ‘Today I will eat 3 different vegetables with lunch and dinner’, work well. Decide ahead what your mini goals will be and add more as you start achieving them consistently.
2. Cues not willpower
Creating habits that last is much easier if we incorporate them into our existing routine. Be specific with your plans and make use of triggers in your day to day routine instead of relying on willpower (which is exhausting and rarely works!).
For example, ‘when I get home from work, I will exercise’ then have your exercise kit laid out ready where you usually change out of your work clothes. Or ‘when I want a snack, I will eat fruit/nuts’, then make sure you have your snack to hand and visible for when you get hungry.
3. Reduce choices
Avoid relying on willpower by reducing the amount of decisions you have to make. Plan your meals ahead, and prepare food in advance as much as you can. Chopping and bagging vegetables as soon as you get home with groceries is a very effective way of making sure you eat more of them.
Likewise, avoid buying overly processed, pre-packaged foods (like potato chips and biscuits). If they’re not in the home, you won’t have to use willpower to avoid eating them!
4. Visualise action
We often fantasise about achieving our goals but rarely the steps it takes to get there! People who have the most success in achieving their goals visualise the process, not just the outcome.
Visualise the process of actions you need to take to achieve your goal. If you make the decision to exercise 3 times a week, visualise yourself doing it and how you’ll feel once you’ve completely your exercise. Likewise, visualise yourself preparing, cooking and eating healthier meals.
5. Learn from mistakes
If you are finding it difficult to make a change, look at specifically why that is. Then think about a way to resolve it.
For example, if you find you’re too tired to exercise after work, resolve to take a 30 minute walk during your lunch break instead. If you’re finding it difficult to stop buying snacks from the store you walk past each morning, resolve to walk a different route.
The key is to incorporate small changes into your existing routine with as little disruption as possible. That’s the best way for us to make our healthy changes into long-term habits.