I sometimes am asked what I do every to achieve my goals and objectives. I explain that the behaviour depends mostly upon what the objective is, or what I am building, honing or shoring up. Since that type of response never makes anybody happy nor keeps a website running, let me dispense with the disclaimer and provide some illustration.
I will highlight two factors for attaining goals:
- Â· Discipline
- Â· Know when to use a crutch or tool
The long answer still does not really provide any insight into how achieve my goals and objectives. Now, I will give you the lesson that will not fit in the elevator ride, but will answer the question. This first factor seems self-explanatory. Most people wish they had more of the stuff. But consider for a moment: discipline not only applies to the attempt to do something regularly, so that it transcends the mundane plane and becomes a rarefied habit. The actual behaviours are what you must apply discipline to. Avoid thinking about the entire end goal. Once you have established the specific goals and objectives, attack the smallest elements as vigorously as possible. Let me give you an example:
- Goal: lose 20 pounds over the next six months.
- Habit 1: exercise smartly 5 days per week.
- Habit 2: eat healthy meals, with smaller portions
You may have tried unsuccessfully to accomplish a plan like this one. Perhaps you were confused about why you failed, despite having super specific goals and objectives, complete with a set time frame and a multi-pronged habit to attain said goals and objectives, in order to eliminate the perceived problem.
What went wrong?
The answer people usually come up with is that they lacked discipline. Again, while this may well be true, it is entirely unhelpful. It also gives the impression that a similar plan of attack but with more determination and focus would succeed. We're talking ultra-mega-disciplined! Focus every moment and every thought on those goals and objective that have been haunting you.
Today I am going to tell you that will not work. I will also tell you why, and how to change your strategy so you can achieve your wellness goals and objectives with habits that work.
The truth is that you simply cannot apply discipline to most aims that people call "objectives". You can try to, but it will not work. The times when people happen to succeed it is usually because they came to the conclusion that their goal needed to be smaller. One more example:
- Goal: Lose 4 pounds in the next two months
- Habit: Drink half as much beer
- Habit: Join a recreational soccer league that plays every Saturday and meets for a Wednesday night practice
- Habit: Ask Cindy from accounting if you can join her at yoga.
- Habit: take the dog jogging every other day.
Armed with this "new and improved" strategy we even start to see planning resembling what you find in some self-help and personal development books. You have a smaller "more realistic" goals and objectives. You have added some habits, while modifying others to "keep it real". You hope that this machine gun approach will yield better results, since you might be able to achieve your goals and objectives even if you only manage to stick to half your habits. Even if yoga doesn't work out, and you miss half your soccer games. Guess what? Some of you will probably manage to meet this goal using this strategy. The self-help guru must have been right, right? No, what you have done now is cheat yourself out of the major changes you sought, as well as the true development.
The fundamental purpose of every wellness goal is actually to create a set of behaviours that will recur over and over and last. The final word in that sentence is key. Wellness goals and objectives are supported by lasting habits. Contrary to many pop 'experts' advice currently in print, your wellness aim should not be a small morsel of what you actually dream of. The actions you intend to carry out to create your wellness habits matter. They all matter (in a future article I will discuss the one exception the this rule, what I call "wellness bottlenecks").
The very point is to find a way to behave in a consistently skilled way for long enough to form a habit that you believe is of importance to creating, supporting, and maintaining your lasting wellness. The wellness goal is, in fact, almost always an arbitrary finish line that helps us create a framework to formulate the behaviour that will lead to our wellness habits. Wellness habits then, are the true goals, not the 20 pounds. They all matter. These habits, once established, will enable you to continuously build wellness. Reaching the 'finish line' is merely a side benefit of our habits, or an element of the product of our habits, which is wellness itself.
The Ingredients of Discipline
- Commitment: Examine your level of commitment. It is not that difficult to feel the difference between a firm conviction and an unconscious agreement to continue due 'obligation to try'.
- Planning: You must really consider what you are getting yourself into. Are you aware of everything you will be required to do? Â Do you know what these goals and objectives entail each step of the way? Do you know of any stumbling blocks or self-sabotage associated with any of those tasks? Are there any modifications you can make?
- Mindfulness: You do not need to be a master of mindfulness watch for 'roadblocks'. Be aware each time you fail to do something that you usually do, or are off schedule. An isolated event will usually seem unimportant, particularly given all the powerful excuses most of us are capable of thinking up, or what we tell ourselves you will "absolutely" do later. This is a warning sign. This is when you must come to the defence of the habit, of your wellness and yourself. Examine whether there is an urgent and vital task 'pre-empted your normal programming'. Be honest. Usually there was not. Even if there was, you still must me especially mindful that you do not backslide. The moment of truth is not when you stop moving towards the goal, it is when you give up behaving in the ways that will enable you to move skilfully.
Crutches and Tools
You can think of disciple and its ingredients as the foundation of the habit, and this category is the building inspector. This category is much more straightforward. It includes any external, non-psychological elements that assist you in maintaining your wellness habits. Some examples include social or expert support or instruction, detailed record keeping, or anything that you can associate with the habit to encourage you to think about it on a regular basis, preferably things that keep you engaged and fascinated with the behaviour.