Goal-setting can be frustrating. This has been especially hard for many of us through the covid-19 pandemic.  Many of us make ‘goals’ or ‘resolutions,’ and then falter before achieving them; this creates a pattern of negative thoughts that make us believe we ‘can never accomplish them.’

The problem is that we have trouble following a ‘self-imposed’ goal versus a goal set by our boss, school or profession. (You might study hard to pass a course in school, but be less likely to be diligent about ongoing learning when it’s something that is important for you but not imperative.)

People who meet one goal can meet more goals because of self-discipline. Self-discipline is a muscle that gets stronger and stronger the more you use it. 

Thus, don’t set a goal about money. It has no intrinsic value beyond your basic food and shelter. Set your goals for things that truly will change your life. The money will come from living life like this. Similarly, setting a weight goal has no intrinsic value; but, making good choices about food and doing regular exercise will make you feel more vibrant and confident, and weight loss will follow. Recognize the benefits of the daily process of good eating and how you feel, and not at: “I have to lose X number of pounds.”

Redefine your goals. Avoid telling yourself things you can and cannot do. For instance, if your goal is to reduce your bread intake, then instead of saying: “I CAN’T have bread,” you might re-frame this into: “I choose to eat healthy foods today that will make me feel better tomorrow.” Then, re-assess the next day.  You can’t change behaviour if you don’t know what to change it to. When we choose powerfully rather than putting restrictions on ourselves, we are much more likely to feel empowered and in control, rather than in a mindset of shame and negativity.

Try not to make a goal so broad that you can’t tell on a daily basis if you’re getting there. If you tend to be on your phone or tablet too much in the evening, think about why you want to decrease your time on it. If the goal is to spend more time with your family, you might decide to avoid picking up your phone or tablet from 5 to 8 pm.

Most importantly, write down your goals daily. If you write your goal down each day, it makes you more committed. One of the reasons this works is that changing behaviour takes intense focus; writing down goals reminds our brain of what we’re focusing on. Writing down your goals only takes about a minute a day. If you can’t find this time to write your goals you are likely not ready to change.

Commit to three weeks: The hardest part of changing behaviour is that your brain is addicted to the bad behaviour. If you commit to changing one behaviour for three weeks, your brain will start to develop more dopamine in response to the new behaviour. After three weeks, your brain will start to release dopamine when it thinks about, for example, going for a walk after dinner instead of sitting around after dinner. 

During those three weeks you need to know the night before how you are going to meet your goal the next day. Each day might require a different schedule or approach.

People who don’t change their behaviour tend to justify or give themselves permission to continue the behaviour, which can be influenced by the people in their lives.  So, try to connect with like-minded people who unconditionally support your health and wellness goals.  They will help support you to be the person you want to be.  If this is challenging with people in your household, share with them, using “I” statements, about your goals and how their support would help you achieve them. 

You can do it, never give up!  

Dr. Doug