Got a secret dream of setting goals that you’ll never ever stick to?
Then you’ve landed on the wrong blog for today. [Hint: just google ‘setting goals’ or ‘goal setting’ and you’ll get a million articles all claiming to have the formula to help you do just that. And then these articles list down a series of super boring steps that’ll make your eyes glaze over.]
But moving on…
Maybe you’ve decided to ‘quit gluten’, ‘go paleo’, ‘try AIP’, or ‘start a healthy lifestyle’. You’ve known deep down for a long time that you would benefit from acting on that decision. But months (years?) go by and everything is still the same…
Well, my friend, today I want to help you take your goals from fantasy to theory to fact by tackling one question I hear often:
“How do I set health goals that I’ll happily stick to?”
Let me walk you through a 3-page exercise (it’s totally worth it, I promise) that isn’t about setting goals.
P.S. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have goals. What I’m saying is setting goals can definitely help you achieve long-term health results IF you do it the right way for you.
4 reasons why setting goals is crucial for inside-out health
Since I know you’re feeling tempted to skip this part, please welcome Mel, Sarah, and Shanice .
The three ladies are tired of curling in pain every time they get their menses.
Mel’s first solution – don’t judge – was to complain about the agonizing monthly pain. But that changed zilch…
So, she decides setting goals like Shanice could help. Which brings us to ….
1. Setting goals help get you moving
Shanice and Mel start researching the WHYs behind their period pain.
(Because they know that this is the only way to effectively determine WHAT they could start doing do to love their periods again. For good. G-R-E-A-T job ladies! 🎆)
2. Setting goals help you assess your progress
Shanice and Mel learn that gluten-containing foods can worsen period pain. And they decide to quit these foods. (They mention this to Sarah who thinks “That’s not gonna work for me. So why try? I’ve got better things to do.”)
When their next cycle comes, don’t you think our new friends will automatically assess their period pain to see if their new diet worked?
3. Setting goals wakes up your inner health detective
The mental exercise of assessing your progress (#2 above) provides clarity on what works for YOU.
Both Mel and Shanice wrote down notes about their overall health during their gluten-free one-month trial. Mel’s period pain improved from 9/10 to 5/10 and she also has fewer reflux episodes.
But Shanice didn’t see much improvement (her period pain is now 8/10, down from 9/10). And she feels extremely tired all the time. This does not mean that the gluten-free diet isn’t effective for Shanice. As you’ll discover below 👇, what you’re eating is only one piece of your overall health puzzle.
Bonus: understanding what makes your body tick can help you overcome anxiety linked to health issues that ‘don’t make sense’. [You know those issues that are ‘all in your head’… Because a million women worldwide have nothing better to do than imagining they’re sick 🙄. Sorry about the rant but you can see I’m passionate.]
4. Setting goals could help motivate you to take care of yourself
IF your goal is logical.
Shanice also secretly wished to lose weight. But what she didn’t realize is that:
- Her excess weight was a SYMPTOM
- Simply eating less and moving more = Trying to swim more when you’re drowning 🤦♀️
- She needed to fix her underlying issues (hormone imbalance + autoimmunity + poor sleep quality) to achieve her goal 👈
Understanding that concept helped trigger self-care (and a more sensible goal) in Shanice.
So, should you take out a pen and paper and start making a list of goals? You could.
But if you’re reading this, you know you roll your inner eyes (like I do) whenever you read/hear that setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) is the only way to achieve what you want in life 🙄.
Because… Simply setting goals does not always work
And it’s not because you have no will power.
Nor is it because you don’t know what to do. (And if you’re thinking ‘Well, I have PCOS and I don’t know what to do to improve my insulin resistance!!!’, let me tell you something. If you’re reading this, you know you could get support from a healthcare professional.)
See? This is the trap that most of us are in. Most of us know what we could do to change things for the better. But we waste our time and energy trying to talk ourselves out of doing those things.
Excuses and rationalizations VS. a list of goals 🡪 Which one do you think would win?
Your thoughts. Hands down! I mean it’s not like writing goals down, even if they are SMART, will magically turn them into reality…
Need more proof that setting goals has been over-hyped? Read this research from Harvard Business School: Goals Gone Wild.
the secret to setting goals you’ll achieve has more to do with…
Your thoughts. Or more precisely, your FEARs.
Not a typo. Do you know what the acronym FEAR stands for? False Evidence Appearing Real! Forget Everything And Run!
You see, when you start thinking about going after something that matters to you, your brain will step in and say “Whoooaaaa. Hold on! I’m not comfortable trying something new! I like same ol’-same ol’.”
Remember Sarah? Nope? Here she is:
How can someone who has never tried going gluten-free know for sure that this won’t work for her?
And nope, Sarah isn’t lazy. Nor is she a glutton. Sarah is scared.
Many of us fear implementing a health routine we know would be good for us.
So, we rationalize that “Now isn’t a good time. I just started a new business / changed my haircut.” Or “I’m just not ready yet. I’ll try that next month.” But “tomorrow never comes.” And next month becomes the month after and on and on.
Same as it ever was…
So, here’s what you need to know if you want things to change
- You’re never going to feel like it’s a good idea. Because of FEAR.
- You’re never going to feel ready to start. Because of FEAR.
- Your feelings aren’t a choice. But your behavior and your thoughts are always a choice. Deciding not to do anything about something IS A CHOICE based on FEAR.
Many people have been considering making changes for years. But they don’t do it. Is that your case?
Keep reading to find out how to get out of that train wreck.
This 90-minute exercise (before setting goals that truly matter to YOU) is a MUST
Great question my friend!
Fear setting will help you:
- Identify thoughts that are holding you back, distorting your thinking, and making you doubt yourself.
- Detect irrational thoughts.
- Troubleshoot worst-case scenarios – getting things back under control are probably not as hard as you currently imagine.
- See the ginormous cost of inaction.
- Get moving (i.e. act on those goals you want to achieve) with a more confident mind.
What you’ll need for this exercise:
- This FREE funbook – So you can write without having to refer to this article.
- A pen – You could do this on your laptop but writing seems to be more therapeutic. (I have long resisted the idea of journaling / writing thoughts down until I realized that pen & paper were the release my monkey mind needed to calm down.)
- An infusion that soothes you – It is likely that you’ll feel vulnerable during this exercise.
Before you start, you want to keep in mind that:
- Ideally, you’d want to understand the WHYs behind your fear – challenging your beliefs can help.
- You’re not entering an English competition. So, just ‘brain vomit’ on your paper. Don’t edit yourself. Just allow your thoughts to flow.
- There are no wrong or right answers. Nothing to be ashamed of. (Au contraire, pat yourself on the back for thinking outside the box when it comes to setting goals!)
- You don’t need to take a decision right now: fear-setting is simply about getting your fears off your chest.
- This is not a ‘can be done mentally’ exercise – it just won’t be effective if you can’t “see” your thoughts.
Step #1 to setting goals that matter: Name your fear.
Use this template to name your fear (i.e. the thing you’re putting off out of fear):
What if I [face my fear]?
- What if I stop eating wheat and gluten-containing products?
Step #2 to setting goals that matter: Define your fear.
Describe the worst-case scenarios if you did implement what you need – or want – to.
Let the doubts, ‘what-ifs’, and fears pour out of your brain in as many details as possible. Like a home-movie in your mind.
Do your ‘what-ifs’ and fears make sense? Before you answer, I suggest you try rating them on a scale of 1 to 10 (with one being least likely, and 10 highly probable) to assess how likely each of these fears is likely to happen.
- I will lose all my friends.
- My heart would literally stop beating.
- What if this doesn’t work? I will have lost my safety net.
Step #3 to setting goals that matter: List preventive measures.
What could you do to prevent the above worst-case scenarios from happening? Or, if you can’t prevent them, what actions could you take to reduce their impact even a little bit?
Example: I can do a quick Google search for gluten-free restaurants and suggest these as options to my girls when we go out. (Maybe I can even convince them to go gluten-free as well! 🤔)
Step #4 to setting goals that matter: Damage control.
Let’s imagine a minute that your worst-case scenarios do happen, could you ask someone for help? Who?
Or what actions could you implement to repair the damage done, even if just a little bit or temporarily?
If the girls no longer want to hang out with me just because I don’t eat wheat, then “Bye Felicia!” There are many support groups these days – I’ll make new (less narrow-minded) friends. Bonus: they’ll give me food I can eat! (Okay, I’ll share as well .)
Quitting gluten is not a miracle solution. And if this isn’t enough, I could work with Shari to find out what else I could implement.
Sure thing woman! But first you gotta go over there Work with me.
Step #5 to setting goals that matter: Assess the cost of taking action.
Ask yourself this: has anyone tried setting goals that are like yours? Have they figured it out?
What if you could too? Think about:
- How your life would look like if you attempted to move forward with that scary thought
- The benefits (emotional, physical, spiritual, mental, or financial) of implementing it
- The payoffs for your family, loved ones, community
And, finally, the last step.
Step #6 to setting goals that matter: Assess the cost of inaction.
It’s easy to think about everything that could go wrong if we do take action or try something new – we’re wired that way. (Wondering what I’m talking about? Take this FREE 5-day email course to find out.)
Think about what would it cost you (emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally, or financially) if you don’t change anything?
How will your life would look like in 6 months, 1 year, and 3 years if you don’t take action? Write all this down in your funbook.
Final question: What are you waiting for?
If you answer ‘the right time’, remember that it’s FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real! Forget Everything And Run!) talking.
And that ‘the right time’ will probably never come.
So, keep this quote of James Baldwin in mind anytime you feel like you should change something but just can’t.
And then do the exercise – here’s the link to the funbook if you haven’t checked it out already.
While this exercise will not magically make any of the hard choices or obstacles vanish, it can give you some peace of mind. Some clarity. And that will make setting goals (and sticking to them) easier. This could make all the difference you need to get started on your health journey.
Don’t want to face your fears alone?
You don’t have to: join our FREE Facebook group and share your fears and struggles with me and other women just like you. And try this FREE five-day email course to get a jumpstart 👇.