As we head into Autumn, with most of us having had our Summer break, it’s time to start refocusing and getting back on track. September is the time when everyone gets back into a routine, kids go back to school, and things start to feel normal again, after the long summer days (for those of us who had some sunshine)! Christmas is 15 weeks away and before we know it, we will be in 2020!
Because of this general feeling of being able to get organised again, it’s a great time to start making some plans and preparing for the next phase of your healthy lifestyle journey, to start looking ahead and deciding what you want to achieve next.
What do you want?
So what is it exactly that you want to achieve in this next few months, in the run up to Christmas? Three months is just about the right period of time, to focus on achieving a short to medium term goal.
Do you want to lose a particular amount of weight?
Is there a particular outfit you want to fit in at Christmas party time?
Is there a particular event that you want to participate in?
Whatever your goal is, it needs to be specific and achievable.
A vague goal gives you nothing tangible to aim for, and no way of measuring your success at the end. If a goal is very specific, you can develop a plan to get you there, because you know exactly what you want to achieve, and you can measure whether you have achieved it, because you know what success actually looks like.
With regards to how achievable your goal is, there is no point setting a goal that you want to lose 6 stones in just three months. But there is a point in setting a goal to lose 2 stones in 3 months – because it is very much achievable. If you set that goal 3 times over – 9 months later you have achieved your ultimate goal of losing 6 stone, and because you have had intermediate goals, it has allowed you to stay focused on the job in hand, and experience success along the way.
So what is that you want to achieve in these next 15 weeks before Christmas?
A challenging walk, a 5k or 10k run (there’s plenty of organised events in the run up to Christmas), swim a mile (or maybe two!), take part in a dance-a-thon or other aerobic event, complete the Woodland Warrior event, lose 2 stones, go down two dress sizes? All these are perfectly realistic, achievable goals for the next 15 weeks, and they are all specific and measurable.
Know your goal in detail
Having a specific goal, means that you can break down what success looks like on a week by week basis. If you know this, you are much more likely to stay focused and on track, because you are able to measure if you are winning. So keeping it weight loss related; if you want to lose 2 stones in 15 weeks, you need to lose around 2lbs a week, each week. If you step on the scales and you have lost 1lb, whilst it is still good, you know its not enough, and you need to re-evaluate your performance and work out how to improve on it. If you step on the scales and you have lost 2lbs, then you have achieved your weekly goal. You know that you are experiencing success and on your way to achieving your main goal.
Keep your other goals and responsibilities in mind
Making it manageable, is part of the ‘achievable’ aspect of goal setting, so when you are setting your goal, think what it will take to achieve it, and whether you are prepared and able to put that level of work in to get there. If not, pull it back a bit, to a level that you know you will achieve. That’s not to say you shouldn’t stretch yourself, your goal should scare you a little, just not too much. You can build up to that scary, massive stretch of a goal in time.
Don’t over complicate things by giving yourself too many goals to achieve at once – stick to one. That way you give this one thing, the maximum mental attention it needs, and make it much more likely that you won’t give up half way through. This is more important than you realise, because we still have ‘real life’ to contend with, and that often gets in the way of our goals, so keeping it simple and sticking to one at a time, makes everything that much more achievable.
I have always had a goal of running a marathon. Ever since I watched my Dad take part in the very first London marathon in 1981, when I was still in my pram, and in subsequent years watching the London Marathon on TV, I felt so inspired to take part in such an amazing and challenging event. Since I have started running and made ‘running friends’, I look on in awe and amazement at my friends who take part in such events throughout the year, and have always dreamed that one day it will be me.
But you don’t just rock up to the start line on marathon day and run a marathon. Marathons are run in the long winter weekend training runs, they are run in early morning training sessions in the pouring rain, they are run by fuelling your body correctly and getting the right amount of sleep, throughout your training program, to make sure you are firing on all cylinders. And, in my heart of hearts, I knew in the past that I didn’t have the time to commit to this, so I never did. The time with my family was precious at weekends, and in the past training for shorter events such as half marathons, has caused friction within my family. So a marathon for me was never going to happen…. until now! Now is the right time for me. My circumstances have changed, which means I can adapt my training program to fit in with my family and still spend quality time with them at weekends. I will be able to fit the training in, get the right nutrition, the right amount of sleep and most importantly to me, still see my family.
So this goal of mine to run a marathon, that has probably been ten years in the making is finally coming to fruition, I have got all my ducks in a row, so to speak, and I am ready to take on the challenge.
But, what it is really important to understand is that just because I couldn’t do it when I first dreamt of it, doesn’t mean that I haven’t worked incrementally to get there for the last ten years. I didn’t just think, well I can’t do a marathon now, so there is no point eating healthily, improving my fitness, and getting my weight down, until the time that I can do one. I think everyone can see what would be a bit daft. Why wouldn’t I do everything in my power to make the training process as easy as possible in preparation for that ultimate goal?
What I am getting at here is – if your ultimate goal is to lose 6 stone, don’t not bother because it seems too hard a job, or it will take too long. Because the chances are 3, 6 and 12 months from now, you will still want to lose 6 stone. But, if you had put that interim goal in place, to lose 2 stone, within 3 months, you are a third of the way there, and probably quite a bit happier with yourself.
What are you prepared to sacrifice?
Deciding how much you are prepared to sacrifice, is a very important part of the goal setting process. It goes hand in hand, with not taking on too many other goals. We all have busy lives, we all have things that we have to do, responsibilities to other people, and these things are quite often set in stone, and not open to change or compromise. So you need to look at which aspects of your life are open to change and compromise and how you can manipulate these areas of your life to fit in with your goals and aspirations.
When it comes to weight loss goals, there will be food and drink that you will need to sacrifice, because you can’t lose weight on exercise alone. But because what we ask you to do is to look at the food you love and make it fit in your calories, we hope that there won’t be too many of these that have to go for good. If you can find a way to make your favourite treat fit in once a month, once a fortnight or once a week (depending on how calorific it is) then you should do it, because you will be more likely to succeed in achieving your goals if the sacrifices haven’t been too great.
Make your environment work for you
We all have the freedom to make choices but we are naturally programmed to fit in with our environment. If our environment isn’t aligned with our goals, we are less likely to achieve them.
If our fridge and freezer is stocked with cream cakes and puddings, chips and pies, rather than lean meats, fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, what are the chances that we will eat within our calories? Probably not the greatest.
If I go to bed at a reasonable time, set my alarm and leave my kit next to the bed, what are the chances that I will get out for that run at 6.15am? Probably fairly high.
If I know that I snack at work, if I remove all snacking foods from my workspace, what are the chances of reducing my snacking behaviour? Fairly good, I expect.
If I take 5 minutes to prepare a salad for my lunch at work and take it to work, what are the chances that I will resist temptation to go out for a burger instead – pretty high again.
Humans are lazy by nature and we do what is easiest for us, so if we align our environment to our goals, we are more likely to achieve them.
Next week we are going to look at planning to ensure success, so this week, we want you to have a really good think about what your goal could be, and how you might achieve it. Then next week we will talk about how to make that goal a reality by implementing a proper plan.