Are you someone who’s waiting for just the right time to start working on a goal? You may say to yourself things like, “This week isn’t good because it’s a long holiday weekend.” Or, “Next week is tough because we’re going up to my in-laws’ cabin.” And “I have that concert at the end of the month that’ll throw me off.” So, you might as well wait until the next month to start, right?
The reason why so many of us procrastinate on our health goals is because we don’t want to fail. And when we foresee obstacles like that on our schedule, it seems to make more sense to us to delay the goal rather than not follow through perfectly. The problem is, then we end up never starting at all. But there is a better way.
Instead of delaying your goals, you can set yourself up for success — even with a busy calendar — if you change your behavior process and make your goals realistic.
Instead of choosing a goal that’s completely unattainable week after week, select something small and seemingly easy. You want to pick something that you can achieve even on your busiest week. For example, instead of your goal being to cut out all sugar until the end of time, to start, just remove it from your morning coffee.
Or, if you’re already working on a goal and have an event or vacation coming up, instead of giving up on it, ask yourself how you can adjust your goal to better fit the vacation, in a realistic way. Take cutting out sugar again, for example. If every year on your camping trip, it is a tradition to end the days with a s’more—do it! Especially if that is something you really love. But maybe you decide to do it only 3 of the 5 nights, or you work hard to add in another serving of vegetables with dinner on those nights.
The concept seems simple, but it’s really difficult for a lot of us, because we’re often looking for quick results and think we need to drastically change our behaviors in order to get those results. It’s easy to fall in to this all-or-nothing mindset. But imagine where you’d be today if you had started with a much smaller goal and remained consistent with it for the past month? Or gave yourself the leniency to just “maintain” during a trip or special event?
Not only would you be making progress toward your goal, but you’d also be building the confidence in yourself that you can go after your goals and still live your life.
That’s why, if you take one thing from this post, let it be this:
Lifelong results come from consistency NOT perfection.
In fact, I tell my clients on a daily basis that they should strive for 80/20 — 80 percent compliance to their goals with 20 percent leniency. And if they do that, they can still succeed.
To put that into perspective, say you’re trying to eat healthier. If you eat three meals a day, seven days a week, that’s 21 meals. Meaning, even if you’re less-than-perfect for four of those meals each week, you’re still hitting the 80/20 rule.
When setting goals with clients, another important consideration we discuss is whether or not they’ll feel unhappy or restricted while trying to meet them.
If you feel handcuffed by your goals, chances are they’re too strict.
Goals aren’t meant to make you suffer. And they’re certainly not meant to be black or white. Rather, they’re designed to help you take small steps in the right direction — and there’s plenty of room for imperfection.
Let’s go back to the sugar example. Maybe you’re someone who’s used to having dessert after dinner every night. You don’t have to cut out all dessert right away. Instead, perhaps you start by removing it one night a week. That’s how you take a small — and most importantly, realistic— step toward your goal.
And what’s better, even once you get closer to removing sugar from your diet, that doesn’t mean you can’t ever have dessert again. What you do most days matters far more than what you do every once and a while, and the purpose of goal setting is to slowly change the majority of your days to be healthy ones.
If you’re looking to change your health and have been putting it off, I challenge you to commit to one small change today. Ask yourself what’s the next goal you want to achieve, and what’s one small step you can take today — and stay committed to — no matter what the next week holds.
Ultimately, know that big results take time. But they won’t ever come unless you start. These small steps will create momentum and will create change. Before you know it, you’ll be surprised how far you’ve come.