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Setting Goals That Stick: The Broken System

This lesson is a part of an audio course Setting Goals That Stick! by Dr. Heidi Cooke PT, DPT, ATC

Does this sound like a system that you’ve tried to implement in the past? (Cough New Year's Resolutions Cough) – oh excuse me I think I had something stuck in my throat.

Step 1: Come up with a big revolutionary resolution that we're going to accomplish this year!

Step 2: Think to ourselves…”This is the year! This year will be different!” (Even though we didn’t change our approach at all).

Step 3: We develop some kind of plan. (If we are lucky).

Step 4: We write it down, put it somewhere we can see, and get all excited about it.

Step 5: Dedicate ourselves to sticking to our plan for 21 days…(Because you heard the old adage that 21 days makes a habit!) It will be smooth sailing after that!

Step 6: We continue to hold ourselves accountable and trudge through forcing ourselves to make this a habit even if we dread it every single day.

Step 7: If we are lucky (and haven’t quit already) day 22 rolls around. We might take a day off from implementing that thing that we hate, and then 2-3 days go’s no longer at the front of our mind and before we know it 2 months have gone by and we’ve completely stopped making progress towards our goal.

This model is extremely flawed for a few key reasons:

  • While the principle of holding ourselves accountable consistently over time is an important piece of achieving change, it cannot be the main pillar we hang our hat on.
  • Not having a deep understanding of WHY we are wanting to achieve a goal will lead us to lean on flimsy, surface level reasons. Flimsy surface level reasons break easily and are easy to give up on.
  • Continuing to trudge along the same path without learning, and adjusting as we go is a recipe for failure…I mean how many big accomplishments in life have you only needed to take one swing at? Sometimes we need to adjust our stance a little before we swing again.
  • We aren’t addressing our unique barriers that brought us to where we are in the first place. If they remain unaddressed they will continue to pop up along our journey.
  • If we aren’t intentional about keeping this goal of change in the forefront of our mind, it will easily fall by the wayside without a second thought! Because let’s face it, I’m a busy person, You’re a busy person, and we've got a lot on our plate! When something is new and not second nature it’s easily forgotten.

Now let’s drive this flawed method home with my favorite silly example using a cucumber…

Here is how I used to TRY to make a positive lifestyle change:

Step 1: I want to eat healthier this year so I can fit into my old pair of jeans.

Step 2: This is the year I’m going to stick to it!!

Step 3: My plan is to eat a cucumber every day for a snack for 21 days because it will help prevent me from grabbing the cookies, crackers, and other processed snacks I’ve been eating for snacks lately.

Step 4: I write my goal on a sticky note and put it on my fridge as a reminder!

Step 5: Day 3 rolls around and I’m starting to realize that I hate cucumbers. I dread my afternoon cucumber each day (a lot of us will just quit here).

Step 6: I am sticking out my 21 days with discipline because I need to hold myself accountable!

Step 7: I made it to day 22! I never have to eat a god forsaken cucumber ever again! Bless up fam! Bring on the cookies today! I DESERVE IT!

A week has gone by without eating a single cucumber and because I was so excited to just never eat a cucumber again I lost sight of what my real goal was…Healthier eating! And who cares...I can always just buy new jeans.

This same example can be used for just about any goal! Going to the gym, reading a book instead of scrolling on your phone, cooking healthier name it!

But it doesn’t have to be that way! Tune into the next lesson to find out how.

Oh! P.S. You didn’t think you’d be able to sneak away without any homework did you? I want you to sit down and write about a time when you set a goal or resolution only to find yourself right back in the same shoes. What steps did you take? What stood in your way or halted your progress? How did you feel when you were chasing this goal? Really dive in and reflect here because we are going to use these answers later!