Are you looking forward to making the most of your New Year weight loss goals? It takes a bit of planning to set them in place, but a small amount of effort now can benefit you long into the year ahead.
Why write goals?
It’s simple. If you do, the odds are greatly increased that they’ll stick.
If you don’t, you’ve drastically lowered your likelihood of them coming to fruition. Studies bear this out. According to a study reported in Inc. magazine, “You are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down.”1
Why buck the system and make it harder on yourself? Get out your favorite writing tools and dig in. The purpose of this article is to provide you with thinking points and strategies to consider beforehand. After all, the last thing you’d want to do is find that your newly minted goals need a significant re-write. Or that they’re not as effective as they could be.
Take advantage of these tweaks to maximize your potential. The key here is to work with your brain’s natural tendencies rather than against it.
Here are my Dozen Don’ts for setting weight loss (or any other) goals.
1. Don’t Focus on the Don’ts
Do you know what you truly want? When it comes to sketching out your goals, do you have a clear idea of what to write?
Most people don’t.
When I work with clients, I have them begin by outlining their goals. I always ask, “When it comes to your health, what do you want the most?”
Their replies almost always sound like this, “Well, I don’t want to be in pain, I don’t want to be tired all the time, and I want to stop going from doctor to doctor.
Most people have a very clear idea of what they don’t want. But figuring out what they do? That’s another matter.
One way to overcome this problem, is to concentrate on what you find essential. What do you value in life and what’s truly important to you?
To get you started, check out this article entitled, “Lack Motivation? Plug into Your Core Values!”. There, you’ll find a downloadable reference chart of values.
Once you’ve determined the key elements in life that are important to you, you can structure your goals in alignment.
2. Don’t be Wishy Washy
Your brain loves specificity. The more detailed and specific your goal is, the better. For example, your mind can easily grasp the concept of “It’s February 14th and I can feel how loose and comfortable my favorite pair of blue jeans are to wear. I slip into them easily and effortlessly over my slim and toned body.”
Don’t make your mind work harder than it has to. Don’t be vague.
Specific ideas are easier to grasp than fuzzy notions such as, “I want to feel healthier” (than what?), or “I exercise regularly” (what does regularly mean to you?).
Vague goals are a common success crusher. Write from the viewpoint of creating a word picture. Make sure that everything you write creates a clear mental image. That’s why words such as want and wish are ineffective. They have little to no meaning when it comes to setting a visual picture of your goal.
Again, this is all about specificity. What – exactly – do you want? When you think of it, what picture do you see in your mind? After this is set, go ahead and write it out. Specify every detail of what you see, hear, and feel. It also may be beneficial to include what you may likely smell or taste. The more vivid the mental picture (and the feeling it brings), the better.
“People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going.” – Earl Nightingale
3. Don’t Forget Your Grammar
You don’t need to dust off your high school English text book for this one. Just a basic refresher of the difference between past and present and passive and active voice will suffice.
Past tense and passive language looks like this:
He arrived at the conclusion he would have been better off without her.
Present tense and active language looks like this:
He concludes that he’s better off without her.
Do you see the direct language and simplicity of the second example? You honestly don’t need to know the grammar specifics. A general understanding of structure will do.
Here are the two key takeaways. Write your goals in the present tense (as if now) and keep them simple. Also, keep in mind the point about specificity mentioned in strategy #2.
4. Don’t Dance the Low Bar Limbo
When it comes to goals, don’t fall into the trap of setting the bar too low. Goals need to be realistic and attainable, for sure. But they should also encourage you to stretch and reach for something better. They should bring on a feeling of anticipation and excitement. They should challenge you and make you feel at least a little bit uncomfortable.
That uncomfortable place is where change happens.
Keep your pessimism in check. Don’t push yourself to the point of feeling that your goal is impossible, but consider this: what if you’re just a few steps away from achieving something you formerly thought was out of reach?
I’ve been doing this with my own health goals recently. I caught myself thinking in the same familiar pattern about my ability to shift my body shape. To stretch my thinking, I wondered, “What if this long-held belief isn’t true? What if I can change?” I’d much rather put strategies in place to reach the potential for something exciting than stick with the status quo based on a belief that it’s “realistic.”
Amp up your optimism. Optimistic views move you forward. Pessimistic views keep you planted firmly where you are. Reach for something new. And, keeping strategy #2 in mind, how does your goal make you feel? If it’s not exciting, compelling, or intriguing enough, keep writing until you strike that ideal balance.
5. Don’t Skip This Simple Brain Hack
I’ve already shared that written goals are far more likely to be achieved than those that are not. But did you know that how you write them also matters?
Your brain is better able to lock in new ideas when your hand puts pencil (or pen) to paper. If you don’t think so, have you ever doodled on scratch paper while talking on the phone? You might be surprised, later, at your uncanny ability to recall specific points of that conversation just by looking at your doodle.
Writing by hand engages the brain in powerful ways including cementing new ideas into place.
So, why not amplify your potential for success by writing out your goals by hand? Whether you sketch them out in digital format first or not, make sure to write them out by hand when you’re done. Make copies if you like and review them at bedtime. Keep a copy at your desk or wherever you spend a lot of time. Review them daily for at least the first 30-60 days. Revise as necessary. At that point, if you’re still on track, review them weekly to keep you on your success path.
While you’re at it, why not add another potent hand-writing boost? Did you know that there’s power in writing your own name? Your mind sees it as a declaration.
Take ownership of what you’ve written and sign your goals list. Putting your signature at the bottom makes a formidable pact between your desires and your commitment to achieve them.2
These simple techniques can help to boost your brain’s motivation and determination tendencies. Talk about win/win!
6. Don’t Use the Back Burner Method
Do you ever find yourself saying, “If only I had time,” or “I’d do that if I weren’t so busy?” The reality is that we all have the same number of hours in a day. We make choices about what we’ll do and what we won’t. When it comes to juggling a job, family, and our own health needs, it’s no surprise to see self-care fall to the bottom of the list.
Right now, take this opportunity to plan in advance when you’ll participate in the activities related to your goals. For example, if your goal is to improve your strength and stamina, schedule regular times for walking or stretching. Get it on your calendar! If you plan on learning and serving a wider variety of recipes, plan time for research, shopping, organizing, and meal prep.
It’s also useful to work backwards if your goal has an end-date. Consider the goal of “It is now June 14th and I look and feel amazing in my size (fill in the blank) dress at my son’s wedding.” (Of course, if this were your real goal, you’d make it even more compelling with more descriptive words. But, you get the gist.)
For a goal with an end-date, you can then work backwards and determine how much time you need to achieve it. If weight loss or specific toning/shaping is desired, estimate how much time or practice it will take. If you plan to lose 11 pounds by June, decide how much you’d need to lose per week between now and then. From there, determine how often you’ll visit the gym, walk the neighborhood, and/or do some healthy meal planning.
Thinking ahead, even just a wee bit, makes a huge difference. When this isn’t in place first – you guessed it – your goals will sit right where you left them … on the back burner.
7. Don’t Underestimate Fundamentals
Sure, a shiny new kitchen appliance or tool can be fun. It’s exciting to sign up for a new gym membership or for a new fitness or cooking class. But don’t miss out on the basics. Do you have them in place before setting your new health goals?
The basics I’ll share here form the foundation of improved health.
First of all, are you properly hydrated? Do you get enough clean, filtered water on a daily basis? There are many simple equations to use to get a ballpark idea of how much to drink. The most common one is to divide your weight by 2 and then convert that number to ounces. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, then you can estimate that drinking 75 ounces of water per day is adequate. Of course, some people need more or less than that number.
This next subject isn’t glamorous, but it’s crucial. How’s your digestive system working? Is it functioning optimally? Do you have regular bowel movements?
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Your intestinal health affects every system of the body. When it’s inflamed or compromised, you’ll experience, low energy, possible skin challenges, poor nutrient absorption, and a lowered immune system. You may need to take a look at supplementing with probiotics and/or prebiotics as well as making some basic dietary changes.
If you suspect the presence of any type of pathogen, now is the time to address this. Getting rid of candida/yeast overgrowth, bacterial infections, or parasites, can help you to heal your gut lining, allowing you to better digest and metabolize your foods.
This dietary change has far-reaching benefits. In general, consuming processed and packaged foods (most have added sugar!) contributes to poor digestive health. A simple plan to reduce these in your diet can go a long way toward intestinal healing.
Do your best to consume a wide variety of nutrient-dense, fiber-rich, whole, natural foods.
It’s amazing how often the basics are overlooked. Even more amazing is the way you’ll feel when they’re in place.
8. Don’t Overlook This Dynamic Influence
When it comes to exercise, have you ever said, “I don’t feel like it?” Of course you have! Who hasn’t? Those of us who deal with whole body pain aren’t likely to wake at the crack of dawn and feel an itch to go jogging. Of course, there are exceptions.
The way to work around this issue – for fitness or any goal – is to focus on the emotion behind the goal.
For example, what if you want to get into better shape so that you’re not so winded when you play with your grandchildren? That’s a great desire to tap into. Imagine what it would feel like to take your grands for a day and to move with less pain and ease. Imagine what it would feel like to have less joint pain, a stronger spine, and perhaps a wider range of motion. Imagine being able to carry a grandchild instead of unwanted pounds.
Your ability to imagine is the key component here.
Your mind’s ability to visualize, create, and feel what something would be like is a powerful tool. Use this sense of emotion to stir up feelings of anticipation for what you want to happen.
When setting your goals – consider why you want them. What emotions are stirred up when you think of your “why?” Placing your focus on your mood and emotions can help to keep you motivated.
9. Don’t Harsh Yourself
Have you ever set a goal to get to gym every weekday by 5:30 am? How did that work for you?
There’s nothing wrong with setting a goal to get to the gym. There’s also nothing wrong with setting the time of 5:30 am if that’s your thing. The real challenge with this example is the rigid expectation. Expecting to go every weekday has some inherent flaws. What happens if you’ve got the sniffles, have company, or wake up late?
Flexibility is the name of the game here. When it comes to your goals – use a pencil.
Always keep in mind that goals can be adjusted as you go. Erase what no longer works and scribble in new thoughts and ideas. Periodic adjustments to our goals gives us the wiggle room to allow for real life.
Palm trees are a great analogy of this concept. They actually have a very shallow root systems so you’d think they’d be vulnerable to the high winds in areas where they grow. But their flexibility gives them strength. Being able to bend with the wind gives them the stamina to flourish.
I want you to flourish too.
To do that, swap out rigid language in your goals for something more flexible. Be kind to yourself. Plan ahead for the common speed bumps in life and keep in mind that the real goal is to become healthier rather than strictly adhering to a set of rules on how to get there.
10. Don’t Forget Your 3rd Grade Skills
I remember taking weekly spelling tests in 3rd grade. The back of our spelling books featured a chart for us to track our scores. The numbers 1-10 were listed vertically, and the dates were spread across the top of the chart horizontally. We circled our score (the number of misspelled) on the chart for the whole year.
Wanna know why I remember it?
I happened to be an avid reader and was a good speller, too. I circled the number “0” across the entire chart – with one exception. One week, I got one word wrong and I was very frustrated to have to circle a “1” instead of a “0.” I simply rushed through the test and forgot a letter in the word I got wrong.
It’s important to point out that there was no other outside influence on my feelings. No one else saw my chart but me. I wasn’t shamed in any way. Rather, I was motivated to study each week by seeing my progress.
Studies have shown, that there’s nothing better to help your stick-to-it-iveness than tracking and accountability.
For example ScienceDaily.com reports, “Those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records.”3
Tracking is a quick and simple tool to implement. Keeping strategy #9 in mind, don’t be harsh. This isn’t about rigidity – it’s about visibility. The potential for follow-through increases tremendously when simple tracking tools are put in place.
Go low tech. Use a basic calendar, chart, or journal to track your progress. Add stickers, colored highlighters, or use sparkly pens to add pizazz if you like. Or, go high tech. There are dozens of free or low cost apps to use for this purpose.
For greater success, be sure to share your tracking results with others. Place your calendar or charts in a visible location in your home.
11. Don’t Go It Alone
When it comes to putting your goals into motion, don’t venture out alone! Enlist the support of an accountability partner. When you do, your likelihood of success will soar.
According to Entrepreneur magazine, “The American Society of Training and Development found that people are 65% more likely to meet a goal after committing to another person. Their chances of success increase to 95% when they build in ongoing meetings with their partners to check in on their progress.”4
With stats like that, why go against the flow?
There’s no better way to stay on track than to pair yourself alongside someone else. Grab a workout partner and walk together. Find a like-minded soul and put your heads together finding new recipes, taking cooking classes, or spending a weekend day doing meal prep.
You get to choose your accountability partners. Those who support you and your goals will be happy to cheer you on and keep you encouraged exactly when you need it most.
Whatever you do, you’ll get there with a lot more fun when you’re buddied up to someone you enjoy spending time with.
12. Don’t Underestimate Your Seefood Diet
Whatever your health-related goals are for the New Year, shifting your priorities to naturally nourishing foods is a good idea. As you sit down to write out your goals, imagine the types of meals you’d like to prepare and how these foods will make you feel as your body becomes healthier and healthier.
Now imagine that you’ve got your dinner planned and waiting in the fridge to prepare. As you head to the fridge to grab the chopped veggies, you notice a box of cereal on the counter and think, “The cereal would be filling and fast.”
Of course, the fact that it would take you further from, rather than closer to, your health goal doesn’t come to mind.
Because we act (spontaneously and sometimes impulsively) based on what we see. Our vision is a powerful cue for hunger! For this reason, make it easy on yourself. Don’t place foods that have the potential to sabotage your health plans in your line of sight.
If you have them in your home, place treats and snack foods in drawers or inside cupboards out of sight. Better yet, don’t bring them into your home in the first place.
Little-to-no thought goes into grabbing something quick. That’s why putting thought into it in advance is vital. Plan what you’ll keep out of sight and also plan what you’ll display in full view.
Keep a bowl of fruit on your table or counters. Pre-portion nuts and seeds in individual bags for easy take-along snacks. Keep chopped veggies in the fridge at eye-level to make them easy to see and grab.
Don’t let what you see sabotage what you eat.
So … there you have it.
Review these Dozen Don’ts before you finalize your goals for this year, and you’ll be sure to start off on the right foot. The year ahead beckons like a blank page. Grab a pen or pencil and map out your success!
“The New Year stands before us like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written.
We can help write that story by setting goals.” -Melody Beattie
Sue Ingebretson is becoming a most sought after symptom-relief expert in the fibromyalgia and chronic illness communities. She’s known for getting to the root of her client’s health challenges and delivering long-term results using a light-hearted approach without quick-fix remedies that only mask symptoms. You can find out more and contact Sue at www.RebuildingWellness.com.
Would you like to find out more about the effects of STRESS on your body? Download Sue’s free Is Stress Making You Sick? guide and discover your own Stress Profile by taking the surveys provided in this detailed 23-page report.