New Year’s isn’t the only time you can set new goals for your self, and honestly, setting realistic goals over time that you can achieve throughout the year can be more effective than setting one big goal at the start of the year. But, why does it seem like it is so hard to meet even a simple goal – something as easy of going to the gym (or for a walk) once a day in order to improve your health?
Well, research has shown that many goals, resolutions, set purposes, and determination are broken because people think of who they will be at the end of meeting a goal as a “future me”:
- Future Me will be good at saving money
- Future Me will run that marathon
- Future Me will be more organized
- Future Me will fit in that dress
- Future Me will won’t be late
- Future Me will eat healthier
“Future Me”, doesn’t exist – or at least is perceived by your brain as a stranger, someone who isn’t actually you. Future Me is some other being your brain does not have a vested interest in – like the guy in the car across from you in traffic or the person you sometimes see in the parking garage you share with the commercial building next to your job.
So, will I ever meet my goals?
YES! Now that you know that your brain is quite literally working against you because of the way it perceives that future self, its best for you to change how you perceive Future You and your brain will follow suit.
Future You and Present You have more in common than your brain may be able to perceive – Future You will still have the same weaknesses, desires, actions, or inactions when faced with a decision as you do right now – unless you do something now to change those behaviors or reactions.
Plan Ahead For Your Weaknesses or Excuses
Sit down and really think about your goal – is it realistic? Are you providing yourself enough time to accomplish it, and what is standing in your way of accomplishing it? What will be the hardest part of reaching your goal?
- Is it a strict budget that has been keeping you from building your savings?
- Is it difficult for you to wake up early in order to get to places on time?
- Or is it the snack food in your pantry that’s countering your hard work at the gym?
Take small steps now to plan for these weaknesses and help set up the Future You for success. Here are just some scenarios and examples you can do to take the first steps towards accomplishing your goals:
- Improve Financial Planning/ Start Saving
- Be On Time
- Eat Healthier
Compare your budget to your actual spending, have you been splurging anywhere (i.e. an over priced coffee or eating out at lunch on a busy day). Locate where you have been accounting for these “splurges” within your budget and find ways to solve them; making a large cup of coffee at home (store sell plenty of yummy flavors, too) and be sure to pack your lunch and bring it to work. When you know you have spent the time and effort into making it, you’ll be more likely to skip the splurge, and the guilt. Another alternative that may seem a bit bold or daring – take the amount that you use to splurge, and have it automatically transferred into a savings account when your paycheck goes in. Without that cushion to allow you to purchase your splurges, you won’t be able to – and you’ll have something in savings to account for it. Plus, if you plan ahead and make yourself that coffee or lunch, you won’t be too upset about not getting to splurge.
Some people just are not morning people – but it is possible to make getting up early a regular part of your routine without too much trouble. The emphasis will be on the importance of you arriving on time becoming your motivation to getting out of bed. If you are routinely late for work, you risk getting fired. If you are routinely dropping your child off late to school, you are risking their success (and possibly getting them into trouble too). When you consider the consequence of being late, you can better motivate yourself to get moving in the AM. And perhaps, pick out your clothes for the next day and/or set a few extra alarms to ensure you are properly keeping pace in the morning. Another option to help you get out of bed is to place your alarm (be it on a cell phone or actual alarm clock) in a place you will need to physically get up and walk a few steps to turn it off. And since you’re already up – time to get ready!
Snacking or eating foods that don’t hold much nutritious value can hinder your hard work at the gym and can have lasting effects on your health whether or not you work out. The best way to avoid this is to change up your grocery list. Put more fresh veggies and fruits on your list and drop the potato chips, cookies, and other “snack food”. Even if you have kids in the home, everyone can benefit with this change without having to sacrifice what to pack for their lunch. Opt for better choices, even if they aren’t the best, for convenience – like fruit cups with 100% juice, dried fruit snacks, apple slices, veggie chips, juice boxes or mini water bottles over soda, etc…
Be Your Own Advocate
After a long day, taking that one extra step to prepare for the next day can seem like a task that can just wait until morning – but don’t talk yourself out of it. Prep your lunch, pick out your clothes, set your gym bag by the door, or do anything to help yourself do better tomorrow. By being your own advocate, you can further help yourself reach your goals.
It takes about 21 days (3 weeks) to fully form a habit – and even for some, a little longer. Don’t give up on your goals and encourage the Present You to make changes to help Future You be the person you hope to be.