Our inaugural blog post talked about getting started toward your wellness goal and how being forgiving and non-judgmental when you “slip up” can go a long way toward long term success. Let’s reflect- Did you set a goal? Did you get started? Are you keeping a journal? How is it going? If you looked back over this past week, would you have more days that you would consider “on-track” than off?
While I firmly believe in keeping things realistic and attainable, I also feel that we sometimes fail ourselves with excuses. Starting new habits is NOT easy-whether it is beginning an exercise program, trying to make healthier food choices or just loading the dishwasher every night!
Any time we start a new habit, there is bound to be failures and that’s OK. It’s when those “failures” start to become a habit that we need to reevaluate the situation. If you set a goal to walk 20 minutes a day for 5 days a week and you consistently find yourself walking ten minutes or less than 5 days a week, look at why that is- and be honest. There is a very fine line between being forgiving of yourself and being complacent with substandard performance. Yep, that sounded harsh didn’t it? Well sometimes we need a little accountability!
Accountability can be internal- sit down examine your habits and your excuses. Be honest with yourself and really look closely at the behaviors that keep you from achieving your goals. Are you only walking 10 minutes of your 20-minute goal because you are taking small steps in the right direction, or because you’re scared to push yourself outside your comfort zone? Those are two VERY different things, right? I know so many people who are capable of so much more than they are willing to give themselves credit for… and they limit themselves in ways much greater than they realize. One strategy for internal accountability is to ask yourself: “If a friend came to me with this situation, what advice would I give them?”
Sometimes it can be hard to step outside of ourselves and honestly assess our situation. This is where external accountability can be helpful. The thing to be VERY careful of in this situation is making sure that your accountability partner is on your level. To use the example from last week, if Jackie had pushed me too hard or forced me outside my comfort zone too quickly, I probably would have quit. Not just quit working out but quit her group- which would have limited me in ways so much greater than just physically. Find a person or group that you trust to be honest with you yet understand your unique situations. Sometimes we need a hug and sometimes we need a kick in the butt!!
Change can be uncomfortable for sure, but complacency breeds inadequacy. Anything worth doing is worth the effort we put into it! Think of the training you went through to get the job you have. I can tell you that Occupational Therapy school was NOT easy, and attending graduate school full time when my kids were 3 and 8 years old while also working full time was probably borderline insane, but the long-term outcomes that I have gained from those two degrees FAR outweigh those short-term struggles. Pregnancy and childbirth are another great example of the end justifying the means. I sure wouldn’t trade my kiddos for the discomfort of those nine months! I’m sure that if you think of any huge accomplishment in your life, there was a period of discomfort that went along with it. Investing in your personal health and wellness is no different. There comes a point where you need to make yourself a priority.
What is your end goal? Most people want to live a happy life, how that looks to each of us may be very different. I enjoy spending time outside, riding my horses, running or playing fetch with my dogs. My friend and her family travel extensively and are on track to visit all 50 states, while another loves playing with her grandchildren. What is the common denominator to all of these activities? They are all more enjoyable if you have the increased energy and stamina that improving your overall wellbeing provides. Focus on the end goal and make consistent daily efforts toward the habits that you need to get there. Just remember- there are things do you “have” to do so that you can achieve the things you “want” to do. At the end of the day, it’s your choice and your outcome; you just need to decide: “How bad do you want it?” That phrase is something I ask myself a lot when things are hard. Riding when it’s cold (raining, windy, etc) is hard, but how bad to do you want the “wins” in the summer? Exercising and eating healthy is hard, but how bad do you want the feeling of increased energy and overall well being?
- What is my long-term goal? Some people call this their “why”… Why do you want to improve your health? Tie it to an outcome instead of a reason; for example: “I want to be active enough to play with my kids/grandkids at the park” is a lot more motivating than “I have to lose 20 pounds”.
- What is my biggest limiting factor? Time? Discomfort? Lack of desire? Be honest with yourself both with your reason and the truth behind it. For example, I don’t have time to work out every day. Really? You don’t have an extra 30 minutes in your day? BE HONEST- You are only hurting yourself if you’re not.
- How can I increase my accountability? What will work best for you personally? For some people, journaling works well. This can be as simple as putting a checkmark in the top corner of the date on your calendar or as extensive as listing out your workouts and the food choices you made that day in a planner designated specifically toward your wellness journey. If internal accountability isn’t really your thing, spend some time thinking about someone who could help you be responsible for your goals. A strategy that works great is to pick someone that you trust to be honest; then be upfront and outline what you need from them. For example- “Hey! I am trying to improve my health by walking 20 minutes a day. I’m wondering if you would be my accountability partner. I just need someone to report to and encourage me along the way. I’m hoping that you will understand that I’m going to struggle some days and will need support but also might need you to tell me to suck it up sometimes too! What do you think?” You might need to check in every day when you start trying to create a healthy new habit, but can wean down to weekly or even monthly as your routine becomes easier- and it will if you stick with it!! You can do this! I believe in you, it’s time to start believing in yourself.
If you haven’t started a journal yet, you should really think about it. It’s a great way to keep yourself on track and motivated. It’s so inspiring to look back at all you have accomplished. There is no right or wrong way to journal, so do what’s best for you. When it doubt it’s always a good idea to keep it simple, decide why you’re journaling and report on the same things every day. Exercise? Check. Drinking enough water? Check. Healthier food choices? Check. Gratitude? Check. Accountability? Check.
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We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves. ~ JK Rowling