I read a post the other day about how resolutions are a waste of time because they never stick. The writer stated that she was focused instead on being more intentional. Resolutions are the result of obstacles to overcome.
“Be more intentional” sounds a lot like a resolution to me….
There are many reasons why resolutions don’t stick, and none of them make goal-setting a waste of time.
That’s all that resolutions are: they’re just goals with a fancy multi-syllabic name that we establish at the beginning of a specific timeframe: a new year. And you might come across obstacles to overcome that are stopping you from completing your resolutions.
The first obstacle to goal-getting: the time frame is so long, it’s overwhelming. Now, this obstacle is one to overcome as it prevents you from even trying the goal.
Here are eight obstacles that keep you from achieving your goals and what to do to overcome them.
Obstacles to Overcome:
Obstacle #1 – The time frame is too long.
A whole year. That is SUCH a long time! Most of us can’t visualize what we’ll be doing next month, especially during these uncertain times. For many, a year is too long for setting a realistic, attainable goal.
Instead of setting a year-long goal, set an incremental goal or a series of stepping-stone goals. One of the resolutions I set is to read 12 developmental books this year. That’s one per month. One book for personal growth per month is the incremental goal.
If you set a goal to work out a certain number of days per week, set that goal for January only. At the end of January, evaluate whether that number was feasible. Of course, we want to have “stretch” goals, but there’s no sense in setting a goal that it’s impossible to achieve. Once you’ve evaluated your January number-of-workouts-per-week goal, set a new goal for February. This obstacle to overcome can have you stuck before you even start. The solution is to break down this obstacle until it is less jarring for you to approach it more effortlessly.
Obstacle #2 – Fear has kept you stuck.
Fear of failure, of what people will think, even of success.
Fear is likely the number one factor that keeps us from making change and moving forward. The problem with fear is that it doesn’t show up as fear. It shows up as resistance, procrastination, stress, or rationalization.
If you find that you are resisting or procrastinating, examine what is causing your resistance. Ask yourself why you are avoiding the activity that supports the accomplishment of your goal. It could be that fear is the reason. I published a blog post on fear earlier this month – check it out here.
You may also discover that you have a false, self-limiting belief that you need to address. You may uncover that you have an emotional block or trigger. You may learn that you eat sweets. After all, you want the happy chemicals associated because you’re struggling. Perhaps you are struggling with loneliness and depression that you’re afraid to face. Maybe you learn that you resist working out because none of your friends are fit, and you’re scared that they will tease, reject, or otherwise have negative feelings towards you if you get fit. This fear is an obstacle to overcome as it prevents you from trying the goal. You will not know what your attempt could have looked like if you never tried.
You may even discover that you don’t care about achieving the goal you have set – that it just isn’t that important to you. I will talk more about that in Obstacle #8.
Once you know the reason why you are resisting, you can go to work on that.
Obstacle #3 – You haven’t set the conditions for your success.
Your environment is the most important factor that determines your success at achieving a goal. This obstacle is an important one to overcome because it sets you up for success.
If you set a resolution to pay off all unsecured debt this year, but your favorite social activity is to go shopping with friends, then you have not set yourself up for success.
If your goal was to transform your eating habits this year and eat according to your Metabolic Type®, but you haven’t filled your pantry with foods that are right for your nutritional needs, then you have not set yourself up for success.
If your goal was to go hiking a certain number of times this year, but your spouse, partner, family, or best friend tell you that hiking is selfish and a waste of time, then you have not set yourself up for success.
Setting the conditions for your success means that you have identified potential pitfalls, created an environment that supports your success, made the activities that support your success convenient and easily accessible, and that you’ve got the social support that you need to persevere.
Obstacle #4 – You don’t feel like you deserve it.
Our subconscious beliefs shape our reality. If you subconsciously – or consciously – believe that you are not worthy of being successful, then you’re not going to be successful.
Consider the source of your feelings of unworthiness. Childhood trauma? A series of conditioning microtraumas throughout your life? Could it possibly be behavior that you saw during your upbringing? Or perhaps that you’ve lived so long the way that you are right now, you can’t imagine what it would be like to be any other way?
If you are self-sabotaging, there is a reason. Likely, that reason is in your mental models. It takes a lot of courage to explore your feelings and really see yourself. You can develop this self-awareness through prayer and meditation or with the help of a life coach or counselor. The more you overcome your obstacles, the easier it will get overtime.
Obstacle #5 – You have a false belief about what (healthy, fit, financially secure, etc.) people are like.
My extended family thinks that healthy people are high-maintenance and no fun.
Maybe that’s the case for you too – that you or the people around you have a belief that contradicts the change you are seeking to create.
If you believe that healthy people are high-maintenance and no fun, why would you want to be healthy?!
If you believe that wealthy people are selfish jerks, why would you want to be financially secure?
If you believe women who lift weights get bulky and that muscle-bulk is unattractive, why do you want to lift weights?
Do you believe to be a successful business owner or corporate professional, you have to work yourself to death and sacrifice your happiness? Why would you want professional success if that is the outcome?
Those are just a few examples, but there are loads more.
Possibly, you or the people around you have these false beliefs that stand in the way of what you are trying to achieve, then you are living in a contradiction, and you won’t be successful.
The first step to overcoming these false beliefs is to identify them. This step is an obstacle to overcome because it will offer more clarity once you acknowledge the fake thoughts. The next step is to unpack them: where did they come from? Are they true? The last step is to create a version of reality that is true and aligned with your goal.
Create and believe in a reality that healthy people have all the fun in the world because they have the energy to do it. Believe that financially secure people are honest, kind, responsible, and generous and that financial freedom leads to more generosity and the greater good. Believe that women who lift weights are stronger, healthier, and more functionally capable, and remember that it is a myth that women “bulk up” unless they’re trying to do so. Believe that you can be professionally successful with balance, alignment, and bliss.
Achieving your goals may require changing your beliefs. You can’t accomplish a goal that you associate with someone or something; that you don’t want to be.
Obstacle #6 – You don’t know WHAT to do or HOW to do it.
In many cases, achieving a goal requires that you learn a new skill or new skill set.
If you’ve set a goal to exercise three times a week this year, but you don’t know what to do, you’ll first need to learn how to exercise. It is where a personal trainer, coach, and group fitness program can be helpful.
The same applies to any goal.
If you have a goal this year to grow your business but are new to business ownership, it makes sense to work with a business coach.
If you have a goal this year to go hiking 18 times, as I do, then it makes sense to join a hiking meet-up to learn where to park for the local trails.
Maybe you have a goal to transform your health this year, to stop being stressed and chronically symptomatic so that you can be fully present at home and work. Then it makes sense to work with a coach who can investigate the root cause of your health issues and provide you a customized protocol for health transformation.
If you have a goal that you don’t know what to do to accomplish, seeking coaching and learning the skill set required will be a crucial part of success.
Obstacle #7 – You take an all-or-nothing approach.
I can relate to this. When I founded Strength & Shield Coaching LLC, I enrolled in FOUR different business coaching programs. I needed to learn all the things! I needed to do all the things right away! If I’m going to do something, I’m going all in, full tilt, all-out.
The problem with all-or-nothing is that it isn’t sustainable and often results in burn-out and loss of motivation. Trying to attend the calls and complete the coursework for multiple coaching programs at one time was a terrible idea. I was tired and felt constantly rushed. I started to have negative feelings about what I was learning. There are action steps from those programs that I still haven’t given my attention to because it was too much at one time.
If you took an all-or-nothing approach to your resolutions, you may have burned out, lost motivation, or just given up altogether.
Instead of taking an all-or-nothing approach, be deliberately incremental.
Say you wanted to set a goal to work out five days a week, but right now, you’re working out once a week, if at all. Going from once per week to five per week might be too much of a stretch. This obstacle can set you back if you do not overcome it because it ruins your mindset and attitude towards any obstacle. It creates a fight or flight reaction to problems when we want to overcome these obstacles head-on.
Instead, set an incremental goal, which looks like this: three-per-week is your minimum. You are committed to working out three times per week. Four is awesome and even better. Five is the actual goal, but three is your absolute minimum.
If you get three, you celebrate your success, and you aren’t susceptible to the abstinence violation effect. The A.V.E. is what keeps you from working out at all when you know you can’t hit your goal. It sounds like this, “I know I can’t get five in this week, so I’ll just skip this week altogether.” If you can relate to this mindset, I wrote a blog post on the abstinence violation effect that I recommend you take a look at!
Something that can help is setting a minimum goal that keeps you in the fight even if it isn’t your ideal goal. So when you do work out five days a week, reward yourself for rocking the free world. Keep count of the number of weeks you achieve this goal and reward yourself for hitting a certain number of weeks.
This method is just an example, but it is one that you can apply to any goals that you set. Avoid all-or-nothing burn-out by setting incremental, realistic goals!
Obstacle #8 – You don’t have a strong enough reason WHY.
Do you know why your goal is important to you? Do you connect with that reason why?
If you’re struggling to achieve a goal, it could be that you don’t have a strong enough reason why you want to achieve it, or it could be that you aren’t connecting with that reason why in a powerful, emotional, intentional way. This obstacle is critical to overcoming because without understanding your logic for why you have a goal, you will not effectively tackle it.
I recommend for every goal you set, write down the reason(s) why it is important to you. Write it down at regular intervals – daily or once a week.
For every goal you have set, ask yourself “why?” at least five times. The five why-questions can provide you five reasons for your objective, or they can build on themselves, wherein you’re asking why about the previous “why,” which will help you connect emotionally with your goal. Once you emotionally connect, it will make all the other obstacles easier to overcome.
Here are a couple of examples:
In this example, I’ll create five reasons why I have set one of my goals.
Goal: Go hiking 18 times this year.
Why 1? Because I enjoy nature and want to be out in it.
Why 2? Because hiking is a great social activity to bring friends together.
Why 3? Because it provides a social outlet that doesn’t revolve around food, alcohol, or spending money.
Why 4? Because it provides a recovery activity that supports my CrossFit workouts.
Why 5? Because it relieves stress and makes me happy.
In the upcoming example, I will ask why behind the reason to connect deeply with my motivation.
Goal: Make peace with my feelings of inadequacy.
1 – Why? Because feeling inadequate is stressful.
2 – Why is feeling inadequate stressful?
Because it makes me feel like I’m not worthy of love, which is stressful; the human species are extroverts and pack animals, so we need a sense of community. I crave acceptance and belonging.
3 – Why does it make me feel like I’m not worthy of love?
Because I have a false mental model that tells me that to earn love, I have to provide.
4 – Why do I have a false mental model around providing?
Because of modeled behavior, subconscious conditioning from life experiences, and past trauma.
5 – Why is it important to let go of my false mental model around providing?
Because sometimes I make my relationships and interactions about me, which detracts from the connection.
6 – Why does feeling inadequate cause me to make interactions about myself?
Because despite it being unrealistic, my desire and inability to provide all the things all the time cause me to feel defensive and to need to explain myself.
7 – Why does feeling defensive and needing to explain detract from connection?
Because my energy shifts, I become more closed, I start listening to defend instead of to hear, and the emotional burden of those feelings causes me to be distracted.
8 – Why is it crucial to stay energetically present and open? To listen, to hear, and to not be distracted by negative feelings?
So that I can stop making our interactions about me, give the people I love my full attention, show the people I love how valuable they are to me, and have meaningful and fulfilling relationships.
That took a lot of why-asking, but I got to the core of why I want to make peace with my feelings of inadequacy: so that I can give my people my full attention and have meaningful relationships.
These reasons are deeply emotional. By being aware of them and connecting to them, I am much more likely to achieve this goal. You can do this for every goal that you have set!
What you thought were obstacles to overcome might not be that important.
One more thing, as you examine your motivation and write down why, you may discover that you don’t have a strong reason as to why you want to be doing these goals. You may uncover that you do not care very much about your objective, but set it because you thought you should, or to please someone else, or because it sounds like it would be nice to have.
Maybe you set a goal to have six-pack abs. But to achieve that goal, you need to cut out all sweets and alcohol. And you’re just not willing to entirely give up sweets and alcohol. Your desire for six-pack abs isn’t strong enough to overcome your desire for an occasional treat. Now you know that you don’t have a strong enough “why” to support what you wished for. This why-asking process shows you what does a goal looks like, and what a wish looks like.
In his book, UnF*ck Yourself, Gary John Bishop describes the concept of willingness. Despite the language, I highly recommend this book! It may be that you aren’t willing to do what’s necessary to achieve your goal because it isn’t that important to you. And that’s OK.
Realizing that a goal isn’t that important to you is not a failure but a relief. Now you can let it go and devote your energy to that which is crucial to you.
Start again. Start now.
Setting a goal is a worthwhile endeavor, and you don’t need a new year to make a goal. Goal-setting provides us clarity and focus, without which we won’t do the things required to create the change we want. The key is to overcome your obstacles so you can set these goals and stick to them. It is easy to get swept up in fear, false beliefs, and lack of knowledge, but these obstacles are not permanent.
If your resolutions didn’t stick, you start again.
If you didn’t set resolutions but want to make some changes in your life, you can start now.
Optimal is possible.
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