How often do we make promises to ourselves?
- “I will throw off the extra N kilograms for the beach season”
- “I’ll start doing exercises every day”
- “As soon as it gets warmer, I will definitely start jogging.”
- “I will never eat fast food again”
- “I will go to the gym at least three times a week”
The list is endless. We all want to change something in our life and learn something new. It doesn’t matter if we make these promises to ourselves on New Year’s Eve, on a birthday, or simply in an effort to get rid of what we are tired of in this life. It is already important that we are ready to take a serious step and change our lives. But time passes and what seemed so important and necessary is left far behind.
In most cases, this happens only because we do not know how to get rid of our usual rhythm of life and start changing something. 90 percent of the time we do everyday things: brush our teeth, drive a car, cook breakfast, communicate on social networks. We don’t have to think about it, we do it automatically. Habits save valuable brain resources.
But that’s not always good. We often become hostages of our own bad habits. We practice them every day and it becomes very difficult to fight them. Changing your behavior takes a lot of work, energy, desire and constant effort. We must be willing to change spiritually, emotionally and physically.
And then one day you make a decision – to lose ten kilograms, eat right, or start regular sports. Whatever the reason, you are on the path leading to the goal. You immediately want to take action, you are simply bursting with enthusiasm. But before you go to buy a gym membership, take the time to prepare.
Focus on the essentials
The reasons for most failures in keeping promises made to oneself are that these promises are too numerous and varied. Multitasking is a hindrance to the part of our brain that is responsible for thinking. Developing a new habit requires maximum concentration on it until you become aware of what you are doing each time. Consequently, you will not be able to learn to perform any of the assigned tasks automatically. And as a result, you will again find yourself at the beginning of the path.
How to focus correctly? There is a very good way. Name the years according to the goals you want to achieve: “Year of the Body”, “Year of Fitness”, “Year of Good Nutrition”. Thus, your brain clearly focuses on the task at hand, increasing the likelihood of a successful solution.
Moreover, it does not have to be a year, let it be a month or a week. You can come up with something very narrowly focused for yourself, for example, “A week of refusing sweet desserts.”
Set clear goals for yourself
Goals must be specific, measurable, achievable, adequate, and time-bound. Without these five characteristics, you are unlikely to be successful.
The specificity of the goal is determined by the fact that it can be given an unambiguous definition or description. “Learning to run a marathon” is a specific goal because you know exactly what needs to be done, but “getting better” is not a goal at all. What is meant? How to understand that the goal has been achieved? By setting ourselves vague goals, we go towards failure because we don’t know where the finish line is.
Measurability of a goal is, in other words, the ability to measure a goal. Measurability is critical because it makes visible our progress towards the goal. Without this, it is very easy to stray from the correct course: either you do not see the approach to the goal, or you exaggerate your own achievements.
Goal reachability means a realistic approach to achieving the goal. Despite advertisements in glossy magazines and the yellow press, you will never lose 12 kilograms in a week. Don’t expect to be successful by setting unrealistic goals. Evaluate your strength well and act reasonably.
Adequacy means that achieving it is very important to you. Unless you have a compelling reason to do something, there is a good chance that you will abandon this venture altogether. You must clearly understand why you need what you are going to achieve.
Defined time frame – This is about setting the exact time to achieve your goal. Having an endpoint means that you have created a structure within which you will operate. This gives strength to strive to solve the problem. Even if your goal has no boundaries in time, it is still better to place some time points so as not to “get lost”. Therefore, when you make some progress that can be correlated with any time categories, set for yourself the next time stage, if necessary.
By setting goals with the above measurable characteristics, you will know exactly what stage you have reached and what is important in terms of solving or completing the set tasks. Without a sense of “completion” of the task, you will be in a constant state of disharmony. This is very dangerous not only because it destroys the positive attitude from the achieved success, but also because it discourages further work on something new. And, conversely, setting a measurable goal for yourself and achieving it, you not only experience great satisfaction from the work done, but also increase your opportunities for further self-improvement.
Take small steps
Taking small steps towards a goal is a classic kaizen, a Japanese technique based on continuous small improvements. This is a great practice for any problem that is difficult to solve right away. Do you want to lose fifteen kilograms? Start fighting at least one kilogram of excess weight, for this, give up everything fried or start buying only light mayonnaise. Starting with small changes, you can eventually get things done.
Breaking down a difficult task into small steps makes you feel successful, which gives you strength to move forward and is a good way to prevent unnecessary procrastination. You don’t have to do everything at once – just a small part.
Track your actions
When you set a goal with measurable characteristics, you already know what parameters you will be measuring. Now you need to decide how often you will take measurements and track their results. This is very easy to do. You select the measurement parameters and put them in a table compiled by day of the week. Be sure to take the time to fill out this chart every day so that it becomes a habit for you. Just tick off what you have done in accordance with the promise you made to yourself.
Do not keep working on yourself until you have debugged the system for tracking your actions. Otherwise, you run the risk of demotivating yourself with a seeming lack of progress and underestimating the results of your own work.
Act with awareness
Awareness of your actions is the best companion for acquiring new habits. It’s like the pause button on your TV remote. With an awareness of action, when an impulse arises, we are in a position to decide what action we should take. Will I be healthier if I miss a class at the fitness club? If I eat these cookies now, will it help me lose weight?
But how will you remember in time to press the pause button? Most of us are not familiar with mind control tactics. And in the beginning, you will definitely need reminders from the outside. You can use stickers, scraps, phone reminders, or perhaps buy yourself a ring to remind you of your goal. Get rid of chips, cookies, and ice cream. When you want to pamper yourself with something delicious and look into the buffet, but you will not find anything there, immediately remember that you decided to give up sweets.
You probably know that after the match, the coach collects the players and they analyze the past match in order to play better next time. Analysis of past actions allows us to correct them in the right direction. What did I get? What can I do better next time? These two questions allow you to capture the feeling of success in your mind and understand what improvements you have made.
For example, let’s say you have a measurable goal of exercising four hours a week. You can review your progress on Mondays when you commute. Have you fulfilled your plan? If not, what stopped you? What can you do this week?
Keep moving forward
Don’t be discouraged if an action you took (or didn’t take) broke your promise. In a fit of anger, we punish ourselves by completely losing our composure. We eat even more prohibited foods or decide to quit sports altogether and skip one day of exercise. Psychologists call this condition the “abstinence effect”. In their opinion, this is due to the fact that we treat our behavior on an all-or-nothing basis. Paradoxically, the stricter we keep ourselves within close limits, the more we scold for what we have violated or done wrong.
Whatever you do, you’re bound to have a breakdown. This is absolutely certain. Do you want to know why? Not because you are weak, not smart enough, or lack discipline. Psychologists call this state of relapse (a temporary return to old habits), which is an integral part of the process of change, and this is natural. The sooner you understand this and accept the possibility of relapse for granted, the less negative consequences will be at the moment of its onset. Breaking a promise to yourself doesn’t mean you should blame yourself for any abuse, it just happened that you had a little breakdown today, and nothing more. Tomorrow everything will be different.
When we are about to fulfill our promise to ourselves, change a habit, or achieve a goal, we start a great thing – conscious self-creation. Instead of staying as we are, we can choose the habits we want to cultivate in ourselves. We can consciously choose the behavior and the skills that we want to possess. We can choose the life we want to live. We can bring what we started to its logical end.
Each of us has the opportunity to change and develop until the very last breath. Believe in your capabilities and you will succeed!