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Is It Time To Give Up Your Goals?

So. How are those New Year’s Resolutions coming along? What? What are you talking about Traci? New Year’s resolutions? It’s March!

Yeah. New Year’s Resolutions. Remember those things you said at midnight on December 31st? Gonna lose weight? Exercise more? Get more sleep? Those resolutions…

Yeah, but Traci. I really did mean those things. It’s just that, well, you know, life kind of got in the way… I sort of fell off the wagon. But, there’s always next year, right?

Next year? Do you mean next year as in 2014? The next year that is still NINE MONTHS AWAY? Why are you waiting until next year to restart your New Year’s Resolutions? You could make a whole baby in 9 months. There is a LOT of time left, still to achieve your goals this year.

If you are like most people, your New Year’s Resolutions are long gone. We make those late night promises of the things we’re going to change, and then the next thing we know, we are standing in line at Starbucks for the Venti Frappuccino we said we weren’t going to drink anymore.  And, when you’re in that line, you’re usually doing one of two things. You’re either feeling guilty for breaking your promises to yourself, or you’re telling yourself that “it’s only this one time, and tomorrow I’ll get back on track.”

But, one way or the other, what you really are doing is breaking a promise to yourself! It sounds a lot worse when you put it that way, doesn’t it?  That one little shopping spree when you resolved that you were going to save money this year doesn’t seem so harmless when you realize that you are BREAKING A PROMISE TO YOURSELF.

And what’s even worse is that no one gets hurt but you! So many people, when they break their diets, smoke that cigarette, sleep in instead of exercising, they get this attitude of rebelliousness, or an attitude of sneaking. They feel shame and guilt, and it’s like there is this invisible “Mommy or Daddy” who has set a Frappuccino rule, and they are going to break that rule. No one’s going to tell me I can’t have a frappuccino…They get this little smile and throw their hands up, saying “I guess I just can’t stick to it.”

How stupid is that?

Let me back up and state some of my fundamental assumptions for a second. First of all, I am assuming that you were somewhat serious when you made that resolution last year. I am assuming that whatever you picked, you were actually serious about wanting to achieve that goal. This was not one of those, “Well, I’ll probably buy a hybrid.” You started out with a  serious commitment to change. But, for whatever reason, your commitment slipped, and here it is March, and you haven’t progressed much. Or, you’re stalled. Stuck. On hold. And now you’re fighting the guilt thing too. Frankly, it’s enough to make you want to throw your hands up and give up until next December, right?

Well, you’ve got two ways you can go with this. You can either re-commit to your goal, or you can give it up. That’s it. Those are your two choices, get back on track, or give it up.  Because, the truth is, there IS no mommy or daddy making the rules. You are making the rules, and there is no reason to sneak around, lie to yourself, feel guilty, or any other negative emotion. Just choose what you’re going to do.

So, if, for example, you had a goal to lose weight this year, and it’s March, and you haven’t done it. Well, you can either re-commit to that goal, or give it up. What? Give up my goal of losing weight? What about my butt and my thunder thighs? Are you just saying accept them?

Yeah! Why not? I mean, if the choice is to beat yourself up, feel guilty, keep telling yourself you should do something, while you’re in the drive thru at McDonald’s,   so obviously you’re  not really willing to do what it takes, then why not give it up for now? There is no point in kicking yourself emotionally if you aren’t ready to do what it takes to achieve your goal. Either do what needs to be done, or don’t. But don’t sit around and beat yourself up about not doing it. That is a complete waste of time, and frankly, is pretty mean to yourself.

There is nothing wrong with changing a goal, or delaying one until a better time. It doesn’t mean you’ll never achieve the goal, but frankly, if it’s almost April, and you haven’t made progress on a goal you started in January, then there is probably some reason why that is the case.

You see, there is a big difference between reasons and excuses. A reason is a legitimate answer as to why you haven’t been able to achieve a goal. “I didn’t train for the marathon because I broke my leg.” That is a reason. “I didn’t train for the marathon because I didn’t have time” is probably an excuse.

So, are there legitimate reasons why you haven’t achieved your goal, or are you making excuses?

In other words, when you think of that New Year’s Resolution, you need to listen to what you are telling yourself. That voice is going to tell you the true reality of why you aren’t moving forward with that goal. You’ll be able to hear whether you have reasons, or are making excuses.

If there are legitimate reasons why you haven’t made progress on your goal, then maybe this isn’t the right time to focus on achieving it. Achieving a goal takes a lot of time, energy and focus. That’s not an excuse, it’s a reality. If you’re not in a place right now where you can devote the energy necessary to achieving your goal, then don’t. Get through whatever is going on, and then start on the goal. So for example, if you are a graduate student, and a mother to four kids, and also have a full time job, now is probably not the right time to start in on that weight loss, stop smoking, exercise program. It’s the truth. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just accept the fact that you have other goals that are more important right now—like getting through school.

However, if the time never seems right, there is always something that comes up, and your goal never seems to make it to the top of your priority list, then you are making excuses. It’s time to take a deeper look.  There is a reason you are avoiding this goal, and in order to move forward, you’re going to need to find out what that reason is. Maybe you’re scared. Maybe you don’t feel like you deserve to achieve the goal. Maybe there are other implications of reaching that goal that you aren’t ready to deal with yet.

Are those limiting beliefs? Maybe. But you know what? I am a big proponent of accepting what is. Sure, you can change your life, but in order to do that, you’ve got to accept what is. If “what is” is that you’re afraid, you don’t think you can do it, you’re not even really sure you want that goal, then  that’s where you need to start. Back off on yourself for awhile, and take a look at those thoughts. Don’t try to positive think your way out of them. You need to look at those limiting beliefs and examine them.

You are not achieving your goal. That is. Why are you not achieving your goal? That’s where you start. Maybe you need to put that goal on hold for awhile while you are laying a new foundation of beliefs to support it. You see, just as you can’t build a house on a faulty foundation, you can’t achieve a goal if you don’t have the inner foundation to support it.

Let me repeat that because it’s really, really important. If you are consistently not achieving your goal, it’s probably because you haven’t built an inner foundation that will support the long term achievement of that goal. Before you can climb on that treadmill, you need to go inside your head and find out what the thoughts are that are supporting your thunder thighs, and then change those into thoughts that support a healthy lifestyle. You have to change your thinking before you can change your life.

It’s like those stories about lottery winners who blow all of their money. Why? Why does that happen? I mean, it’s everyone’s fantasy to win a huge sum of money. And every single one of us says “Oh I wouldn’t be one of those who blows all the money.”  But, if the winners don’t have a solid belief system that includes an inner image of themselves as a wealthy person, the money is going to go. You’ve got to have an inner mindset that is consistent with your outer goal.

So, how do you do that? How do you create an inner foundation to support that external goal?

First of all, back off on the negative talk. Stop beating yourself up for not having already achieved your goal. Realize that it’s bit more complicated than you thought. Be kind to yourself as you are going through the process, and also realize that the inner work you are doing now is a critical step in achieving that goal. It’s not something you rush through to get to the “real work.” It is the real work. True change happens on the inside far in advance of anything showing on the outside. Sad but true. Those thunder thighs are gonna have to wait.

Next. Fake it till you make it. What that means is, start to pretend that you already have achieved your goal. This is not as easy or as psychotic as it sounds. I’m not talking about pretending you’re wealthy and buying a new Mercedes when you can only afford a Hyundai. I am talking about, standing tall, living your life, and imagining the feelings all day long, that you would have if, say, money were not an object.  So, you’re driving to work and going through a ritzy neighborhood. Would you buy that house? Would you drive that car? Would you shop at that store? These are the decisions wealthy people make every day. What would it FEEL like to be making those choices?

Every so often, I like to do something that I call an “as if” day. I do this with my coaching clients once a year. I tell them to plan a day that is “as if” they had already achieved their goals and were living their dream life. You have a goal to be physically fit? What would your day look like? You’d probably get up early and exercise, eat a healthy breakfast… You’d skip TV, and maybe take your kids to the park… Whatever. Well for the one day, do those things. Feel what it would be like AS IF you were a physically fit person.

I had one client who wanted to become a scientist. So, for his As If day,  he took a vacation day from his regular job, and spent the morning in the library doing research, and then the afternoon he went to his laboratory (which was really his garage) conducting experiments.

What could you do? If it’s a specific job you want, go on a job shadow. Ride along with a police officer.  Spend the day volunteering at an animal hospital if you want to become a veterinarian. There are a million ways you can plan an As If day.

So, as often as you can, pretend you have already achieved your goal. I do this at the mall. I walk around and pretend I’m this rich, famous person, but I’m in disguise and if they really knew who I was, they would swamp me asking for autographs… I know, now you’re laughing at me, and I’m laughing at me too. So what? Go ahead and do it—it works for me, and is an awful lot of fun.

Finally, the last way to start laying that mental foundation for your goal is to visualize yourself already there. For five minutes in the morning, while you’re in the shower, visualize yourself thinner, wealthier, running that marathon. Then, as you’re falling asleep, do it again.  Why does this work? There is a pretty complex answer to that, which is longer than we have here in this blog. But for now, let’s just say, that your mind does not know the difference between a visualization, a dream, a memory, and reality.  So, when you visualize—especially in the shower and in bed at night, you are planting some seeds deep into your subconscious that allow for the formation of new brain patterns. It’s a scientific fact, not just new age mumbo jumbo. So do those visualization exercises.

Pretty soon, you are going to find yourself effortlessly taking steps toward your goals. It won’t be a matter of making yourself do stuff. It will be a matter of living out the inner belief system you have. Change does not happen from the outside in. It happens from the inside out.

A resolution is not something you should do. It’s an opportunity to move your life forward.

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