In 2015, when I committed to losing weight and reaching my goal – I searched out specific characteristics about the program I would choose to follow that would help improve the chances of success. The program I chose had to have;
– A way of making me accountable for my results – good or bad
– An educational component, so that I could learn new ways of understanding my relationship with food and how to adjust it
– A program / plan that made sense to me and was founded in fact which was easily backed up by data that could be analyzed
If you examine the list above again – I’m sure you find that many weight loss programs come to mind that fit my requirements.
What I came to realize through my journey is that it wasn’t only the program I chose that led me to success and to be able to achieve my goal as much as dealing with the other feelings and situations that can influence and sabotage even the best of plans.
Here is my list of 5 challenges that I learned about on my journey that I needed to overcome to reach my goals. Below the list I’ll talk about each challenge in more detail and explain what I learned and how you can use it to help you achieve any goal that you have in your mind’s eye.
The unconscious mind and its ability to make a decision is a powerful thing. Although many may believe that things “just happen” to us, I have learned not to believe that. There are hundreds, if not thousands of decision points that we come across in a given day. A decision point is point in time where we are faced with making a choice. Sometimes we choose wisely and sometimes not. Sometimes that choice is evaluated using critical thinking methods and other times a choice is made in the blink of an eye. I won’t argue as to which method of choice is better as there are many books and studies about the topic – but what I do want to highlight is that I had to come to the realization that every time I reached a decision point – I could use the power of choice to move me closer to my goal. Conversely – there were many times when I was not as mindful / aware that I had reached a decision point – and here I found that what would win would be that action closest matching my existing habits. What I had to realize is that even when I didn’t actively make a choice – I was making a choice. Realizing this was empowering to me… frustrating… but empowering!
The good news is that becoming aware and active in your decisions is something you can work on. More good news – habits are formed over extended periods of time and absolutely change based on previous actions. The better your habits become, the better those unconscious decisions will become. Here’s an interesting TED Talk on how to implement small changes in habit.
In my case, meal time was most definitely a decision point. I’m faced with two options. Let’s call the “good” option (remember: this is the one that moves me closer to my goal) is Selection A. The “bad” option is Selection B. What I found through my journey was that having a plan and setting myself up to make Selection A the easier of the choices would result in higher success. In the world of weight loss, this is “meal planning”, making sure that I had readily accessible, healthy options that moved me closer to my goal. This can relate to chasing any other goal though.
Let’s say that your goal is to improve your photography. You should now realize that your current habits are something that you’ll need to overcome to reach your goal. You also know that you’ll be presented with decision points where you will have the opportunity to choose to do something that moves you closer to that goal. It is now up to you to plan ahead and make it so that when you come to the time of the decision point you choose Selection A over Selection B.
It’s not easy, but being mindful and aware is the first step that gave me more power in my decisions and allowed me to start crafting new, more productive habits that aligned with my goals.
An unfortunate thing about this world is that the good habits are much easier to give up than the bad ones. ~W. Somerset Maugham
The ability to achieve our goals relies heavily on our focus on those goals. Willpower, or the ability to exert control to accomplish something is a real thing. It is a wonderful thing and when complemented by determination and persistence combines into a force that can move mountains. The lesson I learned on my journey is that willpower and focus are finite resources. In general, we start our day with a certain amount of these resources and what I learned was that outside sources will chip away at these resources until we are left with none.
I have found that there is no greater nemesis of willpower than stress.
I had to consciously work and put effort forth to eliminate stress wherever possible. This was not easy, but if we let stress wear on us and deplete our focus and willpower, we will have less energy to continue the drive toward our goal. This lack of energy can also manifest itself when it comes to decision points, and we already know how important I feel that they are to the larger picture of our success.
The good news? Stress can be managed in many ways. Meditation being just one of them. In my case, I chose to use the method of living my day in “day tight compartments“, a method I learned about how to deal with stress and worry from a Dale Carnegie course. I would be conscious of when a stressful situation was upon me and I worked through it to either do my best to deal with it in short fashion, or accept that it likely wasn’t something I needed to be stressed about.
There are many situations that can cause us stress and chip away at our willpower and distract us from our goals. It is in our best interest to learn how to deal with and manage stress so that we can overcome this challenge on the way to our goal.
Doubt comes in at the window when inquiry is denied at the door. ~Benjamin Jowett
If our goal is large enough, doubt will be cast. We may hear it from those around us who we share our dreams with, or worst yet – it may come from inside.
Self-doubt may be something that you will deal with on the way to your goal. I had to deal with it in my journey quite a bit. There was the doubt that I would be able to make the change, the doubt that I was worth making the change, the doubt that I could maintain the change and the fear of what would happen if I did somehow manage to actually pull it all off!
The lesson I learned along the way, and still tell myself each day is that “I’m worth it”. I say as a form of my daily affirmation. I’ll explain these in more detail in a future post, but let’s just say that this is one way that I work to remove self-doubt.
Whatever your goal is – please know that you can achieve it. Don’t doubt yourself. I believe in you…
One of the main reasons that I had success with my goal is due to the support system that I had allowed to evolve around me. Note the word “allowed” in the previous sentence, it is there for good reason. I had to overcome my own pride and realize that having others know and support me in my goal would improve my chances of success.
This is not an easy thing as most people are proud and don’t want to admit that they could use help. In my case, I had to admit that I had a problem and I needed to accept all the assistance, love an support that those around me were willing to give. In previous attempts, I did not embrace this and in doing so I felt this was a game changer for allowing me to reach my goal with a bunch of people “cheering me on”.
In the case where the goal is not a “problem”, I still find that there is great value in vocalizing your intention and desire. There are many people that surround you that would be more than happy to support your and help you reach your goal – but they won’t ever have the opportunity to do so if you never tell them about it. Sometimes our pride, and the worry about what people may think of our goal / dream gets in the way… don’t let that happen to you.
Pride deafens us to the advice or warnings from those around us. ~John C. Maxwell
A lack of enthusiasm in achieving your goal can most definitely be a barrier. In previous attempts to lose weight, I found that I had an indifference in the results. Sure, I was happy when I would see the weight come off, but I didn’t have a burning desire to make a change.
I’ve found this to be the largest lesson learned on my journey and if you have a goal in mind – I want you to ask yourself this question.
How bad do you want it?
I know that the question is “cliche” and seems far to easy to answer, but think about it in the terms of the other 4 challenges above and be brutally honest with yourself as you answer.
– Are you willing to change and make new habits that support your end goal?
– Are you in a good mental state and able to deal with stress and outside influences that will look to distract you from your goal?
– Do you believe in your heart that you can reach the goal and are meant to reach your goal (hint: I believe you can…)
– Are you able to put your pride aside and tell everyone who will listen about your goal? Are you ready to accept their help and support when they offer it?
There is one quality which one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it. ~Napoleon Hill
The last and largest challenge I had to overcome was to get up everyday and be honest in my response to the question “how bad did I want it?”.
When the goal in your mind is your “burning desire” and something that consumes your thoughts when you wake and when you dream, you’re in a good spot to chase that goal.
Apathy, the lack of caring or indifference to the outcome can not exist if you are forging your path to your goal.
Let me know the biggest challenge you’ve faced chasing your goal and how you’ve overcome it in the comments below.
Depression is a beast. The worst part of depression as I know it is that it sticks around – hanging out at the back of the room, listening in on conversations, making mental notes to bring up at times of weakness. It seems to come in cycles / waves for me. I have to fight through the lows and do my best to take advantage of the highs.
Allow me to do my best to describe a recent low period and see if any of this resonates with anything that you’ve experienced:
When I’m in a low, my negative self-talk is at an all-time high. I dislike everything about myself, and most everything that is presented to me. I go through phases of extreme self-loathing and have feelings of social isolation. I find that I can’t relate to anyone or anything and it frustrates me and makes me angry. I’ll even start to start to hold disdain for others – being envious of their “perceived” happiness and normalcy.
Mainly mental, but at times physical – I won’t want to do anything. I won’t be open to new thoughts or advice, I will flip anything given on it’s head and find the reason that it won’t work for me. I will have thoughts of doing something – and almost immediately that thought will be replaced with a “who cares” or “why bother” thought – causing me to stew in the negativity and find more reasons to be frustrated or angry that I won’t do the thing that I “just know” that others are able to do – which circles right back around into more self-hatred / bashing.
Loss Of Hope
When I’m deep in my depression – my mind and heart hold little hope for anything. It’s a dark place where I do everything I can not to give up. Days or weeks can become a blur as time just passing with little to no meaning or purpose. It’s very hard to see a way out, or even believe that there is one.
When It Gets Really Dark
There are times when it gets really dark and thoughts turn to ones that are not safe. I’ve been there and if you’re there and you’re reading this – please search out help. Ask anyone that you’re comfortable with asking. There are national, local and online resources that can help. I’m not a doctor and how each person deals with these tough times is specifically unique to each of us. Two things that have worked for me in the past are – searching for gratitude in earnest. I will do all that I can to stop my thoughts long enough to think of one thing in my life that I’m thankful for and one person that has been there for me in a way that has affected my life in a positive way. I’ll use all of my energy to focus on those for a moment. Another thing that I’ll try and do is to search out a way to help someone else in need. I’ve often found that I can lose track of my own concerns by finding ways to help others. This distraction is, at times, just what I need to shift my thoughts.
The ways that I cope with my depression is to acknowledge it and to force myself to believe that it is cyclical in nature. I have to realize that there will be good days and there will be bad days. I work hard to be active and mindful of my energy level and tolerance for accepting and embracing change. When the times feel right – I work extra hard to take action. Some days I’ll be able to make great strides forward to my goal, others not as much – but as long as I don’t slide backwards – in the end – I’ll eventually reach it.
Allowing A Change Of Plans / Practicing Kindness
I also give myself the room to change plans and be flexible in how I move toward the goal. As mentioned above – there are times when I have great days and times that I don’t. I test my attitude each morning through my daily affirmations. If I’m feeling committed and locked in on my goals – I ride that wave and work to have the best day possible. If I’m not feeling it – I do the best I can that day and remind myself to live that day for just that day. No matter what – I start the day with my affirmations – and then I trust my gut on how I’m feeling. I practice patience with myself and allow myself room to breathe and change plans, if needed. I use the phrase – “Give myself today by forgiving myself today”. I say this to myself because I know that I’m not perfect and I need to be OK with that – while I’m doing my best to be the best I can be.
Depression can strongly affect our ability to love ourselves and to plan for the future. I want to end this post with these words:
You may not be ready to hear it… but you ARE good enough.
You may not be ready to feel it… but you ARE worthy.
You may not be ready to accept it… but I BELIEVE in you.
NOTE: Catch the premiere episode of the Daily Choices podcast here to hear more about the purpose and mission of this blog.
Goals are wonderful things. They give us a reason to get out of bed each morning and a place to focus our energy. Many goals are rooted in our dreams and desires. I’m a goal-oriented, goal-driven person.
In the Fall of 2015, I set my sight on the goal of losing weight. I have battled with weight issues my entire life but this time – something felt right – and so I committed and over the next fourteen months ended up losing over two-hundred pounds. I was much happier with the new me, many of those surrounding me were happier with the new me, but not everyone.
As I moved into “maintenance-mode” where I had learned to maintain my new weight by moving back to a more natural routine of nutrition and exercise – I started to feel lonely. Many of the people that were there to cheer me on during my journey to the goal packed up their stuff and headed home – their job was done. They were my cheerleaders on the climb up the mountain – I had reached the summit – mission accomplished. I can honestly say that all the highs that came along with people noticing the “new me” – also went away – as nothing stays “new” forever.
I maintained the weight for six months. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t difficult either. I had learned how to do it – and as long as I stuck to plan and made good choices – things were fine. Shortly after the six month anniversary of maintenance I slipped into a nasty cycle of depression. My depression comes in waves and I could feel a hint of it coming. I was moving into the “who cares”, “what’s the point” phase – and when I start saying those things to myself, I know that I’ve started an official fight with my depression.
I have used many methods over the years to help combat the deep, dark parts of depression – but there have been times for as long as I can remember that the dark side does take over in full force. This evolved into one of those times.
Days of depression become weeks, weeks become months. It got dark… very dark. My weight started to climb and I started to tell myself that I didn’t care about it. While I was having those negative thoughts of not caring, I was also strapping myself with feelings of guilt about letting the core support group that cheered me on to my initial goal down as I let all the hard work slide away. I was talking myself deeper and deeper, negative thoughts, beating myself up, calling myself a failure. This went on for several months, the deep depression leading to anxiety and getting to a point where I felt paralyzed and not able to function.
There are several unique situations in my life that allowed this to play out without too many others noticing – other than the obvious withdrawal from society / my somewhat infrequent posts about latest projects in the works. I reached the top of the mountain with great fanfare and celebration. I have fallen down the side of it – pretty much unnoticed.
As I type this blog entry – I have gained back nearly 150 pounds of what I had lost. It’s sad, and frustrating, but I feel like I’m on the upswing in my cycle of depression – and so I’m going to take advantage of that. I’m going to put the same power to use that lead me to dream and set a goal of losing the weight the first time – the power of choice. I honestly believe that our ability to choose is a superpower that can put us on the path to reaching any goal that we want to achieve. It’s not easy, there are many challenges. I learned quite a few ways to help when I was on my first journey – and I want to share these with others in the hope that they will find value in them.
I’m at the bottom again, but I’m setting up a new base camp. I’m a bit more seasoned of a climber now, with a few tips and tricks in my bag. I have set my goal on surpassing my original weight loss goal – because the only thing to me more amazing than losing two-hundred pounds is doing it twice.
The lessons I’ve learned about goal-setting and the power of choice can be used to enable us to reach any goal – no matter how small or how large. I want to share what I’ve learned with you and hope that you will share your story, challenges and celebrations with me.
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