Everything You Need to Know to Set (and Achieve!) Life-Changing Goals

‘Tis the season for resolutions. And rather than indulge my inner curmudgeon and tell you about the horrible retention rates of New Year’s resolutions, or suggest that once-a-year goal-setting is meaningless for creating permanent change, I want to encourage you to just GO FOR IT and give yourself some crazy-ambitious goals for this year.

And, I’m going to tell you how to actually accomplish them.

Make your own decisions

YOU create your goals, nobody else. It doesn’t matter what the world thinks you should or shouldn’t do. It doesn’t matter what I say. What matters is what you believe is important and in what order. 

For example, you might have a range of goals for your family, your professional life, and your personal health. I can’t tell you that working late at the office to nail a project – even if it means missing a workout – is a bad use of your time. Only YOU get to choose your priorities.

Look at the big picture

It’s easy to make our New Year’s goals hyper-specific, like “lose 20 lbs.” But losing 20 lbs. isn’t intrinsically motivating for most people, and it also might not actually be the most important thing to do to create the life you want.

Instead, I encourage you to zoom out and look at what you want your life to look like in a year. Close your eyes and visualize what the average, say, Tuesday afternoon looks like for future you. Where are you? Who is around you? What are you doing? And, most importantly, how do you feel?

Make it emotional

I used to work at Noom, an incredibly popular (and effective) weight loss app. I wrote all the content in the app about how to change your behavior, based on the very wise guidance of our clinical psych and coaching teams. And yet, I have always considered myself somewhat of a quitter. I’ve tried making lifestyle changes like doing Whole 30 or waking up at 5:30AM every day, but it never worked. I had all of the information, yet none of it worked.

It never clicked for me because it was totally cognitive. None of it connected for me emotionally. In order for a lifestyle change to stick, it has to be driven by emotions!

Once you’ve zoomed out and looked at where you want to be in a year, make that feeling the guiding principal behind what you want to accomplish.

Start taking action

One pitfall we fall into in January is trying to change ALL the things, all at once. Instead, create focus by listing all the actions you think might get you to the feeling you want to have in a year.

Then, take your best guess at which action gets you there fastest. It doesn’t matter whether you’re right or not, because everyone forgets what builds success: you fail over and over until you don’t. So you do the first thing, you let it teach you what does or doesn’t work, and then you try your next best idea. 

Write a list of the first 5 actions you think will work best. Then rank them. Which of those is your first priority? Note, I didn’t say rank them by what seems easiest or is the most popular among your friends. What do you think is most likely to get you to the feeling you want to have in a year.

Break it down

Now, take the first step on your list, and break it down into the actions you’d need to take to accomplish THAT “mini-goal” we’ll call it.

For example, say the feeling you want to have in a year is “calm.” You might think cultivating a daily yoga practice would be your best chance at creating calm. And then you break down your mini-goal of a daily yoga practice into action steps, like:

  • Attend a weekly studio class
  • Do a home practice 3 mornings a week
  • Do a breathing exercise or meditation (yes, breathing and meditation are yoga!) on each day you don’t do a structured class.

Get excited about these goals! You don’t have to hedge. You don’t have to play it safe. Set out the exact steps you think would get you where you want to go.

Create the thoughts and feelings to support your actions

And now, most importantly, what are the feelings you would need to have to take those steps? All of the actions we take or don’t take are determined by how we feel. For example, if we feel apathetic, we aren’t going to take action! So, what feeling would you need to have in order to, for example, roll out your yoga mat for a home practice 3 times a week? You might say something like “determined.”

We often misunderstand the way the brain works, and we think our feelings come out of nowhere. Or that they’re created by our environment. That’s not true. Our thoughts create our feelings. So, if we feel apathetic, the thought creating that feeling might be, “This is pointless, it’ll never work anyway.” If we want to feel determined, we might consciously think something like, “I know I can do this, and it’s going to be worth it.”

Start taking note of the thoughts and feelings you have when you DO something you want to do and when you DON’T do something you want to. Journaling can be incredibly helpful in this process!

If you want support and guidance in this process, I’d love to work with you! Please schedule a free wellness consultation to learn more about how I can help support your crazy ambitious goals this year.

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