In my last post, I talked about developing new habits to reach your goals, for example, planning more, or blocking out time on your schedule and then rewarding yourself when you follow through. Hopefully, you have already started creating new habits to support your goals so that you are not fighting with yourself all of the time. We all have setbacks, and it is easy to fall back on our default responses.
What’s going to happen when you get busy, tired, or distracted, forget your new habit and go back to the way you have always done it? I was talking to one of my clients about working out, and she said there is a sign at her gym that says: “it takes discipline, not motivation to keep coming here.” That applies to all areas of our life, and especially goals. The reality is that we all feel motivated to make changes for better in our lives when everything is going well, but change is hard, and when we come to the bumps, it’s easier to quit.
As I said before, we set goals for the advancement of our future self. These first few weeks of doing something new are almost always hard. Goals do not happen instantaneously, and they take time and commitment to achieve. It takes discipline to follow through.
Have you heard of the marshmallow test? The marshmallow test was an experiment conducted initially at Stanford University in the sixties. If a child delayed gratification by sitting in a room alone with one marshmallow until the facilitator got back, they would be given an additional marshmallow. If they succumbed to temptation by eating the marshmallow before the facilitator returned, they would not receive an additional one.
Here is a cute example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX_oy9614HQ
What do marshmallows have to do with goal setting? The original studies seemed to indicate those character traits such as delayed gratification and self-control predict future performance. I am not sure if marshmallows are a long term indicator of success, and the test has since received a lot of criticism. I do know that it requires self-control to change.
To move beyond your initial decision and stick with your plan, requires developing the habits to support change. It also means developing the persistence and discipline to delay gratification, and that is what makes goal achievement difficult. We do not all naturally have self-discipline. It is a learned behavior, the more you practice, the better you will get. If you rely on willpower to change a pattern, it will not work; the habit memory will stick around longer than your desire to change. That is why so many people fail in goal setting.
Pay attention to what gets you off track. Once you get a better idea of what derails your resolve, then you can start creating strategies to keep yourself going. Sometimes just a brief pause helps. Studies have shown if you can acknowledge the thought or emotion in your mind and let it pass, you may be less inclined to follow your impulses.
I had a personal trainer once who reminded me whenever I would complain about working out that it was worth it, and in the case of goals, it is. It just takes a little longer to get in the groove, keep going.
It’s worth it.
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