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Wednesday, 01 April 2009 10:09 - Creating Healthy Goals

Posted Nov 17 2009 10:01pm

By now, you may be feeling a little more stuffed than the turkey was, or perhaps you are just regretting how much you ate over the holiday. You aren’t the only one. For many people this is the time of New Year's resolutions -- the time when we make stronger commitments to do something better than we did last year, or perhaps to just stop doing something from last year that was bad for us.

Usually people decide to lose weight, save more money, quit smoking, maintain a budget, eat better, become more organized, exercise more, or just simply become ‘a better person’. Although many people set out to accomplish something different, only a minority are successful in attaining success in even one of their resolutions. Why is this? There are a number of reasons. Firstly, although New Year's Day represents for many people "a new beginning", it may not be the best time to actually make change. The best time to make change is when you are ready, not necessarily at a certain time of the year. Secondly, since most of our behaviours are unconscious habits, we need special tools to help us change those habits. Even though our behaviours are repetitive and unconscious, bringing awareness of our unwanted habits to our conscious mind does not necessarily mean that the behaviours will change automatically.

We are usually motivated to change our behaviour by feeling bad about something that we are doing – the proverbial ‘stick’. However, we also need something to look forward to - the proverbial carrot - or the original motivation will likely disappear as time goes on. Think about it this way - say you want to "get more exercise to lose weight". If you are doing this because you feel bad about being overweight, as you begin to exercise, feel better, and lose weight, you will also lose motivation because the bad feeling of being overweight will often disappear! So you simply become a statistic - one of the four-out-of-five people who give up on their New Year's resolution.

What are some of the answers to this problem of changing our behaviour? You need to teach your unconscious mind to do something different. Your unconscious mind responds really well to positive suggestion. In fact, the unconscious mind doesn't actually process language very easily -- it thinks more in “gestalts” -- whole images, sounds, and sensations, and specifically language that avoids the use of the word "not". For example, if I ask you not to think of pink elephants, what do you do? You cannot help but simply think of, or conjure up the image of, pink elephants. Your unconscious mind does not easily process the word "not". It is important to teach your unconscious mind in ways that allow it to respond easily.

So here are some tips for improving the possibility that you might be one of those people that actually sticks to their New Year's resolution, or whatever resolution you make down the road.

If you are not ready to change now, then choose a date in the future when you will be ready. January 1st is not necessarily the best time. Choose the best time for you personally.
Make your goal very specific -- for example, "losing weight" is too general. Make it a specific number of pounds, and make it realistic and attainable. If you are 50 pounds overweight, make your goal to lose 1/10 of that. You can always continue to change the goal as you move towards it.
As you set a date in your mind – ask yourself what is motivating you? Are you being motivated by negative intention? If so, make sure that you have some positive intention to move towards in the future. For example, if losing weight is something you would like to do because you feel unhealthy at your present weight, then form a positive image of yourself in the future being the weight that you will be. Actually visualize in your mind's eye, the person you will look like when you are at your goal. Make this internal picture very compelling, bright and close to you, but not so close that you feel overwhelmed by it. (You can even draw it on paper, using colours to help you imagine it in your mind more easily). Make it so compelling that you just want to rush towards it!
Once you set this image in your mind, notice how are you feel when you are there at this goal. Think of all the positive feelings that you can experience actually being there now. Do you feel healthier, more energetic? What are other people saying about you? Imagine that you can actually ‘become the part of you that has changed’ and actually feel these emotions now.

What are some of the encouraging things that you are saying to yourself? Remember, very soon you will no longer be motivated by that bad feeling, so you will need to continue to see a different you in the future in order to keep you moving in that positive direction.
Take the first step. (See "The First Small Step" under 'General' for suggestions about taking steps). Some people like to take small steps and others make big steps. Choose the step that works for you.

Typically, when people set themselves a goal to change their behaviour, and something happens in their lives that is stressful, the new goal is often the first thing to go. You have to consider that possibility -- that you will make a mis-take. But let that mis-take be a sign that you can simply take that first step again. Don't fall into the trap of saying to yourself "it's no good I can't do it" or some such phrase. Think of a movie -- when you watch a movie, each scene is the result of many mis-takes. You get to see the final product as a result of many steps that the actors, director, and technical staff made that were mis-takes. When they made a mis-take, they didn't just pack up and go home, they did it again until they got a right, and you get to see the final product. Be the creator of your own real-life home movie.

Here is a picture that summarizes these changes.

I am very curious to see how these ideas work for you. You can let me know by writing to me at

Remember -- this is a journey. It's like opening a gift, sometimes the best part is unwrapping it. Enjoy your change -- and keep the change!

© Accessing Resources for Empowerment™ 2006
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