Focus on the long run.
It has been said that most people give up what they want in the long run for what they want in the short run. Sad, but true. A teen client says he wants to feel relaxed and fit in. So, he smokes cigarettes. His goal for the future? He wants to be healthy and physically fit.
Another client comes to family therapy to improve the family relationships. He doesn’t see a problem with his workaholism–working 60 to 80 hours every week. His wife and children have a BIG problem with it.
The question often arises, how do you train yourself to focus on long-term goals? For most of us, it comes through trial and error. We have some success in a long-term goal, realize its importance, so take that leap of faith to do it again and again.
Take one small goal. Maybe it’s adding pure water to your daily routine and excluding drinks that either add unnecessary calories or do not contribute to your overall good health.
If you can keep your promise to yourself for a whole week, give yourself a positive reinforcement for sticking to your goal. Be sure to give yourself a reward that isn’t self-destructive. Think in terms of small pleasures–a trip to a favorite park, a drive through an area that you love, a walk through your favorite mall, etc.
Journal your progress.
Nothing has been more rewarding to me than to meaasure my progress. This doesn’t need to be difficult. Sometimes a simple check mark on your calendar is enough.
Tell someone else.
When you tell your friend or spouse or sibling about your progress, you’ve just added another important component of success–accountability. For nearly twenty years I had an early morning walking partner. This was very motivating to me to meet with my friend every morning (often before dawn) and walk for an hour. Try it!
Good luck in keeping your goals!
You cannot manage what you don’t measure. So keeping track through a journal or diary is essential. You can keep this simple or you can get fancy. I keep track on my computer. But when I’m on the road, I carry a little notebook in my purse. It’s especially important to journal your progress if you’re in the process of recovering from an addiction. Your journal will help you to see where you’re doing well and what you need to avoid to do even better.
Here are the things that I write down every day:
*the date and my morning weight
*the amount of water I drank during the day
*What I ate, the amount I ate, and the time I ate
*What kind of exercise I did–strength training, aerobic, or stretching and how long I did it
*How long I meditated
You can also measure other things like your mood, your level of energy, your mental clarity, your motivation, or your stress level. I find it easiest to use a simple one to ten scale with ten being the best and one being the worst. I also like to give myself a little smiley face if I did well that day. Positive reinforcement can be just that simple.
There are a number of free online journal sites. I like several formats at Bella Online.
At first I found it a bother to journal. Now it takes less than 5 minutes a day and it keeps me on track. I highly recommend it!
What do you really, really want? You’re probably very aware of what you DON’T want. But what DO you want? Planning is essential for success. But, before you can plan, you need to identify what you want. What you want may fall into one or more of these general areas:
a. Better relationships
b. Spiritual growth
c. Knowledge and mental clarity
d. Financial success
e. Health and fitness
Score yourself from 1 – 10 in each of these six areas. A low score means that you’re not doing well in this area. A high score is where you feel a lot of confidence and success. Write down the scores.
I want you to choose one goal in one category. In which category did you score the lowest? No doubt you have some problems in that area. If you didn’t have problems in that area, what would your life be like? Stop and think about that question. Use your imagination to picture happiness for yourself in that area.
If happiness itself is your goal, then imagine yourself smiling, laughing, jumping for joy, dancing, singing, or skipping. Imagine yourself pumping your fists in the air over your head, tears of joy streaming down your face. That’s happy. And that’s how specific I want you to see yourself.
What I’m trying to do here is to help you to focus on success. It’s so easy to get discouraged or to blame circumstances or other people, but that just won’t help you to get to where you want to be. And, you can’t change other people. So, take the time to decide which category you want to work on first. Here are some questions to ponder:
What would you dare to dream if you knew you absolutely couldn’t fail?
What would you do you if you could wave a magic wand and have exactly what you want.
What will the eventual outcome be?
Imagine the possibilities that you could achieve if you dared to dream!
What would that look like? Jot it down. Flesh it out with details.
Rather than writing something vague like, “I want to be healthy,” you will get better results by being specific. This is one client’s goal: “I want to bring my cholesterol level down 20 points and my glucose level down to below 100. I can see my kids smiling at me because I can go hiking with them and they’re proud of me.” See what I mean? Write it down in a paragraph.
We’re laying the groundwork for changing your inner world. And here’s the exciting news: your outer world can’t help but conform to your inner world! So changing your inner world will be an awesome journey. Promise!
I’m a fan of David Allen. In his book Ready for Anything he talks about how a single focus is infinitely more productive than a split focus. “Much like decreasing the diameter of a pipe will increase the strength of the water flowing out of it, the ability to think and do is optimized when focus is concentrated. Trying to focus on two things at once will diminish the results by much more than half. ‘Multitasking’ only works when all but one of the ‘tasks’ is on automatic.”
All of the important and permanent health changes that I have made over the years have started as a single goal. I knew, for example, that giving up carbonated and caffeinated drinks might be difficult for me. So I cut myself some slack. I didn’t demand perfection from myself and I allowed myself to switch to water gradually a decade ago. Now it’s a cinch to choose to drink pure water rather than anything else.
As I see it, the value of a single focus in goal-setting is allowing myself to experience the victory of reaching a small goal before moving on to another goal. I know myself well enough to know that I’m raising the odds for success when I do it this way. The challenge is to cease and desist from beating yourself up for not being perfect.
Best wishes for your success!