Tag Archives: life coaching

You’ve set a goal, now how do you actually reach it?

photo credit: Nothing but dreams via photopin (license)

What’s that saying about reaching for the stars? Something about how even if you fail at least you’ll be among them? Better to get off the ground than to never start! Here’s how you make your dream a reality!  photo credit: Nothing but dreams via photopin (license)

Everyone has at least one big life goal in the back of their mind – whether it’s to lose weight, get more fit, run a marathon, reach a certain peak in their career etc. At first, there’s a fire and excitement and passion when thinking of that goal! We can’t wait until we reach it! We envision what it will feel like, look like and how different our life might be if it happened. How free, accomplished and proud would you be?

Then we come out of our daydream and start thinking about how long it will take to reach that goal and we become overwhelmed and disappointed. We don’t take action on the goal and 6 months from now we’ll be fantasizing about reaching that goal all over again. I’m sure some of you have already given up on a goal you set on New Years, right?? It happens to everyone at some point!

So how do you actually make it happen? How do you actually take that dream in your head and bring it to life?

Here’s the short answer: With specifics.

Here’s a graphic of the steps if you’re short on time – read on for more details!

Can you take these actions? I bet you can!

Can you take these actions? I bet you can!

Sit down with a pen and paper and get brainstorming! Create a list of all the things you can think of that it will actually take to reach that goal. What concrete steps will you need to take to make the dream a reality? To get from A to Z, what will you have to do?

Break the goal down into the smallest steps you can think of. If your goal is to run a marathon but you are mostly sedentary at the moment, one of your smaller steps is to begin exercising.

But what do you need to do to make that happen? Do you have a gym membership? Do you have a pair of good sneakers? Can you workout at home? When will you workout? Do you have clothes that are comfortable for exercise? What actions will you need to have taken before you can take on the more challenging aspects of marathon training?

Once you know what steps you need to take, try to organize them into a rational order.  In the above example of starting to exercise so that you can eventually run a marathon, the first steps may look something like this:
#1 Go shopping for sneakers and workout clothing.
#2 Purchase sneakers and workout clothing.
#3 Make an appointment with my doctor to get the ok to exercise.
#4 Decide what days and times I have available to exercise.
#5 Decide what kind of activity to start with.
#6 etc.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. Often when we take on a new challenge, we aren’t totally sure of all the steps required until we start working on it. There are lots of things that we won’t know to list until we begin – know that it’s ok to edit your list multiple times if needed! It’s ok to revise and rethink your plan of attack several times! What matters more is that you are actually taking the actions on your list.

Once you have your list of steps – those concrete actions that make up all the steps needed to reach the goal you have in mind, you want to plan out and schedule them in a calendar!

No really. I’m not kidding. Don’t fight doing this step. It’s crucial.

I know those of you who are creative types or have ADD are sitting here going “I work better when I see where my focus is each day.” Uh-huh. Yeah. I’ve said and done that myself. How has that been working for you? Are you actually making progress on them with this plan of attack? If you are, great – you’re an anomaly – continue on! But most of us, myself included, just spin in circles when we go that route. It’s a form of procrastination that comes up out of fear! Don’t fall for it!

I find it helpful to look at how long you think it could reasonably take to accomplish the goal and break it down into 3 or 4 month increments. How many of the steps can you accomplish in 3 months time? If your goal is something that will take a year to accomplish, you would need to take action on 1/4 of the steps in your total list to be on track to complete the goal in one year’s time. (One year is just an example – depending on your goal, you may be looking at multiple years or only a few months) After those 3 or 4 months are up, check in – how are you doing? Are you on track? Great! Schedule out the next 3 or 4 months worth of action steps. If you’re not on track, assess what needs to change to get you there. Do you need to extend out your goal time line? Are certain steps taking longer than you planned? That’s ok – that’s reality! Maybe you’ve discovered that tasks you thought you could get done in 2 hours actually take you 5. Now that you know that you’ll have a more realistic schedule for the next few months. Once you know where you need to change things, get to work at scheduling those tasks!

Is it freaking you out to think 3 or 4 months out in the future? Ok. What steps can you take this week and next week? Start there and once you accomplish those you’ll build confidence that will help you be bolder in the weeks following.

Use any calendar you want for this task! I like using my google calendar because it updates on all the devices I use but you can use anything that you will be consistent using!  A paper calendar or a day planner like the Passion Planner or Leonie Dawson’s Workbooks are great options too (and can even help you get clearer about what you really want).

Next honor yourself by actually taking the actions you have planned and scheduled out. Showing up is the hardest part sometimes! Even if you get so far as to put all your steps in your calendar, a lot of us will get up each day and choose to ignore that calendar. Make a commitment to look at it each evening – so that you already have an idea of what you need to take care of tomorrow. I know you make time to be prepared for work meetings, doctor appointments and all of your children’s activities. These are all in your calendar and you make sure that they happen. You wouldn’t dream of blowing them off! Do the same for the action steps for your goals. Treat them as you would anything else that is important to you! They are not negotiable.

Don’t put something in your calendar that you have no intentions of doing. And if you have no intention of taking that step, please ask yourself why? What is holding you back?

That’s it. That’s how you make a goal a reality. 

There’s no magic to reaching goals other than having a clearly laid out path of action and then committing to yourself to take it.

And here’s something to remember if you still feel like it’s too much work to tackle that goal – know that that time is going to pass no matter what. So you’ll either reach that point in time having achieved what you wanted or you’ll reach that same point in time wishing you had started back when you first started thinking about it. Why not start right now?

You may be thinking “but my goal is more complicated than that! I can’t plan actions towards it!” But that’s very unlikely. The majority of goals can be broken down into small actions that added up over time equal the end result. If you’ve ever lost weight or got a job, any job, how did it happen? I’m guessing you went on a diet, started an exercise program, counted calories or something similar when you lost weight. And how long did you do it for? And how strictly? You took repetitive steps that resulted in weight loss. Same with getting a job, even if we’re talking a job at the mall food court in high school – at the bare minimum you walked into a business and filled out an application, probably received and answered a phone call and showed up on your first day of work.  Those are all actions, as basic as they may seem. Bigger goals, just mean MORE actions.

Sometimes the hard part is seeing the steps to your goal clearly – it’s tough to get started at all if you don’t know where to begin! If you need help translating this formula to a goal in your life, let’s set up a time to chat!  I can help you determine if your goal is reachable and how you can get there.

I am a “Sometimes” Runner.

Sometimes I run, even if I can't do it regularly!

Sometimes I run, even if I can’t do it regularly!

Yesterday was such a beautiful fall day, I decided to skip barre and take my workout outside. I had a bruise on my palm that I wanted to baby a bit too (barre has been heavy on planks lately). Monday, John and I went for a walk on the new rail trail in town and it was nice, so I decided that’s where I’d go. It’s not very long (just 3.3 miles roundtrip) but it’s pretty, especially with the changing leaves, and very close to our house. It’s also flat – which is a nice break from all the steep hills in our neighborhood!

I started off walking but when I hit the 1/4 mile marker I decided to do some running intervals, just to take it up a notch. Several years ago, I did a lot of running and at my peak was running 25 miles a week. I loved it but it was way too hard on my body. I ended up with a couple of foot injuries and it was never very comfortable for my knees. I’d take some time off to heal and then try to get back out there and I kept having the same issues – eventually I decided that my body just wasn’t made for running and if I want to be able to stay active, I need to do activities that don’t cause injury regularly. Needless to say, it’s been a long time since I’ve done any running – even short intervals are rare because I’ve been focused on biking, weights and barre this year.

While my intention was to just do some walking/running intervals, I started running at the 1/4 mile mark and kept going until the end of the trail! I ran 1 and 1/4 miles without stopping. I walked about a 1/4 mile again and then I ran another 3/4 of a mile (before finishing the route by walking the rest of the way). So I ran 2 whole miles yesterday!

That may not seem like a big deal to you, but it is to me! While I feel like my heart and lungs are strong enough to run (I exercise at high intensity several days a week), I’m certainly not training for any type of distance or endurance and it’s been a long time since I’ve even attempted to run more than a minute at time. It felt really good!

Today, I’m feeling a bit achy and my hips are stiff (that’s nothing a good stretch can’t fix) but I’m itching to get out there and do it again. Maybe I’m not going to be a regular runner anymore, but I like knowing that I can run a mile or two, once in awhile. I love having variety in my workouts.

Not from the rail trail, but another pic from my time outside yesterday.

Not from the rail trail, but another pic from my time outside yesterday.

I used to see the fact that I couldn’t run daily anymore as a reason to not do it at all – but yesterday’s impromptu run was a good reminder that I can throw out absolutes and rules I make for myself, and instead focus on what the body wants/needs at any given moment. I can enjoy the occasional short run, even if I’m not able do it several days a week. I’m the one who decides this stuff.

There’s nothing boxing me in to either side. I don’t have to choose running all the time or not running at all. I can find a middle ground that works for me (even if that means it’s only 3 times a year). I can be a “sometimes” runner if that’s what I want.

This is something I always need to work on. I often have an all or nothing mindset. I usually won’t do something unless I know I can do it perfectly, or at least really really well. I get incredibly uncomfortable diving into things for the first time.  Over the years, there were countless diet attempts that I failed on and then gave up entirely because I couldn’t do it exactly as I was supposed to. If I had one emotional eating episode after two weeks of none, I saw it as a reason to just give up and binge constantly. I’d skip exercising if I couldn’t get a whole hour in. I’m the type of person who can’t enjoy a movie if I miss the first few minutes of it. And if I start a book, you better believe I’m going to finish it, even if it’s boring me to death and takes me a year to get through. All or nothing. No inbetween.

But life doesn’t have to be all or nothing. We’re not stuck obeying the rules we set for ourselves forever. I can be a sometimes runner. I can eat well most of the time. I can enjoy a cocktail and a dessert sometimes. I can exercise when I can. I can put the book that bores me back on the shelf (and pick up one that doesn’t!). I can take a week to respond to email or not respond at all (the horror!). I’m the boss of me.

Just as I’ve been practicing listening to my body more – paying attention to those hunger & satisfaction cues, knowing when I need to rest, knowing when I can push it harder, I have to listen to my soul more. If my soul doesn’t dig a certain book, who gives a shit? Who is keeping count? If my soul wants to dabble in an activity once in awhile, why not?

I don’t have to label or limit myself. You don’t have to label or limit yourself either. You don’t have to be a healthy eater or someone who enjoys cake. You can be both or neither. You are you. I am me. All of the time. Whatever that looks like.

 

Stuck? Or Just Stuck in Your Story?

I love a good story - is yours serving you or holding you back?

I love a good story – is yours serving you or holding you back?

Do you ever feel stuck? Like no matter what you do, you can’t get out of your own way? That you were dealt the short stick in life? That there are too many obstacles in your way? That things just don’t work out for you? If this is happening to you, it’s possible that you have created a “story” for yourself and you’ve gotten stuck in it’s web.

We all have a story or stories. Something that has made us who we are today. We cling to it tightly and carry it with us everywhere we go. We use it to explain why we are the way we are and why we say the things that we do and why we can’t do certain things. We use it to protect ourselves from pain. We use it to continue doing behaviors that don’t serve us. Our stories formed in order to serve us in some way – it’s possible that the did help us at one time, but they may not be serving us now.

What’s your story?  Think you don’t have one? Sure you do – most of us have at least one (and some of us have many). How do you know what yours are?

What does a story sound/look like?

Think about the recurring thoughts about yourself that you’ve had throughout your life. The ones you may not say out loud to anyone else but have thought over and over again. The ones that have influenced almost every decision you’ve ever made. The ones you might have only shared with your closest friend. The ones you wrote down in your journal. It might be one long detailed story that originated from a specific event or it might be little bits and pieces of things that were said to you that you came to believe were who you are.

I’ll tell you some of mine:
(some of these are past stories that are no longer true for me, others are still a part of my internal dialogue)

I’m the fat girl. I’m lazy. I’m so awkward. I never finish what I start. I’ll never meet a guy who I like as much as he likes me. I’ll never meet a guy who likes me as much as I like him. I don’t have what it takes to start my own business. I’m not as smart as I think I am – there’s no way I could get through grad school! I’ll never be able to just eat without thinking about my weight. My stomach is so disgusting. I’m physically strong. I’m meant to do more than sit a desk and type and answer phones all day. I’m funny.

Maybe you don’t identify with mine but here are some other really common ones:

  • I’m not good enough.
  • I’ll never have/get what I need.
  • I’ll always struggle with __________.
  • I don’t deserve to ____________.
  • I can’t do __________ because people will think__________ about me.

Do any of these sound or feel familiar? Notice most of them are negative. If you rely heavily on your “story” or if you tend to feel stuck a lot – I’ll bet that most of yours are too.

Why do we create stories for ourselves?

In so many ways, our stories developed as a way for us to make sense of a situation or to protect us from something in our lives. Some of the things our stories protect us from are certainly real threats, for example, someone who has been mugged may worry about going out at night alone and might buy mace to protect themselves. Their story (I’ve been mugged – it’s dangerous out there) is protecting them from what is a legitimate threat.  But most of our stories are protecting us from things that we believe are real threats but may not be. In many ways, our stories keep us living in or fearing the past or prevent us from taking risks, being vulnerable or pushing out of our comfort zone. Some of us make our stories such a big part of us that others can see them within a few minutes of meeting us. Have you ever met someone and quickly got the vibe that they had really low self esteem or that they have lots of bad stuff happen to them? It’s because they’re living their stories in such a big way that it becomes almost a flag that they wave around.

Understanding their purpose

My beliefs that I wasn’t smart enough for grad school or that I didn’t have what it took to start a business were my subconscious way of protecting myself from taking risks – saving face! The thinking was: What if I failed? If you don’t try, you can’t fall flat on your face right??? It’s better to not try at all. My beliefs about not finding someone who could love me and vice versa stopped me from having to take an active role in my dating life. If I believed that it was impossible to find someone with an equal interest in me then I had no responsibility to put myself out there (ironically this post is going live on my 4th wedding anniversary – I killed that story!). Believing that I’ll never be able to eat without worrying about my weight, kept me from exercising and allowed me to continue eating foods and in quantities that made my weight remain an issue. I thought these stories were serving me. I thought they were protecting me.  But they were protecting me from even giving things a go! There came a point where these stories were causing me more pain than protection. That’s when I knew these stories had to be let go of.

Alternatively, my belief that I’m strong (whose beginnings were cultivated by pulling older my sisters around our neighborhood in a radio flyer wagon as a little kid) has allowed me to become strong. I never turn down an opportunity to lift a heavier weight, or do one more pushup or carry a big box. When men kindly have offered to do something for me because it was heavy and I’m a girl, I decline – not to be rude or because I’m a feminist – but because I’ve learned to take great pride in my physical strength (and I enjoy it). When I worked for the Department of Housing in college, my coworkers always volunteered to carry furniture into the dorms with me. Why? Because I made the work easy – I was able to carry more weight than anyone. I love this story and love how it makes me push me forward still. I know part of the reason I clung to the strong story was that it was protection from the fat label (sure I was fat but I was also strong!) but even as I’ve shed the “fat” label the strong story has always been a positive thing. This story is serving me. This story acts like a teacher who encourages and fosters growth and pushes me to be who I can be. Stories like this can stick around because they’re giving me results that I’m benefiting from.

Keep it or let it go?

How do you know if it’s time to put a story down or let it stick around?  First off, you need to know where your story came from. Write this stuff down. You may think you don’t know where your story originated but I’ll bet with a few minutes of journaling you can come up with 2 or 3 memories about that story. Once you know how it was created, ask yourself how was it serving you? What was it protecting you from? And then, how is it serving you now? Do you like how it is serving you? Do you like the results you are getting from staying in your story? If yes, keep it, encourage it, grow it. If you don’t like how it is serving you or if you don’t like the outcome it is bringing, then you know it’s time to put it down. If you feel stuck and like you aren’t moving forward, then your story is probably getting in the way.

Fears of letting go

Some of you may see that it’s time to let go of something but fear putting an unhelpful story down. I get it. We think that by no longer living in our story daily, it will mean that what we’ve gone through isn’t important or that we won’t be who we are, or that our worst fears will come true if we stop believing something (If I believe I can eat normally, I’ll gain 50 lbs! If I stop blaming others for my lot in life then what if I still can’t get what I need? etc). But putting down your story or letting go doesn’t mean any of that. If your story keeps you from taking responsibility, you’re putting all power for change in someone else’s hands and you’ll stay exactly where you are.

Your past experiences happened – no one can take them away from you (good or bad) -and they absolutely affect the fabric of who we become (but we have a choice in what we do with the experience going forward). Our past is our past and it does not need to be our future. Sometimes we keep our stories held so tightly because they keep us connected to someone who is no longer with us or no longer in our lives but I promise you, that your connection to that person exists even if you put the story down.

And guess what? Because these stories are a part of who we are, even if we put them down and begin believing something that serves us better (believing that you can eat normally and that you can lose weight, or believing that you are good enough and will have enough), if we don’t like the results or don’t feel safe there – we can always pick the story back up again! It all goes back to how it is serving you. If you are honest with yourself, you will know if the story is worth pick up again. Is it bringing you more pain to believe or live in your story? Is it preventing you from doing things that will help you grow? Only you can answer these things and you have the choice to stay in your story or not.

Which will help you get closer to the life you want to have – staying in your story or beginning a new one? If your story is causing you great pain but you want to continue it, ask yourself why you are choosing to bring yourself pain? Questions like these can help you determine what to do and can make a huge difference in stepping forward into the person you want to be.

Do you have a story that is getting in your way? How has it served you? Please share in the comments!