If I could share one thing that I think has made all the difference in the world in changing my life to be healthier what would it be? I pondered this and at first I wasn’t sure. I began looking back over my journal entries last week and assessing my food, my runs and my workouts. Thinking. I thought about where I am now and I wondered back to where I was eight years ago. Two very different places, but why? I have always struggled with body image and how I wanted to look physically often losing site that it should be about a healthy, happy life. Sometimes even now those negative thoughts creep back in and I find that I am beating myself up or wondering why the changes have been slow or not exactly what I wanted or expected. I see these same issues with my friends and even the young high school girls at my school. Many of them too in turmoil about how they look and doing extreme things to fit the mold that society has established for women. I tell others often “you are fearfully and wonderfully made,” and I have this written in my own fitness journal as a reminder to myself. As I reflected, I could see differences in how I wrote things with goals, expectations and even reactions. I could see progress and setbacks.
It seemed through the years that some of my goals tended to be easier than others based on what I had written and some became more arduous and tedious to accomplish demonstrated through my written frustration. I could see that I was disappointed at times and started looking for another “fix”. As I continued to read, I saw that I was working hard to try and grow and eat better each day, I realized there were two overarching issues for me: lack of consistency and wanting to much too fast which both led to setting very stringent goals for myself at various times. This mind set made it difficult for me to see the goal was indeed not a diet (outcome based), but rather about improving my lifestyle (processed base).The goal should have been to work toward changing the way my mind thought and my behaviors so that I would eat differently and do it more consistently. That is when I realized that I had two types of goals written: outcome goals and process goals. The light bulb went off. In my job we learn about these all the time, why I had never applied this purposefully to my personal goals I don’t know. I guess I am a slow learner, but either way the same principles that I apply to make change at work really did work for my personal goals too:) I could actually see the goals that worked and the ones that I had failed at miserably as I flipped back through the entries. I was pretty hard on myself when I didn’t meet my outcome goal and I was glad when I could see the change.
Different things work for different people, but just like everyone else, I wanted fast results, I wanted it to be easy and I really had wished for a quick fix evident in the goals I had written. Honestly, I have always wished I was the little skinny person that could eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted and not gain a pound, but that is not me. Genetically, that was not realistic….that is not how my body works or looks. Over the years, I have started many things and because I didn’t get the results I wanted in the amount of time I thought reasonable, I would give up and move on thinking, actually hoping, something else would be better and give me the instant result. This Yo-Yo dieting over the years created more problems and set me up for more failure. I was always looking for a specific outcome. Focusing on the wrong thing and setting the wrong type goals did not allow time for any real significant change to occur for a long time, but persistence and trial and error did have some pay off. I had small successes along the way and that kept me going, but I just had not had them consistently.
More success in the last few years is what I noticed. It was in those successful journal entries, I realized I was focusing on the process itself instead of the outcome. That was the major difference from years ago. I could see the progress written down. Process goals were helping me find success in the journey, not the destination. Setting a goal like… I wanted to lose 20 pounds was an outcome based goal and when I lost only ten pounds I got discouraged. Making a process goal to encourage better behavior was a more positive approach to losing the weight. It also helped me be more consistent daily and I could see it written in front of me.
Let me show you the difference I noticed. Instead of saying I want to lose 20 pounds I wrote process goals (goals to change my behavior).
Process Goal looked like this:
- Eat at least three servings of vegetables a day ( I rarely eat veggies:/).
- Eat dense carbs at supper time (not for breakfast or lunch).
- Eat dairy once a day.
- Drink a minimum of 64 ounces of water a day.
- Reduce my sugar intake by eating more whole foods.
- Prepare foods and snacks ahead of time (Sunday is my day before the work week begins to prepare food).
By focusing on the process… my behaviors, I then saw that I began to develop a growth mindset in exchange for a fixed mindset. Changing my eating behaviors began to give me the outcome I had wanted physically, but it also held me accountable for making good lifestyle choices daily, consistency. These behavior goals allow me even now to see I am making progress in my journey still today. I personally work to log my food and exercise each day and I am able to see that just last week I ate three servings of veggies five out of seven days. I can see too that I met my water goal everyday last week. That makes me happy and it tells me that I am making better choices each day.
I also have process goals for running, a change from outcome goals. My running process goals look like this:
- Incorporate intervals once a week in my running schedule
- Incorporate one tempo run a week.
- Enjoy running and go easy on the days that are not interval or tempo runs.
- Add some hill sprints in 1-2 times a month.
- Change up your running route or routine- run a trail, run at night, run with a group.
Theses goals are established around specific behaviors that I do to help better my running.
Goals should encourage change in behaviors not be a pass or fail grade. The emotional roller coaster that is created by outcome goals is very damaging. I want to encourage others today to take a look at your goals and make sure you aren’t setting yourself up for a pass or fail outcome. If you don’t have goals…. set some. Find a way to encourage your growth and change in a way that helps you recognize that tiny steps along the way will get you to your destination. In my journey this small change in how I wrote my personal goals has helped me make change and encourage good behaviors in myself:)