Back in September I wrote a blog post about getting health and fitness habits to stick (read it here if you missed it). As I’ve been learning more about embedding new habits and changing old ones I’ve been testing the ideas out on myself. As I wrote in my last blog, my goal was to comfortably run 3km by November. Hey, look, its November already! You may be wondering how I am going with my goal….
Confession time. I haven’t yet comfortably run 3km, But do you know what I have done? I have a solidly embedded habit of walking every day, and most days I run about a third of the 3km distance of my walk. I don’t feel that I have failed, but I have realised I didn’t select the right goal. I know now that being able to run 3km doesn’t mean much to me. My heart is not in it. I formulated the goal to give myself a boost to get over some resistance I was facing to running more and getting fitter. And that part of it worked! I do feel embarrassed at having stated my goal publicly and not having achieved it. But its given me a reality check on what it really takes to achieve your goals while living true to yourself. To me, its more important to stay in tune with what my body and mind need to stay happy and healthy, than it is to achieve a particular action.
Some of you are probably thinking I should toughen up and stop making excuses. That is a perfectly valid response, and for some that might be the right response. As I said in my previous blog, our minds do throw up any excuse to avoid pain and effort, and sometimes you just need to toughen up. So how do I know that’s not right for me? I know my body and what it needs and I am well practiced at teasing out things my mind is trying to hide behind. I have been using coaching techniques on myself for years and I know how to listen for my inner truth. That is what I do for my clients as a professional coach – help them uncover the truths they are hiding from themselves.
OK, it’s time for a do-over. Imagine I’m a client seeking help from a coach to achieve my goal of running 3 km by November. I’ve seen an ad for LifeLab’s Change for Good coaching package. I’ve got in touch and had a free half-hour assessment, and this package is right for me. We’re into it and discussing my goal. What would I do as a coach to check if it is the right goal? Here’s a transcript of me coaching myself (yes, I know this is getting a bit weird, but hang in there..):
Coach: What goal would you like to work on over the next three months?
Client: I’d like to be able to comfortably run without stopping for 3km by November.
Coach: That’s a very clear and and specific goal – great work formulating that. Before we commit to this and move on to making it happen though, I’d just like to check in to see if we’ve really got the right goal for you. What’s important to you about achieving this goal?
Client: Well, I’ve had back problems for years and have finally found a physio who’s made a difference and we’re really making progress at fixing my posture so I don’t overload the wrong muscles and end up with back pain, as I have been for the past 15 years. Its taken a lot of work but I feel like I’ve made the big changes now and just need to get on and get fitter and stronger. My physio is happy for me to pick up the pace with running, but I feel like my mind is stuck in victim mode and is still afraid of making it worse. So I’m too easy on myself and give up as soon as its hard. I really don’t want to waste the progress I’ve made so I need a bit of a kick in the pants. This goal feels like the sort of push I need.
Coach: I can see you’ve thought this through really well. I can see how that goal could work for you. I wonder, though, what are you really trying to achieve here?
Client: Hmmm, I guess my overall goal is to fix my posture to resolve my back problems.
Coach: And how does being able to run 3km help you towards that goal?
Client: Well it gives me something to focus on that will give me a push. I definitely need to get my mind out of victim mode. But on the other hand, really listening to what my body needs, and doing that, has been really helpful. I’m not so keen on the idea of pushing through discomfort just for the sake of being able to say I can run 3 km. I know from working with the physio that exercising the wrong muscles is going to do more harm than good at this point. So it does feel like a bit of an artificial goal…. I don’t really know how my body is going to react, and if there are going to be any new sticking points that need fixing over the next three months.
Coach: Great awareness there, How might you re-phrase your goal so that it feels more real to you?
Client: …..well…. I guess my overall goal is to improve my posture,… and my immediate goal is to overcome my victim mindset that’s holding me back from working a bit harder…yes, I think that is it. I need to get my exercise routine to the next level to overcome my victim mindset that’s holding me back. I guess the running goal is a tool to help me get there, but I’m not really committed to the running itself. I don’t have an ambition to run more – I’m happy with daily walks and the occasional run to loosen things up.
Coach: That’s great! So how could you re-phrase your three month goal to make it work for you?
Client: I guess I’d like to put a bit more effort into my exercise routine by doing a bit more running, but I don’t want to commit to a particular distance…. how about “By November I will be in the habit of going for a 3km run or walk at least 5 days a week, while supporting the needs of my body as I change my posture.” Yes, I think the bit that wasn’t quite right was aiming to run the whole way. I’m much happier with being able to adjust my amount of running and walking depending on how my body is feeling.
Coach: How does it feel, setting out that new goal?
Client: Hmmm…. I’m not sure its quite there. It feels a bit messy…… Hang on a minute, I’ve already said that my goal is to improve my posture and reduce back pain. That is my goal. Setting this three month goal is a means to get me out of my victim mindset that’s holding me back. So the immediate goal is “to increase the amount of running I do in a week to overcome my limiting mindset and move closer to settling in my improved posture.” Still sounds a bit clunky, but hey, it doesn’t need to be perfect, just needs to do the job.
Coach: Do you think this goal will do the job for you?
Client: yes I do actually. I’m much clearer about what I’m really trying to achieve and what motivates me to get there. I also feel more positive that I can achieve it. Thank you!
Well, enough self-coaching. I could go on for ages. Just so you know, that is legitimately me coaching myself. I had an idea of what the issue was but writing it down like that has been helpful, and has taken away the sneaky sense of guilt that I’d failed my goal.
I hope that insight into the process of working out goals has inspired you to clarify yours. Get in touch if you need a hand!