This is the time of year where we audit what we can change, improve, and do away with in our lives.
What goals can we crush this year?
If there was a phrase that could be done away with it, this would be it for me: “CRUSH YOUR GOALS.” It sounds exhausting, and a little angry.
Here, instead, are a few nice promises that you can make for yourself. These five promises are all about loving kindness—the gentleness you need to thrive and survive in a world gone mad with goal-crushing.
5 Promises to Keep:
- Enable Your Environment
- Trust the Progression of Progress
- Offer Yourself Kindness
- Have the Full Experience
- Ask for Help
1. Enable Your Environment
We are what we surround ourselves with, and if you’re trying to make any improvement in your life, you’ll be more successful if your environment is set up to support you.
Trying to stick to a budget, diet, or fitness routine? Keep near you things that support those endeavors, and ruthlessly purge anything that gets in the way.
Let’s say you’re trying to curtail your alcohol consumption this year. Simply not bringing adult beverages into the home is the obvious first step to setting up your environment for success.
But go deeper than that. Rearrange your cupboards so the wine glasses or highball glasses are hidden away. Acknowledge what other rituals go alongside your cocktail routine. For example, is it how you wind down in front of the TV each night? If so, consider treating yourself to a great book, a true crime podcast series, or an indulgent epsom salt bath, so you have something to do besides TV, the activity in which your alcohol habit is tethered.
If your friends, loved ones, or life partners seem to influence whether or not you have a drink, speak up: Let it be known that you are changing your habits, and that a friendly internet stranger told you that setting up your environment is the first step. If they love you, they’ll be on board and won’t pressure you. If they do pressure you… it might be time to have a meaningful conversation about how you need your loved one to show up for you with support and love.
This is why many diet programs—including Mark’s 21-Day Primal Reset—begin with the Pantry Purge as step one. The willpower required to stick to a lifestyle change works better in the context of an environment that’s set up to remove the struggles and barriers. It’s a nice thing to do for yourself when you’re trying to change, grow, and improve.
2. Trust the Progression of Progress
You will not knock your goals out of the park on the first try. I repeat: YOU WILL NOT.
Simply acknowledging this already takes the pressure off.
In the world of coaching, we use a body of knowledge called the Transtheoretical Model, or the Stages of Change (which is much easier to remember, and to spell). Developed by behavioral psychologists, the Transtheoretical Model factors in six different stages of change:
- Pre-Contemplation: You don’t even know you want or need to change. Given that you’re here, reading Mark’s Daily Apple, that’s probably not you.
- Contemplation: You have begun to think about changing, though you haven’t yet taken action. This might ring familiar to you if you have a list of New Year’s Resolutions staring you in the face that you’ve not yet embarked on. There’s no shame in that—you should be proud of yourself for even contemplating change. Many never do.
- Preparation: You’re ready to take action! You begin to make small steps toward your end goal. This is a big deal, and should be an exciting and celebratory time.
Think of a staircase with your ultimate goal at the top, and every necessary micro-step in between, leading you deliberately up to your final destination. At this stage, you’ve begun to take those tentative first steps.
This is the stage where folks tend to feel as though they’re falling off the wagon; failing at achieving their goals, just because their forward momentum up the staircase has slowed, stopped, or temporarily regressed backward. You aren’t failing. It’s impossible to leap from the bottom step to the top one in a single bound. You may take a step back down on the staircase, but the steps are small, so no harm is done. And that next upward step is always within your reach.
In the interest of closing the loop, the final three stages of the Transtheoretical Model include: Action (you’ve officially changed a behavior and are confident and comfortable moving forward with it); Maintenance (the change no longer feels like a “change;” it has integrated into your life!); and, Termination (you’ve effectively exited the change interstate, and are now a different person).
It’s the earliest first few steps of change where we’re hardest on ourselves, though. Understand that steps backward are allowed, and be kind to yourself when they inevitably occur.
Speaking of which…
3. Offer Yourself Kindness
This is why I don’t like language around sacrifice or deprivation when one is embarking on a change, and it’s why the phrase “crush your goals” feels like nails down a chalkboard for me. This hard language forgets one important thing: Your inner and outer worlds are unpredictable, and if you hang your hat on drive and discipline, what happens when you’re inevitably thrown a curve ball that you can’t program your way out of?
Often I’ll work with people who identify, proudly, as: “being very black and white.”
“I need to be absolutely ON, otherwise I’m OFF,” they’ll say.
While I admire the boldness of this statement, it simply can’t and won’t work for most people, for a lifetime.
Life is not black and white. And the sooner you can get comfortable hanging out in the grey between Winning and Losing, the more at peace you’ll be as you navigate the inevitable ups and downs of personal growth. Heck, of life.
So be kind to yourself. Feel proud when goals are “crushed,” absolutely. And when they aren’t? That’s okay too. Sit with it; observe it, journal it, declare out loud why you experienced your struggle or slip up. Recognize it. Give it a face, a name. Take the power back. And then dust off and move on.
I want you to achieve your goals. And I want the entire process of that journey to feel good in your heart and mind, even the screw-ups.
When you can flip the switch from driven discipline to loving kindness, the process of navigating change feels friendlier.
4. Have The Full Experience
This is one of those ideas that I thought I had invented… and then I heard Mark describe it perfectly on a podcast.
His example was cheesecake, a dessert he loves… and one that is not particularly Primal!
When he orders the cheesecake, the very act of that decision comes from a place of excitement and happiness. He wants the cheesecake, and doesn’t hesitate to order it. The entire experience of ordering the cheesecake is considered: how exciting it is to see it on the menu, to make the decision to order it, ask the waiter to bring it, patiently await its arrival while chatting and laughing with loved ones at an amazing restaurant.
When the cheesecake arrives, how does it look? How does it smell? How does your body respond when it’s put down in front of you: Joy, delight? Anxiety, disappointment? There is never a wrong answer, only a necessary observation.
Take the first bite. On a scale of 1-10, it’s a 10. Second bite: about an eight. Third bite: solid five. Fourth bite… four…
And so on and so forth, stopping when the awesomeness of the cheesecake experience has been fully enjoyed, and before you’re just still eating it for the sake of eating it. Once the joy has faded, it’s time to put the fork down, and bask in the memories of those first few epic bites.
With my clients, I take it further. What happens after the cheesecake? How does your body feel: Tired? Foggy? Do you have a stomach ache? Or do you feel fine?
And then we keep going: the “after” after. The next day, has the cheesecake awakened the sugar monkey that lives on your back? Are your sugar and refined carb cravings awake and alive? How do you feel having indulged your cheesecake craving: satisfied and happy? Or have you descended into guilt and shame? Were you able to return to your regularly scheduled programming with no hiccups?
Was it, ultimately, worth it?
This is an incredible teaching moment.
You may know this as “mindfulness.” I wanted to give it a more descriptive title since I think the concept of mindfulness has been too vague for too long, and though folks think they know they “need to be more mindful,” not too many can put their arms around what it really means.
So have the full experience any time you make a choice that supports your goals—or doesn’t. If it was worth it, hooray! If it wasn’t, what can you learn from it?
5. Ask For Help
This is a hard one for anyone who prides themselves as being proud, stoic, or strong. Whether we don’t want to bother people with our struggles and strife, or we don’t feel comfortable declaring our goals and challenges out loud, one of the best promises you can keep to yourself is to ask unapologetically for help when you need it.
I can tell you from experience that big change and growth only happens when you stretch yourself out of your comfort zone. So get comfortable with discomfort, and don’t be shy to seek a mentor who specializes in what you want help with. Finances? Hire a money coach. Health? Hire a health coach. Love? Get thee a relationship coach. Confidence? Yes, there are even confidence coaches out there.
If you knew that there was a trusted expert out there who could help solve your specific problem, imagine how liberating and transformational it would be to form a partnership with that coach. I promise you, it’s a life-changer.
Let’s make this the year we kindly and lovingly make and keep promises to ourselves.
I’m Erin, the coaching director for Mark’s Primal Health Coach Institute . And if this little missive can help you start this year off feeling extremely pumped up, optimistic, happy, and empowered about the exciting opportunity for change ahead of you, then I’ve done my job.
If you need any help along the way, we have thousands of Primal Health Coaches  with vast specialities who are trained to help you mentor you toward your health and happiness goals for 2020 and beyond.
Erin Power is the coaching and curriculum director for Primal Health Coach Institute. She also helps her clients regain a loving and trusting relationship with their bodies—while restoring their metabolic health, so they can lose fat and gain energy—via her own private health coaching practice, eat.simple .