While we’re in the midst of Mental Health Awareness month, I’d like to discuss thinking about mental health along a continuum from poor to excellent. Self-care and goal setting often happen on the healthier side of that continuum. Have you been attempting to make these kinds of changes and find yourself struggling with forward movement? If you aren’t progressing as you’d like, you might want to look at these four factors:
- Are you clear on your reason?
One of the reasons people struggle to accomplish their goals is that they are unclear about why their goal is important. When you say you have a goal but aren’t ready or willing to put in the time, energy or effort toward it, what you really mean is you’d like something to magically happen. You could be trying to reach a goal someone else set for you and you require a more important reason to progress toward something you don’t really want. There are some questions you can use to address this challenge: 1) What would I have that I don’t have now? 2) What would I be doing that I’m not doing now? 3) How would I be different? 4) What will change for me personally if I make this change? 5) What could happen if I don’t?
When you get clear about why you want to make the change, write it down and keep it in multiple places where you are likely to review it regularly. People are motivated from the inside out. When you get in touch with your reason for doing something, it provides the impetus for the change.
- Are you a thinker or a doer?
In my work as a mental health professional, I categorize my clients in two camps. People tend to be doers or thinkers. What’s the difference? When some people are about to make a change, they do their best by acting their way into new behavior—the “fake it till you make it” approach. You don’t want to do it, but you basically force yourself to do it until it becomes a habit or even something you want to do. The other group thinks their way into new behavior, needing to align their mind before they can move in the direction of change.
The difference is illustrated by the following example: There are two people who both want to lose 30 pounds. One buys a gym membership, hires a personal trainer, sets their alarm and goes grumbling to the gym six days a week. The other person starts to talk about their weight loss goal with their support system, getting encouragement for the change. They may hire a coach to help them analyze why they want to lose the weight and once they have mentally prepared and committed to the change, they are then able to do it.
How about you? Are you a thinker who is trying to make your changes by doing, or are you a doer who is trying to think your way into the new behavior? This could be what is blocking your progress.
- Are you a small stepper or a leaper?
Do you prefer to do things in small incremental steps or do you prefer to take big leaps? This may be in line with personality variables, or it may vary based on the changes you are trying to make. It’s helpful to consider whether your steps are too big, causing fearful paralysis, or too small, creating boredom or lack of interest. Do you need to change the pace of your plan to suit you?
- Are you a freedom person who acts spontaneously or a person who has a life with lots of crises that can get in the way of sticking to your plan?
If either of these describes you, then you just may not have the right space planned into your schedule each week. Of course, you can’t know when something is going to pop up—whether it be an opportunity or a crisis—but you can plan for it. Figure out how much time you need each week for spontaneity or crises on average and build it into your schedule. Say you block two hours daily for this for a total of 10 hours a week. Whenever something comes up, handle it, but move what was in that space to the first available space blocked for spontaneity or crises. This way, you aren’t setting yourself up for failure because other things are taking priority over your goals.
For these and more tips on making the changes you want to make, check out my Goal Attainment ebook.