We have great ideas for our lives. We envision ourselves doing amazing things such as running a marathon, writing a best-seller, hosting the perfect party, creating a multimillion dollar business, being the perfect parent, being the perfect spouse, etc. Then, somewhere between deciding to improve your life and day two, we give up. We spend too many hours than we care to admit lamenting our lack of discipline and, in the end, go back to our old, bad habits.
As new parents, I’m sure you have lots of goals that need to be checked off or good habits to add to your life before your baby’s birth. Get the house organized, pack a hospital bag, buy nursery and baby supplies, learn to eat healthier, get in shape for labor, write a birth plan, make a creative announcement that will go viral on social media, learn everything about labor and birth, learn everything about how to care for a baby, and many more tasks.
When you look at all you want to accomplish in the next few months, it can seem overwhelming. If you are anything like me, you may even feel a bit of panic rising in your chest and those famous words going over and over in your head, “How will I get it all done?!”
Here are a few steps that will help you to reach your goal. Even if you decide to change your goals, these steps can help you maintain your sanity on the journey.
Step #1: Set Your Goal
When practicing archery, the bowman often places a target at a distance. We are all familiar with the round target and the concentric circles narrowing down to the bulls eye. This helps the archer to focus specifically on the precise point he desires to hit. If we desire to reach a goal, it helps to focus our energy and attention toward completing that goal by writing down specifically what we are aiming for. It draws our attention away from the things that seem important to the things that are important.
Writing your goals down also gives you a moment to consider if this is truly a goal you want to work toward or if it is something you feel that others expect from you.
When writing down your goal, ask yourself a few questions:
• Is this goal realistic?
• Is this goal realistic for the time frame I have given myself to accomplish it?
• Is this really a goal I want to accomplish or is it something I or someone else thinks I should accomplish?
• Is this goal specific enough?
• Am I willing to be flexible in this goal if my circumstances change over time? (More on this topic in a later post)
Keep your goals somewhere you will see them every day, like your bathroom mirror, in your car, where ever you will see them frequently.
One of my goals is to memorize more Scripture. I’ll put verses I am working toward on my bathroom mirror, my office, and above the place I keep my car keys.
Writing down something and then placing it where you see it often helps you stay on task. This is one reason many businesses have missions and vision statements. When a question pops up to a new direction or choice they may be asked to make, they refer to their mission or vision statement to remind them why they have chosen a particular field of business and what they are really working toward. If the new proposal is not going to help them in reaching the goal they have set, they will decline because, even if it is a good thing, it is a distraction from their ultimate goal.
Step #2: Make a Plan
My grandmother passed away about a year and a half ago. I inherited all her photos. My family bought me a fancy scanner after I agreed to become the family archiver. The plan was for me to scan all the pictures and documents and then give all the family a copy of the pictures. No big deal, right?
Well…as great as my intentions may be and as motivated as I can get at the beginning of a project, I quickly became overwhelmed of the amount of work that is required. There are still several boxes of photos, frames, and photo albums crowding my office and only a few pictures on my hard drive.
Part of my problem are the subtasks I set to reach my goal. I made them too big. My plan was to scan pictures for an hour every day. Well, as can be expected, something always came up or even if I felt like I had a little bit of free time, I never felt like I could really dedicate a full hour to scanning so I just wouldn’t do it and hope tomorrow I could find the time. Nothing ever got done, I felt like a failure, and I felt like I’ve let my family down. However, I think I may have found a solution to help me with my stumbling block.
I recently listened to a podcast in which the hosts suggested starting with a ridiculously easy task each day to reach a larger goal. So my new goal is to scan only five pictures a day. The way my scanner is designed, I can easily fit five pictures onto the scanning bed and scan only once. It doesn’t usually take more than a couple of minutes. So far, it has really been helpful. After a few weeks of this, I will reassess my subtask and add a bit more.
When trying to reach a big goal, start with a ridiculously simple goal. Completing the easy steps will give you the confidence and reassurance to take on the slightly more difficult steps. Soon the monumental tasks won’t look so huge and scary. Just like building muscles, you start with the very light weights. Once you can easily lift the light weights, you graduate to a weight a couple of pounds heavier. The new weights aren’t really that heavy but you can tell a difference. Soon you start to notice a difference in your appearance. You start walking a little taller. You feel better and less stressed. You start feeling more confident. If you had started out by going straight over to the large weights, you would have left the gym dejected and saying something like, “I’ll never be fit.”
It can seem daunting when looking at all you have to do to prepare for your new baby, all the ways you need to change, and the big, looming goal of labor and delivery. What ridiculously simple task can you start today that will help you take one step closer to your life change?
- Does your house need organizing? Try starting by making your bed each morning like the video described.
- Do you feel like you should be in better physical shape before the marathon of labor? Try doing 5 squats today.
- Maybe your nutrition habits could use some improving. Try having 4 slices of apple with your lunch today.
This is also a good tactic to keep in mind during labor. Labor can be a long process and when you are tired and in pain, it can often feel even longer. However, it is best to take each contraction one-at-a-time. It can be frustrating and disheartening to think you may be doing this for several hours but if you take each moment for what it is and focus on the rhythm of each contraction cycle, it makes it much easier to endure.
Step #3: Consistency
As the old saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” The smallest of baby steps can make a huge impact as long as they are done with consistency.
A few years ago, I decided to get fit. I have decided this many times in my life but I usually give up after a few days. However, this particular time, I didn’t. I went to the gym every day. Some days it was very difficult to find the motivation to go, but one day something clicked in my mind. I suddenly understood the Nike slogan “Just do it.” I had never fully grasped what that meant until this time. It meant that I shouldn’t give myself the chance to talk myself out of doing what needed to be done, I needed to “just do it.”
During this time, I lost about seventy pounds, proved to myself I could run a 5K, got stronger, and had more confidence and energy than I had ever had in my life. Unfortunately, due to life, I fell out of consistency and gained weight back, got lazy, and returned to some of my old bad habits. However, I am happy to say that I am slowly getting back. I just tell myself every time I start to give my mind time to come up with excuses, “Just do it!”
This article by Todd Smith, lists several helpful ways to improve consistency. The practice of habit isn’t easy, but it is key to success in every endeavor we embark on.
Step #4: Celebrate
Don’t neglect celebrating. I don’t mean just when you reach your goal but reaching every milestone, every small success.
Congratulate yourself for doing your one
easy step each day. Celebrate when you are consistent. Celebrate when you reach every turning point on your journey. If someone compliments you, don’t brush it off, thank them and recognize the improvement you have made.
More importantly, do NOT berate yourself when you don’t do as well as you would have liked. Get up, dust yourself off, and start again.
If a child threw a fit and refused to ever try again every time he fell, he would never learn to walk. You wouldn’t let him lie their either. You tell him, “It’s ok. You’re fine. Try again.” And when he finally takes a couple of steps on his own, you cheer and celebrate with gusto. He didn’t win a marathon but he took those first baby steps. You are his coach, his doula. 🙂
Do the same for yourself. Cheer yourself on. Surround yourself with those who will cheer you along as well. And, if you are in the Denton area and would like for me to come alongside you and cheer you along as well, I would be happy to have coffee with you sometime to discuss how I might be of help to you.