Most Journal Junkies are self-improvement addicts - we're always looking for ways to level up our life. Whether that be wanting to improve our health, finances or general wellbeing, it's likely any fellow Journal Junkie will have a list of things they're wanting to work on.
However, there's a big difference between creating the vision board and actually following through. Unfortunately, people would have you believe it's as easy as closing your eyes and visualising your dream life and - while I believe visualisation can be a fantastic tool for rewiring your brain - I'm sorry to say that nothing is that easy.
But here's the silver lining. It can take very little in the way of improvements to see a compounding effect on our goals. In other words, the 1% rule.
However, if you aren't clear on your goals and strategies, you might waste time working on things that won't get you closer to your dream life. In the end, isn't that what we want?
Why it's worth reading this blog...
I know your time is precious. In fact, most women I know have very little time to justify spending much time reading any more.
But I am one of those unicorns who has done hard things AND had a smile on my face while doing it. It's my personal mission to ensure every other woman on this planet has the tools to build their dream life, the way they want to live it.
What you need to do first:
If you've read a few articles like these, you'll probably know you need to identify the goals you want to reach. You've heard of "SMART" goals and understand the idea of making them realistic.
But the reality is you probably don't actually want the "SMART" goal at all. You want what you think the goal will give you.
For example, you tell me you want to lose 10lbs. In a SMART goal format, you're specific, you make it measurable, you assess if it is achievable, make it relevant and put a time on it.
This works great in a business setting - increasing revenue or subscribers or another business-building metric.
But for our lifestyle goals, it's a bit more nuanced. You don't just want to lose 10lbs because you want the number on the scale to be 10lbs less. It's far more than that/
It might be because you want to fit into more clothes comfortably. Or you want to chase after your toddler without getting winded. Maybe you just want to feel sexier in bed. Regardless if your scale read 10lbs less or not, you'd be happy with these outcomes (or, at least, you should be or you're focusing on the wrong thing).
Whatever the real lifestyle goal is, I need you to tap into that energy. Those are the "goals" we need to identify first.
Do you want to feel proud, confident, strong? Do you want to wear a size 12 or fit into some old jeans?
I have a secret... you don't need to see a lower number on the scale to achieve those things (I promise). This is the difference between setting goals that simply tick a box, and those that help you build a life you love living.
So close your eyes (after this paragraph) and spend some time imagining your ideal life. How do you feel? What are you wearing? How do you spend your day? These are the goals you need to strive for.
Then, write it down or record a note or make a vision board of images that represent all the things you thought of. I'll wait...
Get your thinking cap on....
This is a brainstorming exercise, no right and wrong answers. What does the future you - who lives the dream life and feels amazing - what little things does she do to ensure she feels that way?
Here are some ideas in our example above:
1) She is fully hydrated and prioritises drinking her water
2) She finds an exercise she loves and turns up to move her body, even on days she doesn't feel like it.
3) She smiles at everyone she sees, radiating positivity.
4) She packs a lunch that includes both spinach and chocolate (yes, you can enjoy both!)
5) She prepares her bags, clothes, lunch the night before so she has a calmer morning.
Now THESE are the goals and habits we need to be working on and tracking.
List these behaviours and break them down into smaller steps.
Let's take the exercise example (option 2) above. What steps do you need to take to find an exercise you love?
You might decide to try a new exercise "thing" every month (most places have free trials for the first few classes, so this is a great way to try things out.) until you find one that feeds your soul.
This means you need to research all the different activities you might want to try in your area, the commitments and prices. List them all down, then schedule them in.
Pro Tip: Give each one a good month to try them out. Sometimes it can take a while to get into the groove of a new activity and get over the initial anxiety of trying something new.
The key here is to EXPERIMENT. If it doesn't work towards your goal (it doesn't make you feel good, you don't love it etc), you move on and try something else.
The reality is you probably won't get it right the first time, but you can't let that stop you from trying, testing, tweaking and moving forward towards your dream life.
Track your commitment and progress
It's true that your memory is faulty. We often think we did more than we actually managed to do.
But without data, you can't see what's working and whats not. What actions are moving you forwards towards your goals and what actions are wasting your energy?
This is where Habit Trackers come in!
Habit trackers have many uses but, in this context, we want to measure how your actions are helping you work towards your goals, and celebrate your commitment.
We do that by lining up our small actions (water, exercise, smiles) against our goals (mood, energy, focus, satisfaction).
For example, I plot the amount of water I drink against how much energy and focus I have for that day. This changes month-to-month, depending on what I'm trying to achieve, but the idea remains the same. Is my action impacting my overall goal?
This has a few impacts.
1) Filling in a habit tracker gives you a little hit of dopamine, making you feel positive about your progress
2) Having data that backs up your experiments helps you to solidify that action in your life because you have proof it works.
3) Having data that shows you where you gaps are, allows you to focus on working on the gaps!
4) It's great looking back and seeing your progress, reminding yourself how far you've come.
Track, assess, tweak and try again!
You need to make filling your habit tracker a daily ritual. Then, every week or month (you decide based on your lifestyle) you need to assess your data. What worked well, what didn't? What do you want to try for the next cycle?
Without giving yourself time to really track and assess this data, you won't be able to progress forward towards your goals. Your past gives you a clear path towards the future YOU want to build.
Want a real life example?
I always promise to practice what I preach and do the testing for you so you don't waste time trying things that don't work.
So my initial goal was to get to Level 2 at my Pole Fitness Studio.
I wanted to do that because I wanted to feel proud of myself and prove that my plus-sized body can do hard things.
So, future me at level 2:
- she goes to the pole studio 3+ times a week
- she schedules this in with her family so they know when she'll be away and she doesn't feel guilty
- she packs her pole bag the night before and throws it in the boot of her car
- she leaves work by 5.10pm on the dot so she can get to the studio in time
- she smiles and talks to people when she arrives, so she feels good about being there
- she turns up on her scheduled days, even when she's tired and/or doesn't feel like it
- she knows there will be some classes that'll feel amazing, and some that'll feel crappy, and that's part of the journey
- she ensures she has a snack at work, just incase she gets hungry between lunch and class
The list honestly could go on, but you get the idea - all these little things might not seem directly related to "getting to level 2", but they sure as hell would make me proud and prove that I can do hard things.
As for the next actions, they look like this:
- book classes every Sunday night while planning my week and schedule with family
- packing my pole bag becomes part of my nightly routine, stacked on top of tidying the bedroom before bed
- I set an alarm at 5pm, to give myself 10 minutes to finish whatever I'm doing and get out of the door
- I try and talk to one new person every time I enter the studio
- I have a plan in place for days where I'm tired or don't feel like it (usually just coaching myself through the thoughts, but I also sometimes ask my husband who gives me the wee push I need sometimes)
- I am fully prepared for the crappy days, knowing they're part of the journey. I have friends who I contact after crappy classes to give me a pep talk.
- I have a pack of cereal bars (One Square Meals) at my desk, so I can always top up the tank if I need to.
Then I track the things I want to track! I add tasks to my routines where they need to be and track how many times I get to the studio. Alongside this, I track my mood. Does getting to the studio make me feel proud? Hell yeah!
Then, all of a sudden, I feel proud and getting to level 2 doesn't even matter. And THAT is when I got given the green light to move up to level 2 (and go upside down!)
Fuck SMART goals. Yes, they can be useful in terms of data collection, but they miss the entire point of making the goals in the first place. If we want to build lives we love to live, we need to focus on the actions that are going to make us feel the way we want to feel.
There is no point losing 10lbs but still feeling miserable, or scoring the new job but feeling unappreciated... we need to change the narrative from objective goal setting to dream-life building. The numbers just drive an ego, but the feelings drive a satisfying life.
Live the life that you really want to live.