• Goal-Setting and Success: Break it Down!

    Friday, June 2nd, 2023

    by Michelle Cederberg, Health and Productivity Expert

    Hello again, and welcome back! The last time you saw me, I was delivering my message while I was playing in the mountains. We are talking about resolutions, and setting them is a big thing for our January plan.

    Oh, it’s so fantastic to step into a new year with change and growth and betterment on our minds. “THIS YEAR, I will finally quit smoking, lose the weight, find the love of my life, fix my finances … THIS YEAR!”

    And then we step into the new year and by the middle of January, 50% of us abandon all hope. By the end of March, statistically about 88% of us are done.

    It seems that resolutions just don’t work. And then we spend the rest of the year going, “Well, that was fun … ”


    Understanding (and Avoiding) “Willpower Burnout”

    Hmm … Why is it that your brain can’t handle these sorts of resolutions and goal-setting? Well, if you’re like most busy people, you’re making tens of thousands of decisions all day long.

    All of your work-related yes/no’s. Deciding what you want to have for lunch. Tuning out all the advertisements from TV and websites.

    Even that decision over whether to have the afternoon muffin or that second glass of wine are creating conditions in your brain that we’ll call “Willpower Burnout.”

    And the truth is that resolutions require massive amounts of willpower, and your brain just doesn’t have the capacity to get you to success. It’s not you – it’s NEUROSCIENCE!

    lack-of-willpowerThe part of your brain that controls willpower is located in the prefrontal cortex. That’s right behind your forehead.

    That part of your brain is also responsible for helping you to stay focused, to solve abstract tasks, and for short-term memory. Do you know all those things on your to-do list? Busy, busy, busy!

    According to “the Google,” people aren’t successful with their resolutions because their goals aren’t specific enough. B.J. Fogg, a Ph.D. in Social Science at Stanford University, says that goals that are too abstract are near impossible for brain to focus on. So the plan to lose weight fails before we even get out of the gate.

    So now what? It’s February, and maybe things haven’t gone exactly as you hoped. But it’s not too late! Let’s just hit that reset button and get this show back on the road.

    And how do we do that? Well, I’ve got a 4-step plan for achieving your resolutions:

    Step #1: Pick Only One Resolution

    I know that you’ve got big plans for yourself, and you want to do it all but your brain can’t handle it. Find the most important goal for yourself and start there.

    I know this is a hard one for us to embrace because we are dreaming big, but remember it’s Dream Big, think small.

    Pick one.

    Step #2: Dream BIG, Think small, act in small steps

    I want you to take that massive mound of personal perfection and break it down into manageable “mini molehills.”

    And the way that we do that is to take our resolutions and break them into habits. So if your resolution is to eat healthy food, the habit is a simple small step.

    small-steps-for-diet-successFor instance, substitute your coffee break chocolate mocha and a massive muffin for a low-fat latte and some fruit. One thing, one habit.

    If your resolution is to give up smoking, then the habit is to stop indulging in the after dinner cigarette. Once again – one thing, one habit.

    If your resolution is to exercise more, then your habit is to walk 10 minutes on your coffee break. Or do 10 pushups first thing out of bed in the morning.

    Yes, progress may be slower, but you need to remember that one small step is better than a thousand big thoughts. Dream Big. Think small. Act tiny.

    I know you can do this!

    Step #3: Hold Yourself Accountable For Your Goals

    Tell somebody else about the changes you want for yourself. Write it down. Hire a coach to help you along the way.

    Anytime we can bring accountability into the mix, success will skyrocket. The reason why we don’t tell people is that then we get to fail in private.

    But why do you want to fail? Success is about putting it out there and making it happen.

    Hold yourself accountable.

    Step #4: Focus on (and Celebrate) Each Small Success

    Positive feedback, even the stuff you tell yourself – especially the stuff you tell yourself – is going to be a big deal on continuing to make these small efforts.

    If you can say to yourself, “YES! I did 10 push-ups this morning!” that’s a lot different than saying, “Oh, my gosh … I suck, I only did 10 push-ups.”

    You can hear the difference, can’t you?

    Every time you positively reward yourself with good words and feedback in that way, you’re going to step into trying harder next time.

    So there you have it. Goal-setting and success in 4 basic steps:

    #1: Pick only one.

    #2: Dream Big, Think small, act in tiny steps.

    #3: Hold yourself accountable.

    #4: Focus on (and celebrate) each small success.

    The next time I’ll be talking about a twist on those traditional (boring) smart goals. Wait until you hear what I have to say about that!

    So stay tuned for Part 3 of this series, “Dream BIG, think small.” See you again soon!

    (published May 19, 2013)

    michelle cederberg motivational speakerMichelle Cederberg is a Certified Speaking Professional, Co-Active Life Coach, Health Expert and Author. With a Masters in Kinesiology, a BA in Psychology, and a specialization in Health and Exercise Psychology, Michelle combines mind, body, and practicality to inspire change! She speaks with humour and passion, and encourages her audiences to put their own health and well being back on their priority lists with a small steps approach that leaves them believing they can. The author of Energy Now! Small Steps to an Energetic Life, is also a bit of a video girl, regularly posting helpful (and at times hilariously funny) videos on her Energy TV channel. Learn more at www.worklifeenergy.com.