How to Stick to Your Goals and Be Happier
by Kiki Athanas
March 25, 2018
"There's power in the telling..."
Can't commit to what will make you feel better? Do you know exactly what you need to do to feel good (either because of common sense or because you've literally tried it in the past and it indeed 'worked'), but for some reason you can't stick with it? You jeopardize your success, suffer from the 'screw-it' effect - paralyzing any forward momentum.
Two steps forward, three steps back.
Maybe one of these circumstances resonates with you:
- Find a diet/eating regime that works for you, follow it for a few days/weeks/months - then start eating like crap and feel like a guilty pig.
- Start working out, enjoy the effects of more energy and strength - then get "lazy" and can no longer find the momentum to keep pushing it.
- Practice mindfulness and your own form of "meditation" (even if that just means chilling out and resting more often), feel grounded and less stressed, say you'll never go back - then BOOM "real life" gets in the way again.
Look, we've ALL been there.
Let an apparently uber healthy "mindful" person tell it to you straight: I've been exactly where you are too. For whatever internal or external forces and circumstances, we all lose momentum for living our best life ever, and it sucks.
Now I'm about to lay out the framework that has helped me get out of the slumps and recharge my entire life for the better.
Once I start, get into the "groove" of it, and begin to reap all the feel-good benefits - it's addicting and spreads like wild fire. I'm not guaranteeing that it will have the same power for you, but since I can't imagine there would be any "negative" side-affects of doing it - isn't it worth a shot?
Trigger warning: the following will document my experience with bulimia and disordered eating. Although I do not wish to encourage or trigger anyone suffering from any sort of eating disorder or low self-esteem, I am about to get fairly explicit and wouldn't want to offend someone sensitive to these topics. I am not a professional or medical expert and am only sharing what's worked for me, in an effort to be helpful, but not prescribe or cure whatever emotional health issues you may be suffering from.
Okay, let's set the scene: After a poor night's sleep, I wake up, sit on my bed and try to convince myself to put on my workout clothes and do a home fitness routine - feel too dizzy and nauseas (from binging and then using purge supplements the evening before), tell myself I should skip breakfast, and before I even change, I've un-enjoyably stuffed 3-4 bowls of "superfood" smoothies down my gob. Feeling like a failure and disgusting human being, I put on the comfiest clothes possible, just enough makeup to get out the door without shocking the world, and make my way to the library so that I can at least tell myself that I'm at least productive. Note: I don't metabolize coffee well and generally don't like how it makes me feel - especially hours afterwards, but I feel the urge for a break from work, and think: coffee is a good diuretic and will help me postpone lunch. Ugh, yet I'm hungry again already - this is ridiculous. K, I'll just eat what I want, screw working out - let's write off today, and I'll cancel my meeting/dates later in the day because obviously I'm gross. I'll start fresh tomorrow, after a good fast of course.
Yup, this was my life.
The most ironic part is when I was suffering through this time, people would ask me for health and nutrition advice, and look up to me like I was some sort of diet and wellness guru. Meanwhile, I was either painfully full, dangerously hungry, and always burnt out.
How did I let myself get here?
I started my journey to health and wellness with a passion for real, good, wholesome food and a way of living that was holistically beautiful. To begin with: It felt SO good being SO healthy, and I was high on life.
Somewhere along the way, I lost sight of the WHY behind I was doing it all (i.e. TO FEEL AND DO GOOD!) and I prioritized "health hacks" above my health. Slowly but surely I took things to an unhealthy extreme, and my body was finally rebelling to all of the damage I was putting it through.
Now I want to keep this relatable to anyone and everyone: I don't think you need to suffer from an eating disorder to relate to the feeling of being in a vicious downward spiral as it relates to your health and wellness (which, is arguably: EVERYTHING!).
Okay, enough with the depressing waterworks - I promised a solution.
Here's the way I pulled myself out of it - it's a proven technique (at least for myself) for whenever I start feeling crap and want to feel great instead.
1. Figure out your why.
Awareness of exactly what you don't like about how you're currently living, identifying what specifically isn't working to your advantage, and pinning down all the things you want and are in your power to change is key.
Think more about your why vs. the what and how. Why do you want to lose weight, have more energy, be a better friend, etc.
Why do you want to feel better?
Without a why, commitment will be difficult. With a clear why, follow-through will come naturally.
Here was my "why": I know that I am capable of amazing things, and have lots of exciting dreams in-store for myself that I am very capable of achieving - I do not want to risk my health getting in the way of my success. My life is too precious to me.
2. Figure out what has helped you get there (i.e. your goal) in the past - and/or make informed and practical "guesses" as to what will get you there.
Usually, this means identifying exactly what makes you feel good - in the current moment as well as being supportive to feeling good in the long term. Trust me, whatever your "issue" or "struggle" - feeling bad is generally a big obstacle to feeling good, so start with the aim of feeling good and map out the specific strategies and protocols that enable that.
You may start by simply thinking about these things and having them swirl around in your mind, but I do encourage you to eventually write them down. Point-form and messy on a scrap piece of paper, or beautifully written in a sacred notebook - you choose.
For me, that meant writing out "My Mantra", which I continue to read on a daily basis.
Hold yourself accountable and practice discipline.
Here's where things get super messy, at least for me. Since my personal struggles involved unhealthy restriction and an obsession with food and nutrition ("orthorexia"), the idea of being regimented and disciplined had me worried that I was indulging in the disorder again.
For people in similar circumstances - think A-type personalities, driven "go-getters" that are prone (inevitably) to burn out, overachievers, etc. - telling you to be more "disciplined" feels a bit silly.
Shouldn't the goal in these cases be more along the lines of CHILLING-THE-#$!*-OUT?!
In my experiences: no. For me, at least, that has only led to "black and white" behaviour of pendulum swinging from over-indulgence to downright excessive restriction.
In other words:
Eat all the bagels, miss all the yoga classes, cancel all the social gatherings.
No carbs, high-intensity strength training on a fast, survive off the fuel of being "pretty and skinny".
So let me try as best I can to articulate exactly what I mean when I advise you to be "disciplined":
Rules = bad. Personalized boundaries = good.
Here's the deal, rules we eventually want to (or have to), break. They become something we're working against rather than with.
Rules and restrictions are escapes for us to leave our bodies and our minds and rely on external sources to guide the way.
Unfortunately, those external forces (or diet protocols, or expensive cleanse kits, or trendy lifestyle regimes) are not you. Hence, they don't know what works best for you - because they cannot feel what works best for you.
You know who can feel what works best for you? You guessed it! You.
So how do we avoid indulging in "just doing whatever feels good" and throwing ourselves totally offtrack from achieving longterm success? ("Success" being in whatever form you define it - health, wealth, happiness, etc.)
One word: boundaries.
I like this word because it feels more spacious than "rules". There's some "room to give". BUT there's still a sense of discipline about it. Because self-care isn't all about flower baths and swanky massages, sometimes it's doing the dishes, cancelling on your friend to get your taxes done, or going for that morning jog even when you'd rather skip it but know deep down that you'll feel much better if you just get outside and start moving.
For me, those guidelines can be found in my mantra (pictured above) and include things like starting the day with movement and clean water (this is particularly exciting as I recently got a Berkey filter from Conscious Water and thus really look forward to and appreciate the absolute purity of the water I am blessed to have access to), enjoying balanced meals throughout the day (nourish myself with good food at regular time intervals vs. binging on "health food" and then compensation vs. purging and restricting), giving my enthusiasm and energy to work projects - but with a consciously steady pace and being cautious to not over-schedule myself, among others...
BONUS TIP: All of the above MUST be done from a place of love.
More specifically, from a place of love for YOURSELF. A recent revelation I had was that my "health journey" all begun with a desire to gain love and acceptance from others (sounds corny and over-done, but oh-so true!), and that was preventing my healing.
When I chose to put myself first, it was easier to follow-through with what I really wanted as an end goal.
To provide more context: I was eating healthy for looks (and thus for others), not for myself.
Thus, when eating healthy become literally uncomfortable and downright painful (cue: bloating from over-eating vegetables and never eating fat), it didn't matter - that wasn't the point. The point was to be skinny.
When I instead shifted the goal to loving myself and making decisions from a place of love with just a touch of self-discipline, it was easy to prevent bingeing. See, binging makes me feel bad (physically and emotionally) and hence doesn't fit with my why or my goal of feeling good. So why would I do it?
It's a powerful - and yet simple, even dare I say "easy" - thing when you are able to tap into being your very own kick-ass (but always delightfully kind!) life coach.
Please know that the above post was hard for me to share, and makes me feel quite vulnerable, but I believe that it is important for me to keep it real with all of you who continue to love and support me. My hope is that reading it inspires you find a way to love, respect and appreciate yourself in a way that has helped me so profoundly. It would mean the world to me to hear your thoughts and hopefully hear about your successes from implementing some of the practices and techniques that I have outlined above.
Feel free to comment below to continue building the community around this, or, as always, you can reach out to me directly with thoughts and/or questions - I'll do what I can to support you.