Setting yourself up for success: How to implement goals
Setting yourself up for success is a concept that was introduced to me when we got our first puppy, Miles, and started his training. The general premise is that puppies are wild, distracted by everything, very food motivated, and they are teething at the same time they go through puberty.
So puppies might be cute, but for a while they are a hot mess. It also makes a little more sense of why so many dogs who are between one and two years old are taken to shelters. If you aren’t willing to put in the time and effort when puppies are that cute little ball of floof, they will grow into adult dogs who are wild and destructive.
But here’s the thing. Dogs really want to please their owners. They want to be good dogs, but they just really need help.
This is how you start to set them up for success. So you do things like put your shoes away where the puppy can’t get to them, making sure your garbage can has a lid or is in a pantry, not leaving food on low lying tables, and you put them in training, so they are learning how to be a good dog and what your expectations of them are.
There’s more though- setting your puppy up for success also means not beating them if they have an accident inside or don’t listen to you. If you punish them harshly or use physical discipline, all they will learn is to be afraid of you. You won’t actually be teaching them the things they need to learn.
As we worked with our trainer, who was a fantastic and amazing person, our puppy very slowly went from being very cute, but awful on walks, to a handsome grown up pup who is now great on walks. Don’t get me wrong, there were months when I would come back from walking Miles almost in tears and I was convinced everyone who said dogs were great were complete liars. Miles chewed through two leashes and two harnesses while we were training him to loose leash walk. He used to knock me down and then run into traffic, more than once. It was terrible and mildly traumatizing.
However, all our work paid off in the end. Miles recently turned 5 and we get so many compliments on his behavior. Now, he is a gentleman who, for the most part, walks like a well-behaved dog, loves to cuddle and give kisses, and will give you his paw just so he can hold your hand. It’s all very sweet. But it took intensive work and required a great deal of consistency and persistence between my husband and I. We also had to listen to everything our trainer said.
This matters because when people try to change or learn new things, we could not be more different. We give ourselves no slack, are cruel when we make mistakes, we frequently abandon our goals completely when we run into the slightest setback, and we compare ourselves to people who are in a completely different stage.
For whatever reason, we pretty much make things as difficult for ourselves as possible and then beat ourselves up when we fail. We fail to grasp that life is inherently difficult and will inevitably throw all sorts of obstacles in our way.
There is a lot of research in psychology about some called locus of control. Essentially, if you have an internal locus of control, you believe that you have control over the events that happen in your life. If your locus of control if more external, you believe life sort of happens to you and you don’t really have any control at all.
There isn’t one right or wrong way to approach life. Sometimes, no matter how much you prepare and plan, life will throw something at you that you couldn’t possibly control, like a natural disaster, a serious illness, a car accident, or company wide layoffs. So if believe life is completely within your control, you are bound to be disappointed and unduly hard on yourself.
However, how you respond to life changing events like natural disaster or serious illnesses is completely within your control. So what really matters is finding a balance between recognizing when you can do things versus when you should cut yourself some slack.
If this is reminding you of the prayer from AA, it is very similar. But, I try to avoid cliches and worn out sayings. Anyways, regardless if you attribute events to internal or external circumstances, the constant exposure and noise we get from social media makes it incredibly to develop and listen to our internal compass.
So how, then, do we implement goals to set ourselves up for success?
I’ll continue to use weight loss as an example.
As you know, I am trying to lose about 50 lbs. There are a lot of things within my control, like my diet and activity level, and some things that are not, like my metabolism, which went from being a great friend to the ultimate frenemy.
If you look up how to lose weight, there are billions of results, many of which are completely contradictory. It is annoying, confusing, and unhelpful.
I am not a fan of diets and of all the many “diets” recommended by experts, I lean closest to the Mediterranean diets, although I really like beef and Mexican food (thanks, Texas!). What I’ve found works for me is not restricting food- if I want french fries or pasta, I will have it. Besides, when you are trying to not do something, that often ends up being all you think about. Furthermore, there is research indicating that using willpower takes a fair amount of physical energy, so if you are not eating regularly, you are setting yourself up for failure, and most diets are low calorie.
What no one tells you is that your brain runs on glucose, which is sugar. So if you try to cut sugar out of your diet, you are depriving your brain the energy it needs to function well. I’m not saying you should constantly be eating candy, but cutting out sugar is not really the great solution it is made out to be. Eating more fruit is a way better way to feed your brain, instead of cutting sugar out completely.
So here is what I have found works for me, and the principles I am using to set myself up for success:
- Eat more vegetables, in a range of colors.
- Vegetables are great. They don’t have a lot of calories, so you can eat a lot of them in one sitting. You have to be mindful not to cover them in cheese or ranch dressing, but there are a lot of delicious ways to cook and eat veggies that don’t involve cheese or ranch. Trying to eat a range of colors is good because that gives you a better variety of vitamins and nutrients.
- Eat some vegetarian meals every week.
- I try to eat two or three vegetarian meals each week. Pretty much all of the snacks I eat are vegetarian.
- Watch portion sizes.
- Portion sizes are out of control. This is something I am constantly trying to do. Having smaller plates and bowls helps a lot in making sure that I am not eating too much in one sitting.
- Eat more fruit.
- Fruit is a great natural source of sugar, that comes with vitamins and fiber. I still eat sweets, but eating more fruit is a healthier way to get the sugar I love.
- Drink more water.
- I am really bad about staying hydrated and since I have moved to South Carolina, I have gotten into the bad habit of drinking sweet tea all the time. Sweet tea is great, but it is full of sugar. I would much rather have iced tea with a sweet and low, and then eat a brownie, than drink three brownies worth of sugar in one glass of sweet tea.
- Instead, I have gotten a lot of those packets you can mix with water that don’t have many calories and I have found a brand of flavored seltzer water that has really good flavors, with no calories, and have been drinking a ton of that. I feel way better staying hydrated and am not doing as much mindless eating- did you know that a lot of times, we eat because we are thirsty?
- I manage my stress.
- This is so important, because when stress is killing you, you don’t have the energy to cook and the food you crave is worse. Until you manage your stress, you will crave things like fast food and not have the energy to make yourself healthy meals.
There are two other main things I am doing, which are the big changes I have made in the last months:
- I am planning meals now, which I never done before. This is helping me to eat more regularly and is helping make sure I get enough veggies. Instead of going to the store every other week, I am going once a week, which further supports me eating more veggies because I constantly have fresh veggies.
- There is a great gym about 10 minutes from where I live that has a ton of great exercise classes and the monthly membership is very reasonably. I used to do all my workouts at home, but I have enough going on now that I really need someone to just tell me what to do. Now, I am trying all sorts of group classes and can go to yoga regularly.
Anyways, there is more, but I think this should give you a better idea of what it looks like to set yourself up for success. At no point do I decide everything I eat is wrong and instead go on a super-restrictive eating plan. I am not going to be a slave to workouts I don’t like or force myself to run on the treadmill like a hamster.
Instead, I am focusing on eating healthy food, cooking more, managing my stress, and being active pretty much every day of the week. Considering to maintain weight loss, you have to make lifestyle changes, I have decided to start with lifestyle changes. I am not sure how long it will take, but I already have more energy, am eating more veggies, have exercised a lot more than I normally do, and nothing feels like a chore or something I can’t wait to stop doing.
Think about it and let me know! Email me, comment, find me on Twitter and let me know how you are setting yourself up for success.
Thanks for reading- I appreciate you.
P.S. If you like this, tell your friends about it! They can sign up for this newsletter and get it sent directly to their inbox every week. If you’re reading this on my site, you can sign up to get this awesomeness delivered to your inbox every week too! Sign up here:)