Just Jump - Moving Towards Our Goals

I was watching a show the other night where contestants had to make their way through an obstacle course. One contestant found himself at the top of an obstacle, needing to jump across it in order to continue on. Simple enough right? Just jump? Worst case scenario, he doesn't clear the jump and lands in some water, foam or some other soft landing.  Yet, he couldn't do it.  He would reach out in preparation to lunge himself forward, then put his hands down as he decided on another approach. He'd do a squat, stand up, do another squat and so on. Up and down, step forward step back. He was mentally and physically stuck. And the longer he rethought his strategy, the harder it seemed for him to move forward. He eventually timed out.  

We have all been there.  We pass up an opportunity to go on a trip we've always wanted to go on, or we tell ourselves it's too late to learn a new skill or take part in a class of some sort. So, What can we do to help us move forward in reaching our goals or passions. How do we move past the fear?

Be Intentional and Act. Life has a way of passing us by and there are a lot of demands that bid one's attention. Set some time aside to think about what you want and what's getting in the way of moving towards it.  In making these goals, don't forget to make them S.M.A.R.T. to increase their likelihood of fulfillment. Then, make a point of taking the next steps towards meeting your goal. Don't just think about it, do. Even setting 5 minutes out of your day to work on your goal is better than nothing! Just start!

Make a list of what you want to do and break it down. There is nothing too big or too small that can't go on this list. Write it down. Some things may take longer to complete than others. That's okay! In the beginning, try knocking off some of the easier goals to help build confidence, experience and momentum.

Once you've picked something, break down the steps of what needs to happen for your goal to reach fruition. Want to learn how to swim? A sub-goal might be calling your local pool to see when they offer lessons. You won't have to do this for every goal you want to accomplish (sometimes it's helpful to just jump in), however other times, it might make the larger goal more manageable. It can also help you stay on track!

Recognize Your Emotion. It's okay that the goal or desire may bring up some fear, trepidation or some other feeling. Fear doesn't mean we shouldn't do something. Emotions aren't the only one who has access to the drivers seat. There's difference between being overcome by your emotions and acknowledging their presence. Remember to balance your emotions (and sometimes distance or defuse them) by focusing on your values and/or rational (wise mind).  

Take stock of your thoughts. Take a step back and check in to see if your thoughts are in line with your goals/passions/values. Challenge those thoughts that tell you you are too old or that it is too late. Also, watch out for those self-fulfilling prophecies. If you tell yourself you can't do pottery, you likely won't sign up for it, and you still will not have learnt how to make it. 

Replace "No" and "I Can't" with "Yes" and "I'll Give It a Try".  Pick a day to intentionally make an effort to saying 'yes' to things you would have typically said 'no' to. Have that as your goal for the day or week. See where that takes you. As always, safety is a priority. Common sense still applies. Unsure of what to say 'yes' to? Check it out with a therapist or trusted friend.  

Build Accountability.   Choose a few people you trust and tell them about your plans/goals. Learn which supports will encourage you versus those who tend to project their fears onto you. Think about what role you would like your supports to be. Need someone to accompany you? Would it be helpful to have someone check in on your progress every now and then? Maybe it's just helpful running your goals by someone else. 

Don't Expect Perfectionism, Embrace the Process. You might completely bomb in your attempt and steps towards reaching you goal. That's okay! We can't be good at everything we do and there is nothing wrong with that. Don't use this experience as a reason to stop trying new things or to feed into your negative self-perception. Re-frame the experience and move forward in a more positive light! 

What are your goals? What do you want to do next? Come on... let's start doing them!

Preparation to Action

I’ve written about the stages of change before. You know, the model that includes: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. I want to focus on the important step of preparation today. 

Intention to do something is very different than actively working towards the change one wants to see. I may want to get my oil changed in my car, however, if I don’t make an appointment, or buy the necessary items needed to do it on my own, the dirty oil will not get switched out for clean oil. When working towards making change in one’s recovery, the same principles apply. 

Let’s review a few scenarios. Can you relate?

#1 Viktor and People Pleasing. 

Viktor knows he is a people pleaser and avoids conflict in any way he can, leading him to feeling used, frustrated and lonely. He often tells his therapist how he would like to be assertive and confident as he colleague Trevor. 

Intent? Change? Well, he wants to be confident, however there is no mention or plan of how he will invoke a change in behaviour towards his end goal.

#2 Charlene and Binge Breaking. 

Charlene recently relapsed. She knows if she continues down this path, she will likely end up even more depressed and isolated. She meets with her therapist to discuss high risk situations where she has a tendency to binge. One such situation is coming up this weekend. Her and her therapist come up with a concrete plan filled with skills and alternative options, some of which involve prep work before she goes, such as making a meal plan. The weekend approaches and Charlene realizes she hasn’t done any of the prep work and decides to wing it. 

Charlene has the awareness that if nothing changes, nothing changes, leading to depression and isolation. She wants to choose a different path, and comes up with a plan. She, however, failed to follow through with the prep work needed for the plan to be successful.

#3 Jamie and Restricting. 

It’s cottage season. This is the first summer in years where she has been back to her cottage as it used to be the prime place where restricting would occur. Wanting to be able to enjoy her time away, while knowing it will also be triggering, she asks her support group for ideas on how to stay on track with eating all summer. They suggest that making a 2 month goal may not be realistic and to consider making a S.M.A.R.T. goal, as well as a list of potential barriers. Jamie goes home, writes up a plan and runs it by the group the following week for feedback. Her plan is as follows:

S.M.A.R.T. Goal  

S - specific: follow meal plan while at cottage this weekend

M - measurable: after each meal, I will be able to measure whether or not I have restricted and am on track with my weekend goal

A - attainable: it is possible for me to follow my meal plan, I’ve done it before

R - realistic: it is reasonable to set the goal to not restrict while at my cottage as I’m only there for the weekend this trip

T - timely: by the end of the weekend, this goal will be over

Things to do Before and During My Trip in Preparation: 

  • talk to dietician about meal plan, create one together (appointment made for next Wednesday)
  • talk with family around what we plan on doing while away so I have an idea on how to plan my meals
  • ask a friend if I can call them over the weekend if I need support around meal times
  • shop for food/snack items (Markus agreed and will be available)
  • ask someone to eat with me at meal times (talked with uncle Bill to have breakfast together, cousin Trish will eat lunch)
  • write up cope cards/affirmations to help remind me why I want to stick to my meal plan (ie: I can do this, It’s just one weekend, I’m doing the best I can, I’ve worked too hard to get where I am, This feeling will pass)
  • come up with possible barriers (see below)
  • bring journal, recovery app, distraction box (things I use when needing to be distracted… ie: colouring book, movies, book, word searches, wool, etc).

Barriers:

  • something might up come up unexpectedly while at the cottage delaying or changing my meal plan
  • people not wanting to eat at regular times
  • being reminded of old patterns/memories while at cottage
  • overwhelming feelings emerge, loud ED voice 

Accountability:

  • talk to group upon return informing them how it went
  •  talk to therapist and dietician

Jamie may still struggle over the course of the weekend. Having a plan in place does not guarantee it will be successfully met. It does, however, enable one to be more prepared and mindful as to what to expect, increasing the likelihood of staying on track. Also, having an accountability partner or group is a great way to follow through on a change. We all need encouragement from time to time, especially when working on recovery.  

What’s your next goal? Have you prepared for it?