7 tips for bringing your self-care goals to life

Remember when all we wanted was to be rid of 2020?

We’re just about halfway through the year that followed the most difficult year that our society has experienced in decades. We were all ready to leave it behind. But 2021 didn’t start out so great, either, as you may recall.

And yet, many of us walked away from 2020 with newfound perspective on what matters most to us – and the resolve to prioritize it in the year to come.

As the horizon begins to brighten now, it’s a good time to look back on the self-care goals you set at the start of the year.

Did you achieve them? Celebrate! Most people do not make it so far without faltering.

Did you not? It’s OK.

It’s also never too late. In fact, as the world inches open and we dip our toe back into togetherness, this might be exactly the right time to reset and go after whatever your heart and mind are calling you to achieve.

Why we need self-care goals

Whether times are easy or hard, self-care is the secret to showing up at your best. When you don’t take time for rest, your work, health and relationships suffer. If you keep pouring out time, energy and other contributions, your well will run dry. Unless you do what it takes to fill it back up.

You probably see the logic. But making time and space for self-care may be another story. Fortunately, in this achievement-oriented society, setting a goal is a nice way of getting set up for success, and if you need further motivation, hitting a self-care goal is a surefire way to ultimately help you get more done.

More importantly, it’s also a nice way of giving yourself permission to put your own needs first for a change. After the year (and then some) that we’ve just been through, you need it.

Your goals, realized

These ideas work for anytime, but especially for times when you need a reset.

Start where you are

One of the tricky things about goals is how they can whisk you out of the present moment. Focus too hard on where you are headed, and you might not appreciate where you are. It’s also all too easy to feel you have lost before you begin. Rather than bemoaning how far you have to go, acknowledge that there are reasons you are where you are. Give yourself permission to be there. You can reach your goal – but not until you banish any defeatist thoughts. Then, all you have to do is step up to the starting line.

Make a plan

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said that “a goal without a plan is just a wish.” You need only to see the stats on failed New Year’s Resolutions to see how true that is. Job #1 as you set yourself up for success is writing your goals down. But that’s just the beginning. You need to map your way to where you want to land. There are a lot of frameworks for this (I like SMART goals), but those that work best will all have clarity, specificity and structure baked in, taking you from lofty idea to grounded process.

Break it into bite-size chunks

One of the challenges with goals is that many of us are prone to dreaming big. That’s a wonderful attribute, but it can make goals overwhelming. If you’ve set a big goal, look for ways to break it into more manageable increments. These will serve as mileposts for your progress, and they will also give you something to celebrate – plus some nice inspiration for continued progress.

Find the VNA

Even bringing incremental goals to life can be a little overwhelming. How do you get there from here? Well, one trick that works for me and many clients is finding what I call your VNA – Very Next Action. You can think of it as a barrier you need to break down (I can’t start running until I get shoes) or a platform for progress (I need to walk one mile a day this week so I can do two next week). You don’t have to do it all today. You just have to determine what you can do today that would move you forward. That’s your VNA. Line them all up like lilypads, and you will hop all the way to your goal.

Build the habit

Knocking VNAs off your to-do list will keep you moving from today to tomorrow. But if your goal involves a lifestyle change – as many self-care goals do – part of your work is also building a new habit. Habit formation takes time, but it is easier when you take time to determine the behavior you want to change, find a substitute “new” behavior and identify the ways you resist that new behavior. Once you know these things, you can set up ways to overcome your resistance and power through with the new behavior for at least three weeks. It takes that long to “soft-wire” the new behavior into your brain, and a bit longer to make it stick, but if you can get to three weeks, the hardest part is behind you.

Hold yourself accountable

Goals can be public or private. Accountability is conveniently baked into goals that you announce at a dinner party, on Twitter or to your text group of friends. Goals that you keep to yourself are trickier. Even private goals should be shared with at least one trusted person, so you have someone who can cheer you on as you succeed, or gently check in when you don’t. Work together to figure out the right system for you. Maybe you mutually share progress in a regular phone call or text touch-base. Set ground rules at the outset for how you will support each other without overstepping, and consider celebrating together when you succeed.

Reward yourself

A reward for achieving your goal can take many forms, but I typically think of rewards as either internal or external. Internal might be harder to define, but you know it when you feel it – that sense of freedom you experience when you make your last house payment. The pleasure you enjoy when you hit the trails for a hike and feel completely capable. The satisfaction you notice when you tell your loved ones you got that promotion or hit your startup’s sales goals. These rewards are priceless, and you should revel in them, but external rewards are worthwhile, too. Buy yourself that new wardrobe for your healthier frame. Take yourself on a trip to celebrate your newly capable body. Give yourself a gift to mark your promotion. These things might seem superficial, but they are tangible manifestations of your success. Enjoy them!

The War of Art

None of this stuff is easy – even for me, after years of coaching others. In fact, I recently pulled a book off my shelf in an effort to restart my own progress toward a cherished goal. The War of Art is a wonderful book all about surmounting the roadblocks that get in our own way, and as I read it most recently, I was thinking about my hopes of completing a 500-mile walk in Spain to celebrate a milestone birthday on my horizon. The pandemic and a handful of challenges in my own life have fully thwarted that plan. But I have set a revised goal that I fully expect to achieve, and my own self-care goal reset is well under way.

As I said earlier, it’s never too late, and certainly here in the Metta Solutions community, you have a supportive group of cheerleaders who will be happy to celebrate your progress. If you have an achievement you’d like to share – self-care or otherwise – please reach out. I’d love to hear from you.

 

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