Recently, Katya called to tell me she was gearing up for the end of the holiday season before it even began. She explained that she was distraught about her annual weight swing and the gnawing sense that she hadn’t accomplished her top goals for the year. This is why she was ready to fast-forward right past December, and get a fresh start to the New Year right away!
“I’m dreading the next few weeks filled with decadent holiday foods, stressful deadlines, and reflections on the year. I just want to skip to New Year’s day when I can start with a clean slate. I’m ready to get my weight back on track and finally finish my business plan. The holiday season feels so hectic that I can’t find any time for myself to work toward my goals. I’m over it and it’s not even December yet!”
When pressed, Katya reluctantly admitted to a few successes from the prior year, but her focus was clearly on the what lay ahead. She said she needed to get through the holiday season and get some help with her New Year’s resolutions so that this year she could stick to them past March.
We started with a simple task: Write down your goals as clearly as possible.
- Lose 15 pounds and get in shape
- Launch a business by this time next year
These goals were clear in terms of outcomes, but they weren’t specific when it came to actions, which left a lot of room for procrastination – simply from not knowing where to start.
Also, as written, the goals were fairly generic. They didn’t convey anything exciting that Katya could connect to personally. If she didn’t have a strong personal connection to what she wanted to accomplish, there would be no natural motivation keeping her going through inevitable life distractions.
That’s where values come in. Our values are so important that we naturally gravitate towards them, so we don’t have to expend extra energy pushing ourselves. We had to find what about these goals connected deeply with Katya’s values, so we asked:
“Why are you setting these goals? Why are they important to your life and your future?”
Here are Katya’s answers:
- I want to be thin and in shape because I feel more healthy and confident when I’m fit. Exercise helps me clear my head, feel attractive, stop working around the clock, and sleep better. I also feel better when I eat well most of the time, though I still enjoy indulging when I feel like it. My biggest goals are keeping sugar consumption in check, sticking largely to fresh, whole foods, and getting some movement into my days. Beyond that, I don’t want to overthink it every day.
- I want to launch my business this year at least partially because I want people to believe I can do it. I’ve been talking about it for so long that now I feel this pressure that I’ll look like a fool if I don’t get on it soon. And of course I came up the with plan initially because I’m passionate about it and I want the day-to-day satisfaction of being self-employed, making my own schedule, following my creative passions, and doing what I believe I’m best at, and where I can provide a great service to the world.
This exercise showed that Katya clearly had strong emotional drivers for the goals she had set, but the connections weren’t always obvious. In the case of her health, she wanted to feel healthy, clear, and confident, but she didn’t want to overthink it. On the business side, she desperately wanted to feel a sense of progress and believe in herself.
We had tapped into her emotional connection, but we still needed specific, tangible, and practical actions she could take without having to think too much. In order to keep her actions lined up with her values, we asked Katya to write the value that each goal expressed along with a list of specific steps she could take.
“In order to satisfy the core values you are looking to fulfill, what steps could you take to achieve this? First write the value clearly, then write a few brief steps that might help you satisfy this value.”
- Value: To feel healthy by getting ample movement in my days and eating well most of the time. When I feel healthiest, I am:
- Taking walks with friends a few times a week.
- Going on bike rides or walks when I have local errands to run.
- Cooking dinner with family and friends a few times a week.
- Having healthy lunch options to bring to work so I don’t eat out.
- Working out for a half hour a few times a week.
- Sticking mostly to fresh food. This in turn helps limit excessive eating, especially where sugar is concerned.
- Value: To be someone who sticks to their plans and is following their passions. In this case, I am passionate about starting my business so that I can bring my unique skills and passion to the world. I’ll feel like I’m making progress when I… (noting how much time it will probably take):
- Research the market so that I know where to make some adjustments before launching. (1 month at 4 hours per week)
- Create a clear outline for my business plan. Then I’ll ask my advisor approve/adjust the plan as needed. (1 month at 4 hours per week)
- Create a financial plan and secure the financial backing needed. (1 months at 4 hours per week)
- Organize and launch the business to the point where I can have at least my first 2-4 clients. Tasks included: website design/launch, business cards, forms and supplies purchased, etc. (3 months at 4 hours per week)
- Research, retain, and meet with a business attorney and a tax advisor. (10 hours over 2 months)
- Network to get a few first clients. (2 months at 4 hours per week)
- Complete a few projects. (1 month at 12 hours per week)
This list sounded like a realistic set of steps for the business goal. If her time estimates were accurate, she could have a loose structure set up as early as July. Then she could spend the second part of the year getting clients and working on pilot projects. The health goals seemed easier as well. Just thinking about movement and eating healthy without the pressure of looking like a supermodel made her feel lighter and more naturally motivated.
In order to solidify this new vision, Katya rewrote her goals.
- To pursue healthy habits every week, such as walking, riding my bike, and working out twice a week. To cook dinner a few times a week at home, and to bring healthy lunches to work on most days.
- To get my business plan and finances organized in the first quarter; set up the structure of the business in the second quarter; find a few clients and start a few pilot projects in the third quarter; and to review my progress in the fourth quarter. From there I can determine if I’m ready for a full launch by year end.
While these goals weren’t written as simply, they offered more specifics in terms of actions and they lined up nicely with what mattered most to Katya: (1) developing healthy habits that made her feel good, and (2) feeling steady progress on her business. Lining up her intentions with what mattered to her generated some genuine excitement and changed Katya’s whole perspective. Instead of seeing the goals as draining drudgery that required a clean slate to move forward with, the actions seemed fun and light – easy enough to work into her current schedule.
What Katya Did
Katya really wanted to feel healthier as soon as possible. Now that she was detached from the idea that she needed to lose a specific number of pounds and more lined up with the feeling of health and vitality, she decided to get started right away with simple movement and eating improvements.
Her first month’s health goals were pretty basic:
- To do some kind of exercise for 5-10 minutes a day, with one longer day per week. By sticking to simple daily goals, she could easily form a habit of prioritizing movement regularly.
- She could enjoy desserts when at holiday gatherings, but would avoid bringing treats into her home.
Pretty naturally, she found herself gravitating to more healthy practices:
- She downloaded a really easy yoga app and sat with her iPad for 15 minutes a few mornings each week, focusing on stretching and easy strengthening poses.
- Katya was really happy to find that there was an added benefit of mindfulness and relaxation that came from her yoga sessions and other movement. Some mornings, she wasn’t satisfied with just 10 minutes, so she picked longer programs.
- Katya also used errands as an excuse to walk or bicycle. She walked holiday cards to the post office, biked a few groceries home, shopped for some gifts at local stores, and went to the bank on foot. These quick spurts helped stretch her legs and clear her head. She called a few friends to make walking dates, and was glad to hear that they too needed the time to decompress from holidays and enjoy some fresh air.
- Soon, she found herself looking up healthy recipes, just out of curiosity, and she felt naturally excited to try them out.
Katya’s initial steps toward her business goals felt more daunting; but with a focus on progress as opposed to completion, she found herself gaining momentum there as well.
She carved out four hours each week to work on her business, with planned breaks when she was on vacations. This was a really challenging thing to do. There were so many demands on her time and infinite distractions to pull her away. She quickly learned that she would need additional strategies for staying on task.
She retreated to her bedroom desk area where she felt most comfortable and safe from distractions and outside pressures. She put her phone on the other side of the room in Do Not Disturb, and she had to train her family to let her work without interruption as well. This was not a welcome change because they were used to around the clock access to her, but she kept working on it, knowing they would eventually catch on and it would become easier.
It turned out that even quarterly goals were overwhelming, so she broke down her tasks into specific items she could accomplish in an hour or less. By focusing on just one small next step, she was able to quell the anxious voices in her head that mocked her for not having launched yet, and prevent the downward spiral that had led her to give up in the past.
After some trial and error, Katya found a system that worked fairly well and stuck with it. She was able to get much more accomplished in her scheduled blocks of time than she anticipated because she was truly focused and it had become a rhythm for her and her family on Saturdays. While she had been wrong about some of her time estimates, she didn’t mind moving a few “deadlines” around since she felt a sense of forward momentum overall.
What Katya Learned and How She Changed Because of It
There was an “ah-ha” moment for Katya when she realized that her annual resolution to lose weight and get fit was really driven by her desire to feel healthy, get her head clear, and feel confident and vibrant. She realized that she’d been re-writing a goal that wasn’t aimed at her true values. Instead, it was just what she thought was required. So by digging deeper and asking why she was setting that goal, we were able to uncover her values based goals.
When it came to her business plan, Katya wanted to feel a sense of forward movement. But she had been stifled by a looming, massive goal– to launch a new business, all while continuing to work her day job. By breaking down the ultimate outcome into smaller pieces, she was able to have that sense of moving forward while also staying sane and protecting some personal and family time.
Through this transformation of setting values based goals, Katya regained her confidence.
The small behavior changes Katya started with were naturally enjoyable because they lined up with her values. And because they were specific and easy, she could work them into her days without a lot of thought or energy drain. The small steps built on themselves, which gave her more confidence and energy, and that led to more action, which led to more confidence and more success!
So often, we set goals that are too vague or uninspiring. The health, diet and fitness industries make billions every January on our failure to stick to our goals in the previous year. It feels dis-empowering to set targets and fall short over and over again, so you don’t want to get caught in that trap.
Instead, why not design values based goals, create simple steps to get started, and allow momentum to build naturally from joy rather than stress and pressure? If you’d like to go through this process, make sure to reach out and find out what we are offering this year in terms of workshops, classes or coaching around values-based goal setting.
Or take one of the goals you have been resolving to achieve every year, and go through the process we went through with Katya to get to what really matters and enjoy the process of making it happen!
Written by Heather Rice in collaboration with Nahid Casazza for coaching content.