When I wrote yesterday about my goal tree, I knew that it wouldn’t resonate with a ton of people because we’re so used to being told that having “lose x weight by x date” kinds of goals are the way to succeed. We’re fed, daily, the idea that we should go in, go hard, hustle, give 300%, and try to lose as much as we can as fast as we can… and that’s the only “path to success” to at we willingly embrace.
I’d said a long time ago that this doesn’t resonate well with me, especially since it’s not sustainable – who can give 300% forever without eventually becoming resentful and burning out? – but also because it’s unrealistic. If the end goal is for it a part of my every day life to be active, then I need to introduce that in ways that are flexible. Can’t get to the gym? What do I do?
My goal tree is much more about markers for success, because I strive to keep my goals in mind at all times. Every move I make, I make it with my goals in mind. It’s not in an obsessive fashion, it’s in a mindful fashion – every step I take has to move me closer to my goals, and if it would impede my progress in any way, it simply has to be set aside. It’s not a matter of deprivation when you simply understand that there are goals you want to achieve more than you want to eat that doughnut or skip that gym.
But how do you satisfactorily convince yourself that you don’t want that doughnut more than you want to achieve your goals? My personal belief – at least, this is how I approach it – is that whenever I intentionally do something that might get in the way of me achieving my goals, even though I know I want to make progress and I want to go to the gym instead of hide in my bedroom, I’m sabotaging myself. Plain and simple. And, while it’s easy to handle external sources of sabotage, how do you deal with sabotage that comes from within yourself? Not like you can divorce yourself, put yourself out of your house, stop taking your own phone calls…. you can’t do any of that. But what can you do?
The almost-hubby sent me this article, as a means of supporting me through getting beyond my own struggle, but I think it’s valuable to have, here:
This morning I stepped out of bed and into the view of a mirror. I thought, “Oh my God, I’m so fat” and then threw on some clothes thinking, “Hide it. Hide.” Catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror a second time stopped the negative talk. My face struck me as sad, fearful, and ashamed. It shocked me. I don’t normally think of myself as sad, fearful or ashamed, and yet there it was, evident as the written word all over my frowning face.
Wow. First thing in the morning and my brain is writing horror stories. I wonder why I still feel trapped in judgment and negativity. I left my abuser almost two years ago. Will this cycle of hating/liking myself ever end?
According to neuroscience, the answer to that question is entirely within my control. Hallelujah! Yes, the abusive cycle recurring in my own mind will end.
In class, we’re learning that neurons in the brain do not have to die, nor do we cease the ability to grow new neurons with age. This is important because the neurons in our brains create information hubs of a sort. Thoughts (encoded as electrical impulses) travel from neuron to neuron depending on our memories (where they’re located) and how we’ve thought in the past (what paths are currently available). The great thing about growing new neurons is that, if we practice, we can reroute our old thinking pathways into entirely new ways of thinking.
In short, by forcing myself to think in new ways, my brain will form new thinking paths and use them instead of the old, negative and abusive ones I’m using today.
If you think I’m wrong, consider the person who had a stroke three years ago, losing all control over his right arm. He considered amputating his arm because it only got in his way. Then he heard that it may be possible to re-learn how to use that arm and decided to participate in the therapy offered. A year later, he can use his right arm completely.
According to PBS’s show “The Secret Life of the Brain”, that man created new neural pathways to allow his recovery. He sweated and concentrated on using his arm, and, over time, his brain responded by growing new neurons and creating new pathways for thought.
If a formerly paralyzed stroke victim can grow new ways to think and affect his physical movement, then I can grow new ways to think and affect my mental and emotional condition.
First, I’ll believe that I can change my thinking patterns. Belief is possibly the best predictor of success. Napoleon Hill said, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.” If I can think it and believe it, then I can do it. If I only think it then neglect to believe it, there’s no success.
Second, I’ll picture new pathways forming in my brain where there were none before. I’ll imagine them growing and connecting to positive memories and experiences. I’ll practice thinking good things about myself while picturing these pathways as they form. I’ll do this for 10 minutes every day, five in the morning and five minutes at night.
I tried picturing these new pathways for one minute just now, and it was really tough. I swear, I began to feel sweaty. But a stroke victim in the PBS video sweated as he flipped dominoes because he was thinking so hard, so I’ll take the perspiration as a sign that I’m on the right track.
Third, I will post sticky notes around my house. This is an old trick that maybe you’ve tried with affirmations in the past. (I did, then ended up letting the notes fall to the floor because I was so tired of sensing they did not work for me!) But these sticky notes will be simple pictures that look similar to this:
When I see this picture, I will think of one positive thing. It can be about me or someone I love or about the weather…doesn’t matter so long as its positive and I believe it. Then I will imagine that thought traveling through my brain in the most efficient path possible. I will spend maybe two seconds imagining the positive thought’s path, then go about my business. [source]
(Sounds real “The Secret-y,” doesn’t it?) But this is how things like vision boards work. This is how things like goal trees work. Any visual representation of your goals…
I think this article, in relation to the internal dialogue that leads us to act for the moment (skipping the gym or eating unnecessarily) instead of being focused on our goals, is important. In my own case, I have to make new, fresh connections to being out and about on my own in a new body. Hell, the body I have is still pretty new… but that’s beside the point.
When I shared, a few months ago, that motivation is something that can only be achieved on the inside – inspiration can compel you to feel inspired, but you still have to find that motivation to move even when the inspiration is long gone and forgotten – people were dumbfounded.
I clicked on this hoping to be, inspired. I wasn’t. Read more of the same. Its in you. You have to do it. Your health, better you. And I’m still not motivated or driven to do better. […] People talk about getting over it like it just comes overnight. It doesn’t. I know. I’ve tried and failed…so now what. What’s the motivation to eat a carrot stick, celery and water when the body, like an addict’s, is screaming, begging and pushing to eat/drink sugar, salt and so on. What suggestions are there for the drive to combat that? [source]
Motivation is an active choice within you to get up and get it done. Motivation is entirely mental, and I think this idea of needing to create new pathways that connect the action and activity to the achievements we desire is important. Addressing the self sabotage by developing a new internal dialogue which allows for the motivation that can let us make decisions that focus more on our goals? That’s how you do it.
I said, before, that you can’t wait to feel motivated to do what you know you’ve got to do…but I now realize that I should add to that. I still believe you have to move regardless of how you feel about it, but if you don’t feel that compulsion to contribute to your goals, you should ask yourself why. Asking myself why is how I came to the conclusion that I did about myself and my eating habits, and it’s also how I was able to devote so much effort to overcoming that.
I believe this was a huge part of how I stay on top of my game with my former emotional eating habit. I’m constantly reinforcing for myself that, no matter how stressed out or sad I may be, nothing is ever solved with a cookie. That has made it easier for me to turn down sweets, snacks and anything else. I don’t connect the junk food to anything beneficial to me other than an enjoyable taste, and even then, thanks to clean eating, I’ve learned that most of these things taste like crap, anyway. It’s far easier to turn down something you see as merely “an enjoyable taste” as opposed to seeing it as “something vital and necessary for the betterment of my well being before I go and cut my boss.”
Defeating emotional eating is, in a lot of ways, all about this process. Defeating sabotaging behavior in general is all about this process. When you figure out what the problem is, you start to devise your solution… and it takes a lot of self-affirmation, a lot of self-awareness and a lot of self-care. There are lots of people in the world who go into weight loss like a diver into the water – nose first, focused, driven, determined to get to the end. Those of us who aren’t, more often than not have to go through this process of breaking down the negative connotations we’ve associated with doing what we need to do to succeed, as well as make new connections that help us put our goals and our fit-minded selves into perspective.
Lots of people cringe at the thought of “constant” awareness, but I believe it gets easier as you make your way through this process. At least, it did for me before, and I’m betting it will for me again, moving forward.