Ep #43: How to Set More Attainable Goals

Strong as a Working Mom with Carrie Holland | How to Set More Attainable Goals
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As you know, a major part of this podcast is about setting goals. However, while goals like losing 20 pounds or running a marathon are great goals to have, they’re not the whole picture. These kinds of goals will give you a destination to reach, but it’s the goals you set around your habits that will actually get you there.

The goals that start you on your journey, like weight loss, are called “result goals,” and the kind of goals I want you to start being more mindful of are “habit goals.” While you don’t have full control over what the scale says, you have 100% control over your habits. The habits you set early on, like eating a salad a certain amount of nights or exercising a certain amount of days, will help you achieve those result goals and even maintain them into the future.

This week, I share how your habits relate to your goals. I explain the difference between result goals and habit goals, and what you should consider when you start making them.

Are you ready to eat, move, and think in a way that gets you strong both physically and mentally? You deserve to have both no matter how busy you are, and I can help. I’m opening up my one-on-one coaching program for new clients, and I would love to work with you. Click here to learn more about working with me.

Be sure to tag me on Instagram or Facebook so I can follow along and engage with you!

What You Will Discover:

  • How habits relate to your goals.
  • Why habit goals are so important.
  • Why you shouldn’t give up when you don’t get the result you want.
  • Why it’s important to choose an identity.
  • What your knee-jerk reaction should be when you’re setting goals.

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast, Episode #43. If you have a weight loss goal, let me help you make it more attainable. Tune in and find out how.

Welcome to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. If you’re balancing career, family, wellness, and some days sanity, you are in the right place. This is where high-achieving, busy, working moms get the tools they need to eat, move, and think. I’m your host, physician, personal trainer, and Certified Life Coach, Carrie Holland. Let’s do this.

Hey, how are you? What’s new, what’s good? So, what’s good here is that today, we are going to talk more about habits and how it relates to your goals. Specifically, I want to get into the nitty-gritty of what to do with your weight loss goal, or your goal to run a race. I want you to understand what it means when you declare a goal and then help you through this, so that you not only achieve it, but you also maintain it once you get there. And here’s why I want to talk about this.

Many of you have reached out to me and have said you want to lose weight. Maybe you want to lose 10 or 20 pounds, or maybe you want to lose a whole lot more. And if you have a goal or a number in mind, that’s awesome. I’m not going to deter you from having a number that you’d like to see, if that is important to you. The number is certainly helpful because it gives you something to measure.

And you know I say this all the time, thanks to my husband who is all about patient safety, you can’t change what you don’t measure. But here’s why we need to dig into this just a little more. I’ve said it before, in relation to the scale, and I want to make it abundantly clear here. When you are trying to lose weight, you could be doing everything right and the scale might not budge.

When I say “right”, I mean eating in a calorie deficit, sleeping more, managing stress, and cutting down on processed foods. All of the things that are important to help you lose weight. You could be doing a really great job on all of those, and the scale might not budge. And for many of you that is enough to make you give up too soon, because it’s taking a while to reach your weight loss goal.

In answer to that, I want to offer you a different way to look at your weight loss goal. I want you to have one if that’s important to you, for sure. So yes, please go ahead and choose an ideal weight that you’d like to live at, if that’s important to you.

But I want to offer you something more to consider, so that when the scale doesn’t show you a number you’re happy with, despite the work you’re putting in, you don’t use that as a reason to say, “This isn’t working. All hope is lost. I’m never going to lose this weight,” and throw in the towel before you’ve seen success.

I want you to see your weight loss, your fitness, or really, any big goal that you’ve got as the sum of a few different parts. Before we dive in, I just want to mention, we’ve already spent a lot, a lot, a lot of time talking about identity. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again here, the key to any habit change is by starting with your identity.

Specifically, it starts by answering the question: Who do you want to be? I know this may be a challenging question to answer, but it’s essential to decide who you want to be. That will be your guiding principle. Any change you’re looking to make will start by choosing the identity that you want to have. And then, getting really clear on the results that qualify that identity.

So, in the case of losing weight, often, when you tell me that you want to lose weight, yes, you want to see the scale go down. But you want more than that. Maybe you want to be a healthier person, because the extra weight you’re carrying around is keeping you from running around with your kids outside because you’re so out of breath.

Or maybe you want to be a runner because you used to consider yourself an athlete, and that’s a part of your life you really miss. And you want to get back to that place and feel confident in your identity as an athlete. So, whatever it is, it starts by choosing who you want to be. And if you need a review on this, it’s in a number of different episodes, but specifically Episode 8, where I talk about where to start in relation to your habit change.

Today, we’re going beyond the identity you want to have, and I’m going to take it to another level and get really practical. You know I love to talk about things like, who you are and who you want to be. Because I truly believe in my core, that change does not work, and it will not last unless you’re very clear on who you want to be.

But once you’ve decided that you’re not done, there’s more work to do. So, once you’ve decided the identity you want to have, then you have to put your money where your mouth is and go prove it. This is where many of you get tripped up. What I mean here is this, once you’ve decided ‘I want to be a healthier person,’ there’s your identity, then you think that losing 20 pounds is what will make you a healthier person.

Or once you’ve decided ‘I want to be an active person.’ Once you’ve crossed the finish line of your triathlon, you’re an active person. And if you’ve gotten trapped by this, I hear you, I see you, and this is where I’m going to help you out.

Because the fact that you lost 20 pounds does not, in and of itself, make you healthy. The fact that you finished your triathlon does not make you an active person. It is so much more than that. And I want to help you see that and take this to another level.

So, with that in mind, here’s what we’re going to talk about today. We’re going to talk about what your weight loss goal actually is. And really, you can apply this to any big goal you’ve got, whether it’s related to your weight, exercise, fitness, career, any of it.

Then we’re going to talk about what your knee-jerk response should be when you declare your weight loss goal or your other big goal. Then we’re going to talk about the difference between a weight loss goal and a habit goal. Last, we’re going to talk about another essential type of goal that I’m going to encourage you to have for any big change you’re looking to make.

And I’m going to make a big deal out of that last type of goal, because it’s the place where I see so many of you get derailed. So, hang on for that last bit, because that is going to be essential to your success. All right? So, let’s go.

What exactly is your weight loss goal? I’m using “weight loss” here because this is where I commonly see it come up. So, I’ll get started with a client, and one of the first things she’ll tell me is that she wants to lose 20 pounds. So, there it is, there’s your number, that’s the goal. When you tell me you want to lose 20 pounds, you’ve just told me your result goal. That’s the outcome you want to achieve. That’s the endgame right there.

And it makes sense. Result goals are generally tangible. They are measurable, you either did or did not lose 20 pounds. It’s very black and white. And often, this is how your desire for change begins, because you’ve got a result that you don’t like.

In the case of weight loss, often that desire to lose 20 pounds comes after the compounding effect of years of processed food, too much food without monitoring portions, coupled with little to no physical activity, plus stress, and no sleep.

Your weight is the result of the choices you’ve made to that point, and you decide you need to change it up; you’re unhappy with your outcome. So, it only makes sense that when you’re looking to change things, you would start by looking at the result you want to change.

You can also apply this to exercise. For some of you, you have a goal of competing in a race. So, choose your race, maybe it’s a 5k, maybe it’s a half marathon or a full marathon, maybe you decided this is the year you’re doing a triathlon. That triathlon, that’s your outcome, that is your result right there. At the end of the day, you either did or did not complete the race. It’s measurable, it’s tangible. And again, it’s very black and white.

Hopefully, you get the idea here. When you have a goal in mind, it’s an outcome that you’re really looking for. It’s the result that you’re looking to achieve. And generally, it’s measurable; you either did or did not achieve the result.

Now, once you’ve decided on the outcome, or the result goal that you’re looking to achieve, here is what I’m offering as your knee-jerk response to that goal. Going back to our weight loss example, if you tell me that your goal is to lose 20 pounds, the very next sentence that comes out of your mouth should be, “And I will do it by doing these things. I will achieve it by following these steps.”

So, that’s your method; it’s your habit or collection of habits that will get you to the goal. To put it simply, I’m asking you to set a habit goal alongside your result goal. And your habit goal is exactly as it sounds, you are outlining the behaviors that you will carry out regularly to make that result goal inevitable.

And I would argue that this is where you should be really zoning in, more so than the result itself. Okay? Your knee-jerk response when you set a result goal, is to follow it up by describing the habit goals or the method that is going to get you there.

Again, in the case of your 20-pound weight loss goal, once you name it, if you want to be successful, the next step after setting this goal is explaining exactly the habits that will get you there.

Now, if you remember from a previous episode, I mentioned this before, but I’m encouraging you to start by thinking about: What is it going to take to lose that first pound? What is it going to take to lose the very first pound, right? We’re starting small here. I know you don’t want to lose one pound; you’re looking to lose 20. But remember, in order to lose those 20 pounds, you have to start by losing the first one. That’s how the math works, right?

So, get very specific and tell me what you have to do to lose that first pound. What habits do you need to adopt in order to lose the weight? Will you cut out one processed, junk food snack every day and replace it with a piece of fruit and stringy cheese? Will you start bringing your lunch to work every day, instead of getting takeout or fast food with your coworkers? Will you start the 3-2-1 Method?

Remember, the 3-2-1 Method: 3 bottles of water any size, 2 pieces of fruit or veggie throughout the day for snack, and 1 big honking salad a day. This is from my mentor, Jordan Syatt, and I think it’s a great place to start. But whatever it is, name it, determine the habits that you are building. This is going to be your method.

That is what is going to result in you losing the first pound. And while I know I’m totally harping on the first pound, here’s why the habits that will lead you to lose that first pound are the same habits that will result in you losing the second and the third and so on, until you get to your weight loss goal. So, instead of focusing on all 20 pounds at once, zone in on the habits that will get you to lose that first pound, and then we build from there.

So when you’re designing a habit goal, get very specific and decide for yourself exactly what it’s going to take from you to lose the first pound. Write it down, don’t leave it to vagary. This is an essential component of your habit goal; it needs to be specific. Saying, “I just need to be more mindful of what I’m eating,” tells me nothing. It doesn’t tell me what you’re having for dinner tonight.

So, get very clear on this and describe the behaviors you’re adopting in order to lose weight. I will eat a salad with dinner five nights a week, instead of processed white rice or bread. I will have at least 20 grams of protein with breakfast five days a week. Those are your habits.

Or if you want to get more active and you’ve decided you’d love to return to running and you decide you want to do a 5k, that 5k is your result goal. Follow that up and tell me your method. What is the process you’ll follow in order to get you ready for race day? What are your habit goals that will literally get you to the finish line? How many days a week are you going to run? When? For how long? Where? What will you do if it rains, and you can’t get outside for your tempo run?

And you see here, once again I’ve managed to sneak it in, planning is essential. So, if you know me at all, you know I’m going to tell you, you need to plan. If you want to succeed, no matter what your goal is, you need a plan. The importance of planning cannot be overstated. So, plan out your method and get crystal clear on the habits necessary to lose the weight, or run the race, or change your career, whatever it is.

And can you see why this matters? There is a huge difference between ‘I want to lose 20 pounds,’ your result goal, versus ‘I will cut out one processed food snack and eat a salad with my dinner five nights a week,’ your habit goal. One is an outcome, very black and white; you either did or did not lose the 20 pounds. The other is your method. It’s your habits, and it is not one-and-done. Your habit is a behavior that you repeat over and over and over again until you reach your goal.

And that is exactly the point. When you design a habit goal, you’re naming the behavior, and you’re describing how often you will do it. It’s both the behavior and the frequency. The difference is huge. I will encourage you to keep your focus on your habit goals. If you’re going to focus all of your effort and brain energy on one thing, focus on your habit goal.

Why? It’s all about control. This is about what you can and cannot control. So, think about it. In relation to your weight loss goal, you can be doing everything right, but you ultimately do not have control over the scale, right? Remember that your weight is influenced by a number of factors; calorie intake and quality, salt and water balance, hormones, sleep, whether you’ve pooped, your gut microbiome.

There are multiple factors that ultimately determine the number you see when you step on the scale, and you can’t control most of those factors. So, when you set a goal to lose 20 pounds, recognize you’re setting a goal over which you don’t have 100% control. And that can be tough. If you are laser focused and overly preoccupied with your result goal, and you’re only looking at the numbers, you could be setting yourself up for major frustration and disappointment.

Because while it is annoying as stink, you ultimately do not have the final say over whether or not you lose those 20 pounds. You don’t get to control what the scale tells you, even if you’re doing everything in your power to lose weight.

On the flip side, when you set a habit goal alongside your weight loss goal, you’re setting a goal over which you do have 100% control. You have 100% control over the snacks you eat. You get to decide if you have a Pop-Tart for a snack today, or if you choose an apple and stringy cheese instead. You have 100% control over whether you have french fries or salad tonight with your dinner.

You get to choose, and that’s the best thing about habit goals. You are in charge. You have 100% control over your behaviors, and that is empowering. So, when you consider the control you have over a result goal versus a control you have over a habit goal, where do you want to focus your efforts?

Where do you want to spend your brain energy? Do you want to spend it focused on those 20 pounds, where you ultimately don’t have control? Or do you want to focus on the habits that will get you there, where you do have 100% control?

If you coach with me, you know I’m going to help guide you. All right? And this is not to say, forget your result goal altogether, don’t misread me. The idea here is to use your brain energy and focus your effort where you will maximize the return on investment, and that is your habits. You can control your habits; you can’t control the scale.

So, here’s the other thing to keep in mind about your weight loss goal or your race goal, and your habit goals. Once you’ve achieved the result goal, you’re not done. Meaning, once you lose those 20 pounds, you’re not done. The habits you built to lose those 20 pounds are the same habits you’ll need to maintain in order to keep the weight off.

Similarly, once you run your 5k and you’ve crossed the finish line, while that particular race is done, you still have decisions to make. You have to decide if the habits and behaviors that allowed you to run that race in the first place are habits that you’re going to keep up. And while this may seem obvious, it’s important to really understand that concept.

I’ve coached a few of you through this and it’s not an uncommon phenomenon at all; you achieve the goal and then ease up. So often, for some of you, hitting your goal weight or running the race serves as a finish line, and then you stop.

Meaning, you revert to some of your old eating habits like, more processed food or more alcohol than you were having previously. Or you let the day or two of rest, after your road race, turn into a week, and then into two weeks, and then a month of zero exercise. It can be a very slippery slope. You use the goal as a reason to stop, when in reality, it should be the exact opposite, it’s the reason to keep going.

But what habit science tells us is that the more times you fall away from your habits, the harder it can be to reinstate them. So, this is not to say it’s impossible, but it gets harder and harder to restart a habit, the more times you get away from it. And this is all the more reason to have a plan for what you will do once you hit the result goal.

To be crystal clear, once you get to your goal weight, there is definitely some high-fiving to be done. Okay? But after you high five yourself, your next step is to get really clear and answer the key question: Now what? For your weight loss, how are you going to eat? Are you going to eat the same number of calories that got you to your goal weight? Or do you want to incorporate more of certain foods in your diet like carbs or fun foods like chocolate and pizza? If you do, can you accept a five pound or more variation as a result of your food choices? Or are you at a place where you found a way of eating that works, and you’re ready and willing to maintain it for the long haul?

Part of the reason I get into this with women I coach is because for many of you, once you get to that goal weight, and you turn around and look and reflect on what it took from you, you see how much work it was.

For some of you, it might have been a vacation or big event or a big milestone that prompted you to want to lose weight in the first place. And then you get there, you get to the goal weight, the event happens, you wear the outfit, and then you have to decide if that level of commitment and that level of precision makes sense for you to maintain. You have to decide if the work it took to get you there is worth the upkeep.

I had a client who once told me she knew that in order to maintain her weight loss phase, there was a certain level of intensity and attention that she had to devote in order to stay there. And this may be true for you, as well.

So, there’s a few things about this. First, the goal here is to find a way of eating that you can sustain indefinitely. We want you to find a way of eating that results in you feeling satisfied, while keeping you at a weight that feels good to you. And with that said, the way you eat should not be complicated, it should not be difficult. It should make sense for your schedule and your life. It should be something you can keep up.

One of the key tenants to habit formation is to start the way you want to continue. Start the way you want to continue. Remember, your motivation is generally high when you’re starting a new habit. You want to take advantage of that motivation and make your start as solid as possible. Meaning, you want to find a way of eating that’s reasonable.

Giving up carbs for life, or swearing off pizza for the duration, or eliminating all chocolate forever, might be something you can maintain for a few weeks when your motivation is high. But remember, motivation fades and your diet will lose its novelty and it will get hard at some point. So, you want to choose habits that you can do when the newness has long faded, and it gets hard.

Start out your habits in the way you want to continue them, and you’ll set yourself up for success in the long term. Because remember, this is not about a quick fix. The goal is not for you to hurry up and lose a bunch of weight following a diet you have no intention of sticking with for the long haul.

But too often, I see this happen. You take on a diet and strongarm yourself through it to get to your goal weight. And then you get there, and one of two things happens. One, you’re hangry and deprived from the diet you’re following because you’ve cut out so many things. Or two, you relied on willpower alone and didn’t work on developing discipline around your food, and you haven’t practiced managing your urges, or sometimes, both situations apply.

Whether it’s either or both, the outcome is often that you start getting a little looser with your eating and the weight starts creeping back up. This is the stuff that yo-yo dieting is made of. This is also why super restrictive ways of eating just do not work, and relying on willpower does not work.

If you want to be successful at losing weight and then maintaining it, two things need to happen. First, find a way of eating that fits into your life and keeps you at a weight that you are happy. And then second, practice discipline and managing your urges around food. And then, most important, know that there is no finish line here.

Honestly, that’s one of the biggest take-home points, when we’re talking about a result goal versus a habit goal. You’re not done once you hit your goal weight. You’re not done once you finish your 5k. If you want to stay in running shape, you have to keep running. If you want to keep muscle, you have to keep showing up the gym and do your strength training workouts.

Maintaining your habits is just as important as forming the habits if you want your weight loss to stick. Maintaining an exercise schedule is necessary if you want to stay in shape. And I know it’s hard to hear, but you’ll never be done, because habits are meant to be indefinite. And that’s why we want to set you up with healthy ones.

This is why I don’t do diets. Diets imply a starting point and a stopping point. You go on a diet; you go off a diet. There’s a stop and a start. And that is not what this is about. This is about changing your lifestyle, and in essence, changing your relationship with food.

I know it sounds hokey, and it’s said all the time, but it’s the truth; this is a lifestyle, not a diet. Your lifestyle is a collection of habits repeated over and over again, so let’s make them good ones that support you. I cannot stress this enough.

And so, this is why, while it is totally fine to have a result goal, I would encourage you to focus your energy and effort on the habit goal. Unlike result goals, habit goals, they don’t have a finish line, right? But to have a goal, you focus on two key elements: You focus on the behavior or the action itself, and then you focus on consistency.

Meaning, you take the behavior, and you repeat it over and over again. And then, you let the result speak for itself. This is key, this is how it works. So, if you accept my definition of habit, there are two pieces to this: There’s your behaviors, or the actions you take that make up the habit. And the second part is repetition. That’s consistency.

So, let’s talk about that. You know I’m a big fan of consistency. And when I say consistency, all I mean is that you repeat the behavior regularly and reliably. Back to the case of weight loss, eating in a calorie deficit two days a week, only to eat in a caloric excess the other five days, that is not being consistent. For those of you trying to establish exercise, running once and then sleeping through the rest of your workouts for the week, that is not consistent.

So, for whatever lifestyle change you’re looking to make, consistency is paramount to your success. You take the behavior, and then you decide on a timeline and number of repetitions you will hold yourself to. Let’s go back to weight loss. What would it feel like if you decided, in the next week you will eat a salad with dinner six of seven nights? And then you focus your energy on that.

Contrast that to the result goal of losing 20 pounds. Which one feels like a better place to channel your focus? What would happen if you took that approach, looked at it one day at a time, and focused on eating one salad a day? You can totally do that. And it will feel so much more approachable than if you were solely focused on the number on your scale.

And I get it, it is not big, it’s not fancy, it’s a salad. I’m asking you to put all of your energy into eating one salad a day, for six of the next seven days. That’s it. And when I’ve suggested this to some of you, you raise an eyebrow at me because you think it needs to be bigger, or fancier or more wild than what I’m suggesting. But it doesn’t.

In fact, it’s when you start adding to it that things get complicated, and it starts to fall apart. Remember, most humans do not do well with big change. Small and sustainable beats big and unsustainable every time. Every time. So, even though you may laugh when I suggest one salad a day for six or seven days, when push comes to shove, it might actually be harder to do than you think. And I say that because I’ve seen it.

So, choose your habit; the behavior that you believe will get you closer to your goals. And too, remember, for a habit to be helpful, it should one, have an impact and two, be something you can actually get yourself to do. I know I often go to salad, but it doesn’t have to be. You choose or I can help you choose.

But the point here is to first pick the habit, and then second commit to a consistency goal. So, remember, you have complete control over both of these. You have control over whether or not you run four days per week for 30 minutes, or whether or not you have a salad with dinner, six or seven nights this week. You are in charge here.

Choose the behavior, choose the consistency, and then focus on those. That’s the stuff habit is made of; behavior and repetitions. The result will come, and it will be a direct reflection of the lifestyle you have created for yourself. There is a huge difference between striving for the finish line and developing a lifestyle. Huge difference.

So, let’s take a step back for a second and look at the big picture here. While it is not as sexy to focus on one day at a time as it is to focus on a 5k or 20 pounds down, I want to offer you this: This is about creating a lifestyle. Right? The outcome is 20 pounds lost. The outcome is a 5k race done. But your lifestyle is what will set you up for success to get you that outcome. Big difference.

To put it very simply, your lifestyle is not an outcome. Instead, your lifestyle is a collection of habits repeated regularly, that in turn, gives you your outcome. When you find a habit that is doable and sustainable, you can focus on taking it one day at a time so that it becomes a lifestyle. Okay?

I hope this helps you to see the difference between result goals and habit goals. They are both useful to have. A goal is something over which you have complete control, and it’s meant to be repeated for the long haul. Your result goal is the outcome of your habit goal. If you focus your energy on the habit goal, the result goal will follow, really.

And if you want help designing your habit goals, let’s talk. This is what we do. You choose the result, and then we get to work to design the habit goals that will make your result inevitable. And in that process, you will change your relationship with yourself. You will change how you eat, move, and think, and you will see exactly what you are capable of.

So, check out my website, go to www.CarrieHollandMD.com/contact and tell me what habits you need help with, and let’s get to work. All right?

Thank you again for hanging out with me, and I’ll catch you again next week.

If you like what you’ve been hearing, please review the show. I would love to get your feedback and ideas. Your suggestions have inspired episodes and will help me make the show better for you. And share this podcast with a friend, text a show link, share a screenshot, or post a link to the show on your social media. Be sure to tag me @CarrieHollandMD on either Instagram or Facebook, so I can follow along and engage with you.

This is how we get the word out to other working moms who want to feel strong, inside and out. If you know someone who wants to feel better or eat and move differently but she is too tired or too busy, it is time to change things up. And you know, making that change starts with how you think. And that is what we do here on the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. I’ll see you next week.

Thanks for listening to Strong as a Working Mom. If you want more information on how to eat, move, and think, so you can live in the body you want, with the mind to match, visit me at CarrieHollandMD.com.

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