Setting up for success – Goal setting

In the realm of health and weight loss one of my biggest problem areas is night team snacking…which can very quickly evolve into night time binging. ‘Simple’ solution – just don’t eat after 7 pm.

I’ve tried that and can go about a week with noticeable results, but too soon I fail…and fail…and fail again. If this were an experiment, which, really, it is, I’d conclude there was something wrong with the proposed intervention.

That’s why this idea of mental energy fascinated me and the implications of the studies showing low mental energy undermines willpower and smart decision making. It gave me this idea that rather than focus all the attention on the singular event of eating after 7, what could I do to set myself up for success so I’d be less likely to oversnack during that time?

There is a ‘simple’ approach to this as well – look at the drivers, the causes that make you snack or overeat late in the evening and remove them. Most directly – remove the food. E.g. throw out tempting food, don’t go in the kitchen after 7, find a path from living room to bedroom that doesn’t go through the kitchen. A couple of flaws with this – you need to eat and avoiding all food is just plain cumbersome and complicated. But, for some, this could work. It didn’t for me.

Plan B – understand the subconscious reasons behind late snacking; your subconscious is ridiculously powerful and drives most of what you think and do, even if we do like to pretend we have control of it. We are actually better off listening to it, and collaborating, than trying to push it under – but that’s a conversation for another day.

In all likelihood, the underlying cause is some form of stress – either from work, from self, from relationships, etc.; there are many layers there. This, too, is very important and doing this can solve the bigger problem for many. Again, not me. It helped – but didn’t resolve things completely.

I’m on to Plan C – what if I tackle this as a challenging, complex problem, and approach it how I might approach a more complex project or problem at work? In other words, rather than thinking a simple solution might work, and all I have to do is implement it, what if I recognize it’s not that simple and I might need several steps to get there. What if I treat it as a bigger problem that could be managed more effectively if I break it down into smaller, manageable steps?

Luckily, I don’t have to reinvent the wheel – I can use existing frameworks, ones often used for possibly the most common complex problem millions of people struggle with, namely implementing and maintaining a new health plan, including diet and fitness.

This is when I happened to come across Dr. Mercola’s Guide to Optimal Fitness. He includes a section in his magazine (Spring, 2016) on exactly this topic – how to set yourself up for success – and the steps he lists could effectively be applied to any complex challenge.

I’m modifying it slightly for my personal experiment. Here are the steps I will take and why:

  1. Develop the DESIRE – “Our actions are usually based on fear or desire.” Focus on and build on the desire; depending on fear will lead to failure.
  2. Believe you can succeed – This is both a mindset, but also requires thoughtful consideration of the goal and the steps.
  3. Write down the goals, in 2 forms: (1) one form in a lot of detail, something to read for added visceral motivation and (2) one form short, one sentence, that can become your mantra
  4. Make a list of all the benefits of achieving the goal and “Get Emotional” – get at the WHY, not the WHAT. This will pump up that desire component and that belief component.
  5. Analyze your starting point – and be honest. What is the current situation and what are the components that come together to cause or promote the undesired behavior, or prevent the desired behaviors?
  6. Set a deadline
  7. Make a list of the people who’s support an cooperation you need.
  8. Write out a plan with the specific steps – both what and when.
  9. Use visualization.
  10. Make the decision in advance that you will never give up.
  11. Keep going – recognize it’s a journey, and little failures along the way are signals on how to refine and correct.

Next step – map this out for myself….coming soon.