As an athlete, would you go from the locker room to full-on sprints? Not if you are smart –because you would perform poorly and probably get injured. Even though setting that PR might be the ultimate goal, get to the top. We all need to warm up for the big stuff and it’s the same for the other areas of our lives, from business to personal finances to adopting new healthy lifestyles. Just like in business, celebrating small wins will help you create a roadmap for where you want to go in the long term.

The ‘false hope’ syndrome

For those of us who aren’t elite athletes, the early months of the year are often the reset point and a fresh start on our business goals and health ambitions. One of the reasons that people fail at their goals, however, is because they fall victim to the ‘false hope’ syndrome.

We chase the rush, declaring big hopes, big dreams and then abandon all efforts when reality sets in.

A girl wearing a vibrant yellow tshirt is motivated in an indoor cycling class. goal-setting, success, GamePlan A, confidence
Two days into an advanced spin class and you leave shaking your head muttering “what was I thinking?” ©Simon Hoffman/Getty Images

Healthwise, the most common fallback goals are claiming to want six pack abs and lose 20 pounds. People think that they should want these things because society told us we should or, once we get skinny or lean, we think that we will have finally achieved happiness and social acceptance and that all our problems will melt away.

Yet, none of us are entirely sure how to actually get a six pack. The information out there is confusing and contradictory, especially considering each one of us have different physiologies and lifestyles. And even if we do lose those 20 pounds or start to see abs peeking through, it won’t be enough. You still won’t feel happy. You will get caught in a vicious cycle where, no matter what, you want to lose more weight and see more abs.

The diet industry has capitalized on our ‘false hope’ tendencies and confusion by inundating us with 30-day challenges, quick fixes, cleanses, etc.

Value the long-term

Maybe you lost a few pounds or started to see a little muscle definition after those 30 days, but you might be more psychologically damaged than you realize. Short-term, unsustainable challenges crush our self-confidence for setting long-term goals and making real progress. These challenges are always short because they aren’t realistically sustainable for the majority of the population. There is no way you could keep up that lifestyle for a longer period of time.

Self-confidence in your ability to complete a goal is crucial and the missing puzzle piece for a lot of people.When was the last time you actually followed through 100% on a long-term goal? If you are like most people you probably can’t think of a good example. Deep down, you doubt yourself because you haven’t experienced the elation and satisfaction of sticking to a long-term plan.

A female CrossFit instructor stands in front of a white board planning a class with her female students in a gritty gym. goal-setting, success, GamePlan A, confidence
It’s time to plan small wins that you can follow through on. ©Hero Images Inc/Getty Images

Here are five tips to build your confidence and move the needle on your health this year:

1. Give yourself a reality check

If you have a health-related goal in mind, answer this question: on a scale of 1-10, how important is your goal and how willing are you to make sacrifices to achieve it? If the answer is below a 7, you will want to rethink your plan. Don’t just set a goal for the sake of having one, or that isn’t truly relevant or important to you. What do you think you will really get from having six pack abs? Perhaps a health-related goal isn’t in the cards for you this year or you need outside help from a doctor, trainer, or health coach to figure out your health priorities.

2. Start with ridiculously small goals

Once you decide on a goal that is truly important to you, catch yourself in the act of the “false hope syndrome” and see if you can pull back a bit. Here are a few examples: If you are only working out once or twice a week now, but think that working out five days a week will get you the body you always wanted – is it realistic for you to jump right to five days a week? Probably not. Instead, meet yourself where you are today.

Setting a less ambitious goal is going to feel uncomfortable, because you aren’t necessarily getting that rush of chasing that pie in the sky. Trust me, the rush of actually achieving a goal is much more rewarding than just dreaming about it. Make a commitment to work out twice a week for a month and, once you can accomplish that number and it becomes a habit, try three times a week for two months.

Another common example these days is controlling your sugar intake. Most people jump to trying to cut their sugar completely, cold turkey. We are literally addicted to sugar and it is everywhere, creeping around in the most unexpected places – yogurt, oatmeal, condiments, etc. Trying to kick your sugar habit is extremely challenging but, if successful, has many health benefits. Start with a day or two a week of no added sugar. When you are able to maintain that goal for a month and feel more confident, start to up your game. Slow and steady is the name of the game.

3. Keep yourself accountable by tracking your progress

Whether it’s a paper calendar with smiley faces or an app on your phone, create a system where you can track when you go to the gym or have a no-sugar day.

4. Celebrate small wins

Lofty dreams and endless to-do lists feel great to create, but are overwhelming to actually execute. Big goals take a long time. By becoming hooked on small wins, you will keep your motivation high through each step.

5. Accept setbacks

Another huge mental barrier we face when trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle is the “all-or-nothing approach.” Holidays, birthdays, and illnesses happen. You are not perfect. Sometimes we eat cake. Sometimes we stay in bed instead of going to the gym. But we need to be better than those 30-day challenges and start to recognize the power of consistent effort over a long period of time. Do athletes win every single competition they play? Absolutely not. They lose. They have off-seasons. They get injured. But athletes, and you, can still come out on top by accepting setbacks and challenges as just part of the game.

Treat your health goals the same way you treat your professional targets. Investing just a little time in organization and planning can give you the confidence and plan to finally get active and eat healthier for long-term success!

Have you had small wins that lead to long-term success? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

1 COMMENT

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by Sarah 09.03.2018
This article completely resonates with me. It took me years to figure this stuff out. #1 and #2 are especially important so I reread them a few times to let it sink in. So while I don't have any long term successes *yet*, I'm counting on my small wins to get me there. Baby steps is where it's at.
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