Mental Health

Operationalizing Your Goals

March 21, 2024

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I'm Michelle — health coach for women who want to escape diet culture and find the health they deserve.

Meet Michelle

One of the amazing coaches who works inside Wayza Health, Christina Claytor, is renowned for her expertise in habits and taking action. As the founder of Mindful Health Revolution, Christina empowers clients to bid farewell to overwhelming diets and exercise regimens, instead steering them towards embracing health on their own terms with confidence and clarity.

Something I have always loved about working with Christina is her ability to operationalize all of my abstract ideas. And so today, I’m sharing some of Christina’s expert techniques for inspiring action and operationalizing your dreams. We’ll dive into how she approaches client aspirations, how she takes the overarching goal and identifies actionable steps for getting there, how to think about yourself in new ways, and the importance of groundwork for letting go of negative associations and the “failure” mindset in order to progress.

Setting Direction for Action: Finding Your North Star

Both Christina and I hear clients all the time (and I’m even guilty of this too) saying things like “my goal for 2024 is to get myself in the best health that I’ve ever been.”  And yet so many of us set these types of goals and then nothing happens. But why is that? 

Actually, there is nothing wrong with making huge statements like this. Yes, you will need to break that down into real, concrete actions but the big, fuzzy aspiration of “the best health we’ve ever had” is still going to act as our guiding North Star. So when we’re not exactly sure what road to go down, we can at least head in that direction. But we also need to ask a few more questions when we make that goal.

We might start by questioning, “What does that goal really mean?” Usually, the goals that we make come from a space in our life where we feel like something is missing or something could be better. And when you dig a little deeper to find that space where you feel like you want to improve, you can start to narrow it down. For example, I personally want to enjoy a little bit more flexibility and mobility as I’ve been feeling a little stiff and slower to move.

Transforming Ideas into Action

Once you’ve identified those areas (like movement) that you want to focus on, you can then to operationalize those desires.

Try to dig a little deeper to help you figure out your next steps:

  • What have you tried before to improve this aspect of your health?
  • Out of all of the things you’ve done before, what helps the most?

For me, I have found stretching to be one of the most useful tools to help with my mobility – but only if it’s for something specific. Lately, I have been working through a program to help me do the splits – I don’t really care if I can do the splits or not, but somehow knowing that I’m working towards doing them makes me stretch more! I also like the series of videos that I’m working through to get there.

Now you’ve identified something that helps you move towards your goal, ask yourself this:

  • What was the last reason you decided NOT to do this when you had intended to?

The last time I chose not to stretch when I had planned to was because I was tired. I always associate stretching with the end of the day. And so when I’m ready to be done with the day, I just don’t want to stretch. Then, if I force myself to do it, I don’t enjoy doing it because I’d rather be winding down for the evening.

When we’re creating new habits, the important thing to remember is that when you start them, they are not a habit and they are not a routine. Something being a habit implies that it happens automatically or with almost no effort from you – we just do it on autopilot. 

When a behavior is new to us and our brain and our life, it takes work. And so if a barrier to stretching is fatigue at the end of the day, I could try stretching earlier in the day to see if taking that obstacle away helps.

Overcoming All-or-Nothing Thinking

Many of us are beginners when it comes to making changes; we’re not experts. Trying to tackle more than one change at a time is considered an advanced skill, as is consistency, especially with new behaviors. Starting with just one change, rather than overwhelming ourselves with multiple habits, is more realistic, especially in the context of our busy lives.

For example, I’ve found it challenging to consistently do my 15-minute stretching videos four times a week. Adding another habit on top of that would likely result in neither habit being accomplished. By focusing on one habit at a time, you increase your chances of success. It’s unrealistic to expect to go from doing nothing to doing everything all at once.

Starting small and gradually building momentum is key. Instead of struggling with 15 minutes four times a week, I could try doing five minutes, four times a week or 15 minutes, twice a week. Experiment with different approaches and create a realistic plan for yourself.

The “all or nothing” mindset is a  big hurdle for many people when setting goals. And with coaching, it becomes a lot easier to handle that. Having someone in your corner, fully committed to your success, is a game-changer. It’s like having a sounding board where you can bounce ideas without any pressure. You can just brainstorm and try out little tweaks here and there. Remember, it’s not just about whether you’re doing your habits or not, it’s about evaluating them as well. 

Setting Dates for Success

One suggestion Christina has given me in the past is to set a date where I intentionally sit down and assess where I’m at. Firstly, it helps manage the overwhelm that often arises when starting something new. 

There’s this idea that when we try a new behavior, we’re committing to doing it every day forever, which isn’t always realistic. Most habits aren’t daily commitments. Having a hard end date to reassess gives us a clear point to evaluate our progress. It allows us to say, “This isn’t working,” or “I like this, but we need to make some tweaks,” or “This is great, I’m going to keep doing it.”

Christina suggests a timeframe of six weeks for most people, especially if they’re tackling habit changes independently as it takes about one to two weeks just to get into the rhythm of the new behavior and then you need some time to actually implement the habit consistently. Six weeks gives you enough time to collect data on whether the habit is effective and if it’s aligning with your goals.

So here’s what it might look like for me: I’ll move my stretching routine to lunchtime and commit to doing it for 15 minutes on Mondays, as I’m off from the hospital on Mondays. I’ll stick to this plan for six weeks. And at the end of that period, I’ll assess if I’m actually following through on Mondays, how it’s impacting my day, if it’s posing any challenges, and if it’s contributing to my goal of improved mobility. Based on that assessment, I’ll adjust my approach accordingly. 
When we start to break down our aspirations into actionable tasks and set clear assessment dates like this, we can lay the groundwork for tangible progress and pave the way for sustainable growth!

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