Living LifeWise is a regular column provided by LifeWise Ambassadors – LifeWise employees whose healthy choices are helping them live better lives. Today’s column is provided by LifeWise Ambassador Laura McLeod.
Any good sailor studies a map and sets a course before heading out to sea. And yet, every sailor understands that conditions may shift. The sails will need trimming, and new information may influence their direction. They recognize that there are a lot of variables affecting their trip — and that part of the journey is staying open, looking for opportunities and being willing to change.
And so it is with life.
It helps to know where you’re going, and the more specific you can be about where you’re headed, the more likely you are to get there. But goals, like New Year’s resolutions, often get sidelined. Maybe conditions shift. Maybe they’re good ideas at the time, but they lack true commitment. Maybe they aren’t SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely).
Even if you are committed and your goals are SMART, following through can be arduous. I like to sum up the challenge with this quote (paraphrasing Muhammad Ali): “It’s not the mountains ahead but the rocks in your shoe.”
Whether it’s sailing or rock climbing, the point is that having goals isn’t all it takes. To make sure I don’t get sidetracked or thrown off course, I follow these four steps.
Ask big questions
Once a year in December — when my birthday, the winter solstice and New Year’s converge — I set my direction by asking myself big, bold questions:
- What do I want my life to look like?
- What do I want to create?
- In my wildest dreams, what would I wish for?
Once I have answers to these questions, I dig a little deeper:
- What am I willing to do to make this happen? Like, really willing?
- What steps do I need to take to get there?
- What do I need to let go of to make it happen?
This annual process gives my goals shape, ensures they’re SMART and gets me closer to the life I want.
Moderate daily choices
As a certified life coach (in addition to my work at LifeWise), I help clients understand — and I also learn this lesson myself — that we create our lives every day with the choices we make. Sometimes, we’re creating our lives with unstated, unconscious choices. It’s those daily moments of choice — conscious or not — where we determine whether we’ll meet our goals.
While many of our daily choices don’t have major significance, others do. If I want to lose inches from my waistline, how important is that leftover cookie or skipping that workout? Will these choices get me closer to my desire or keep me stuck? Am I “scratching an itch” of immediate gratification, or making room for something more satisfying? I make the choice.
A lot of unconscious choices are made from past experience. We remember unconsciously, and our “flight or fight” conditioning kicks in to keep us safe. When goals feel overwhelming and we feel like giving up, it’s possible that underneath those feelings is something else: fear. We may be afraid we’ll fail or that we’re not really capable after all.
So while looking inside can be difficult, it’s important. It helps to question what’s really going on. Is my goal truly no longer important? Maybe, maybe not. I can always reassess my goals — but I make sure I do so for the right reasons.
What I’ve realized is that my life is too important to leave to chance. Having an overall vision of what I want my life to look like gives me something to strive for and always keep in mind. Setting benchmarks gives me a path to get there. And weighing the choices I make in life keeps me true to that path.
Laura McLeod is an internal communications manager at LifeWise, and is convinced that lifestyle trumps genetics. Because her genetics include many lifestyle-based illnesses, she strives to eat well, exercise and get regular check-ups. While she’s officially reached ‘mid-life,’ she believes you’re only as old as you feel. Laura lives in Ballard with her long-time partner and her energetic, playful cat. Learn more about Laura in our Living LifeWise video series.