I am in the midst of two long-term goals. One, writing a book. Tada! I’ll pause while you dance with joy. All done? Thank you very much for that. I assure you I will celebrate. The other is becoming the healthiest me I can be; weight loss. This is one is a huge check mark on my life's to-do list. The convergence of my deadline over the next year, maybe even two leads me to think about the rewards of completion, of crossing the finish lines—real and metaphorical—of life. And I am also thinking about what it takes to stick with a long-term goal. In that spirit, I offer some of what helps me.
Recognize that it is hard for everyone.
Both writing a book and weight loss are difficult, as is running a marathon, starting a business, losing a substantial amount of weight, and any other larger long-term goals to which you might set your mind to accomplishing. Even though this is my first book and certainly not my first attempt at weight loss, I know I will have some low moments when I think I will never finish, the book wouldn’t be any good, no one will want to read it. This weight loss is taking too long. I keep derailing. You know, I know that there is always going to be a point in the midst of writing a book when one thinks they won’t finish, no one will want to read it, it won’t be any good. Do you know what I've noticed? I've noticed that just about every writer says the same. The trick is to push through—a day of writing bad sentences is better than a day of writing no sentences. It means you have something to work on. Eventually, the good sentences will come. As in weight loss the process, the achievements will become noticeable. Patience is KEY.
Big goals are really a series of small goals.
Writing a book is like driving a car at night. ''You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." It is an apt metaphor for all long-term goals; break them up into incremental, day-by-day or week-by-week achievable goals.
The advice is prevalent because it is the truth, and it works. We work for a reward on a very short-term basis. Motivation is really the result of a series of decisions to keep working. We are more likely to do that if positive feedback does not come only once a year.
Friends can hold you accountable along the way.
Since my book is about my life, there had to be a mention of friends in it somewhere. The truth is they are essential to the process. No matter the goal. Writing is a lonely profession. While you are ultimately accountable to as the primary editor, your days are spent alone at your desk. So it has been for me also in my weight loss journey. However, throughout this journey, I have had two friends who serve as weekly accountability buddies (shout out to my sister Joyce and Leslea!). We are all engaged in creative endeavours and we must account for what we’ve done over the last week and what we plan to do over the next week, every single week. It helps. It works. It’s why fitness and weight loss apps try to get you to join forces with other members who inevitably become friends and mentors.
Cultivate a growth mindset.
We need to recognize the difference between what is termed a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. In a fixed mindset, people believe that their intelligence and talent are fixed and cannot be developed further. They believe it is talent alone that dictates success. In a growth mindset, by contrast, “People believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and putting in hard work.” This framework has been essential for me in writing my book. When the words and sentences don’t come, when I can’t grasp the ideas I want to convey, I tell myself to just keep thinking about it, that though my “talent” seems limited in the moment, it can rise to the occasion eventually through hard work.
Train your brain to help.
Training for any long-term goals is not just physical, it has it's psychological influences as well. Okay, so writing a book does not require the same physical stamina as weight loss—however, both requires resisting the siren call of the refrigerator and the quilt of the essentialness of every household chore that you're putting off on your priority list. But the principle is the same. Endurance, is “the struggle to continue against a mounting desire to stop.” You need to train the brain to recognize that those signals are in fact surmountable.
Looking backwards has its own rewards.
The truth is that there is plenty of work ahead for me. I am not actually “done.” Editing, production, marketing all lie ahead if I should decide I want to publish my work. It will be another year, perhaps even two before I am anywhere being close to finished t For now, however, I am just going to take time to savour the accomplishment. Sometimes we are so quick to succumb to discouragement or roadblocks. So it is with weight loss and becoming the healthiest you, you can be.
If I were to give any kind of advice or encouragement it would be this.