3 tactics to try when change is hard
Updated: Aug 3, 2020
When a goal seems elusive and out of reach, what if you approached it with curiosity, a data driven experimental mindset and patience instead of pushing, forcing, and just trying harder?
Goals are important. They help us achieve our dreams and desires. Achieving them creates a sense of accomplishment and pride. However, focusing exclusively on the desired outcome of the goal, particularly when it is challenging and progress is slow, can leave us with feelings of frustration and failure. I recently discovered a solution to this problem.
At the beginning of May, I set a running goal. Based on Mark Sisson's book Primal Endurance, I wanted to see if I could run 5K in 40 min or less keeping my heart rate in the fat burning zone. The goal itself is not all that relevant to the my discovery and what I'm sharing with you, however I'm including it as a real-life example of the approach I took.
In creating and carrying out this goal, I did 3 things differently than what I'd typically do.
Begin with Curiosity
First, I set my goal from a place of curiosity. The idea of running while keeping your heart rate in a fat burning versus cardio zone was intriguing to me. I found an aspect of running that was new to me and I used that as the foundation for my goal. I knew it meant that I'd have to run at a much slower pace than I was used to and I was ok with that. I was also curious about the process. The theory is that over time as you get better conditioned, your pace will gradually increase even though you are keeping your heart rate the same. I wanted to see if this was true.
Next, I identified the specific data I would use to track progress. This is my 25 years in business and IT showing through😊, and it turned out to be extremely valuable. My plan was to run 40 minutes 3 times a week. So those 2 numbers became my action measures showing that I was putting in the time and effort. My outcome measure was my pace, with a goal of 8:00 min/km. I also tracked my average heart rate and % of time spent in my target HR zone. (P.S. all of this data was recorded automatically with my heart rate monitor and app making data collection super easy!) I summarized the data and watched it trend week over week.
Each run and each week was an opportunity to get feedback and data on progress. Some weeks the numbers moved in the right direction, and sometimes they didn't.
The key with data is the attitude you bring to it. You have to use data as an objective measure of progress and not as judgement. It's easy to see the numbers and start to beat yourself up if they aren't what you want or expect. Instead of getting discouraged and automatically jumping to conclusions that it's not working or that you aren't trying hard enough, think of yourself as a scientist conducting an experiment. The data is just information. It is informing you on your progress. Treat it with the same impartiality as a scientist treats data gathered during an experiment.
Finally, practice patience. Health goals related to eating, exercise and managing stress are challenging and take time to achieve. First you need to regularly and consistently do the action or behaviour that is designed to lead to the desired result - i.e. build the habit. Then you need to give your body time to adjust and change as a result of the habit. Either or both steps can take time.
In my case, I already had a physical activity habit, so getting into the routine of running three times a week wasn't too difficult. Getting the results I wanted however took time and patience. Running is a bit like losing weight. Some days are easier than others. Sometimes you see progress when you wouldn't expect it and other times you show up feeling good then under perform and can't explain why.
It took the first few weeks to establish a baseline. I didn’t start to see a trend until week 5. Then it took another month before I started to feel like my desired outcome was within reach. I'm still not 100% there, but I'm getting closer and know that what I'm doing is working - and that validation is the best part of all.
You've heard it before, and it bears repeating.
Focus and trust the process first and foremost and the results will come in due time.
How might you employ curiosity, a data driven experimental mindset and patience to achieve your goals? Need some help? Book a From Knowing to Doing discovery call with me.