What’s the deal with my timeline anyway?

This meme cracks me up… because I’ve totally said it to myself and it got me thinking about timelines and personal goals. When I decide I want to make a change I want it now and part of that mentality often includes an artificial timeline in which I believe I should be able to accomplish a goal. If I’m not keeping pace with that schedule I’m disappointed, frustrated, and petulant and in the worst case scenario I give up on the goal all together.  I see this same time restriction with some of my clients and on social media, especially when it comes to weight loss.

As a Lifetime Member of Weight Watchers, I’m a frequent user of their Connect community, which is basically Facebook for Weight Watchers members, but a really positive and supportive space where trolls are not welcome. I cannot tell you how many times a day I see a post about being disappointment with the pace of someone’s weight loss or frustrated that they only lost .4 pounds that week.  And I get it. I’ve been there. I know it is crazy frustrating when you feel like you’ve been putting in the work and you are not seeing the results you expect.

While it is totally normal to be disappointed or frustrated the danger of having a strict timeline is you are putting yourself under undue stress over something that is not a linear process. While many would have you believe that weight loss is simply about calories in versus calories out, it is far more complex than that; and holding yourself to a linear timeline for a non-linear process will only end in frustration and disappointment.

I’ve thought about this timeline trap quite a bit, and the phenomenon of quitting a goal when your progress is not fast enough. I think a number of things come into play to create this dynamic.

  • We all want immediate outcome results, forgetting that outcomes goals require behavioral action, and that requires time.
  • We’ve been taught that weight loss is about calories in versus calories out, which sounds like an easily controlled process, when in fact it is far more complex.
  • We are spoon-fed unrealistic expectations in the media from shows like the Biggest Loser to quick fix diets promising that we can lose 10 pounds in ten days winking at us in the checkout line at the grocery story.
  • This mentality speaks to a destination view rather than a journey mindset. Especially in weight management there is no destination, it is a journey and one that changes course throughout your life. Thinking that you’ll be done when you hit your goal weight is setting yourself up for failure.
  • This thinking smacks of the ‘shoulds’, which is just a sneaky way of judging ourselves.
  • We don’t seem to appreciate that the time is going to pass anyway; you might as well continue to focus on making healthy changes in your life, even if it feels like it is taking too long.

The real disconnect is mixing expectations for achieving an outcome goal, like weight loss with the ongoing experience of a behavioral change. There is no end date for behaviors. Make your experience easier and more enjoyable stop imposing some artificial timeline on your journey.

When that little voice pops-up and says “You should be doing this faster.” Please give yourself the gift of pausing and asking “Why?”

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What is your boiling frog problem?

We’ve all heard that if you drop a frog into boiling water it will hop out immediately, but if you put a frog in a pot of water and bring it to a boil, the frog will boil to death. So a boiling frog problem is one that happens gradually over time, creeping, creeping, creeping getting slightly worse every time you turn around.

In my work as a health and wellness coach I help clients with boiling frog problems all the time. The professional working mother, who keeps thinking ‘yes, I should be taking better care of myself, but I don’t have time. I’ll do it when things settle down.’ Things never settle down when you are a professional woman with children. (I know this from personal experience!) The former weekend warrior who looks fondly at pictures of past running races, and wonders when did racing become a thing in my past? The middle manager who is bored at work, but the thought of making a change is too daunting, so he convinces himself that bored and secure is better than the alternative.   To the woman who knows she should go see the dentist, but can’t seem to find the time to make the appointment, until she cracks a tooth.  We notice the boiling frog problem, but the water is so nice and warm it’s easy to minimize it or convince ourselves that we’ll get to it later.  And the temperature keeps rising!

We are all busy. We all have many competing priorities screaming for our attention, energy and time. For many people the easiest place to find a bit more attention, energy and time is to steal it from the things we need to do to take care of ourselves. In doing so we allow what might be an 8 pound weight gain over the last two years to become a 23 pound gain in the next two years.  The time between dental visits expands from 2 years to 5 years, and now we can add embarrassment to our list of reasons why we don’t call and make an appointment.  And the temperature keeps rising!

When people think about changing their boiling frog problem they usually do two things. The first is they ‘should’ themselves. I should do this. I should do that. There a mountain of research into motivation that says ‘should’ should be the new ‘s’ word, because it is really shitty as a motivational technique. The second thing we do is we try to tackle the whole problem at once. Rather than just swimming to the side and looking up, we expect to be able to jump clear of the pot, spring to a lovely stream and have the problem behind us. We are just setting ourselves up for failure when we try and tackle the whole challenge at once. And the temperature keeps rising!

It’s time to hop out of the water before you boil to death.  What is your boiling frog problem? Is it at work? Is it in a relationship? Is it tied to your weight or fitness? Pick one thing where you habitually say, ‘I’ll get to it later’ and ask yourself why might I want to start working on this thing today? What would a change in this boiling frog problem give me, and why is that thing important to me? By connecting to what is valuable to you now is a far better motivational technique, and one that will serve you well as you swim to the side of the pot and reach for the lip.

If you have a boiling frog problem, but it seems too daunting to tackle or you don’t know where to start I would love to have a conversation about how I can help you out of the boiling water.

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