Stick to goals using mindfulness: be more consistent
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Do you set goals and then ditch them after a few days? Lack of follow-through is so frustrating. Yet it’s so common. Well, don’t worry. Learn to be more consistent and stick to goals using mindfulness.
Can you relate to the following stories?
Four people commit to change
Four people, who’ve each struggled with a behaviour they don’t like, decide to change. They’ve all taken months to get to this point. They’ve had to overcome some unhelpful beliefs about goal setting, and memories of unsuccessful attempts in the past.
Jason wants to start eating healthily.
Bill wants to learn basic accounting skills.
Kate wants to stop snapping at her partner.
Marie wants to learn to be assertive.
1 They begin with the best of intentions:
They learn about SMART goals.
Bill enrols in an evening course, and sets up a work area at home.
Kate reads about anger management.
Marie finds a book on assertiveness in her local library.
Jason buys more vegetables, nuts and fruits, and finds healthy recipes.
2 Each blocks out time for their goal
They begin each day with their goal as high priority. They’ve each identified this goal as important to them. They tell other people in their life what they want to achieve.
3 Yet, each gets derailed
All those intentions vanish as daily hassles sap their energy. They find it almost impossible to be more consistent with their efforts. Without quite knowing how:
Bill skips his first assignment.
Kate screams at her partner twice in a day.
Marie stops reading after chapter one.
And Jason orders junk food deliveries three times this week.
4 Each feels disappointed in themselves
They feel they’re wasting another chance to change. They just can’t seem to be consistent in their efforts to reach their goals.
5 They decide to start again tomorrow
But the same thing keeps happening. Somehow their plans get sabotaged. They continue the very habits they want to stop. And they never really start the new, more helpful habits. Unfortunately none of them knows how to use mindfulness to stick to goals. And for Bill, his poor sleep habits are also making it much harder to stick to his goals.
Do you relate to these stories?
Do you know the feeling of being doomed to repeat the same old behaviours forever?
You feel powerless to change. You feel hopeless and even a bit stupid. Then you start thinking you may as well give up.
Nothing works, not for you. Other people seem to manage, but you’re different. You’ve got some fatal flaw. You don’t know how to be more consistent.
That cloud of defeat descends
You tell yourself: It’s too hard to change. This is the way you are. This is the way you’ve always been, and always will be. This is just you.
You’ve probably all got your own version of these thoughts. You’ve been over them hundreds of times. They’re your default mode of thinking when anything goes wrong.
Every time you think you’ve “failed.”
Who needs anyone else to tell you how bad you are? You‘re doing a great hatchet job all on your own.
But what if you don’t have to think this?
What if that self-talk wasn’t true? What if you didn’t have to take any notice of it? What if you could learn to be more consistent?
Stick to goals using mindfulness
Now is a good time to revise some of the skills involved in using mindfulness. Remember those skills of observing and noticing? Noticing your moment-by-moment thoughts and feelings. Naming and describing those feelings to yourself. And noticing how you respond to daily hassles.
They can all be put to good use in helping you achieve what you want to achieve.
1 Use mindfulness to be more consistent
Take closer notice of the following:
a) The messages you send to yourself about what you want to achieve.
b) How these messages affect your feelings.
c) How your thoughts and feelings both affect how you act.
d) How your behaviour then affects what you think and how you feel.
Notice how your thoughts, emotions and behaviour are all linked.
2 Learn what affects your behaviour
Use this knowledge to reach your goals more easily. You can combine mindfulness with other strategies for maximum benefit.
One of the most helpful strategies is to identify unhelpful ways of thinking. Once you know your unhelpful thinking styles, you can challenge them if needed.
In this article, we’ll discuss a mixture of both these strategies. So you can stick to goals using mindfulness, as well as challenge unhelpful thoughts.
3 Identify thoughts and feelings about goals
During mindfulness practice, accept any thoughts and feelings related to your goals.
Allow them to be there. Be aware of unhelpful messages. Write them down if they’re persistent. Then decide they’re not worth worrying about.
Make the decision to change your focus from these thoughts. Switch to a more rewarding or absorbing activity. Work out what the next tiny step would be that will move you closer to your goal. As you get more involved in what you are doing, the unhelpful messages will fade away.
You may need to gently remind yourself over and over to let them go. That’s OK – it’s all part of how mindfulness works. Don’t allow yourself to be annoyed or distracted by them.
4 Realise you don’t have to believe these thoughts
Just because you have a thought doesn’t mean it’s true or significant. You can believe you won’t succeed at something and still go ahead and do it well.
You’ll also realise you don’t have to be scared of your emotions. Just because you have an emotion doesn’t mean you must focus on it. Or that it means anything much other than you’re having a strong emotion.
You can allow it to fade away too. Remind yourself over and over to gently let it go. Then refocus on something more meaningful – preferably the goal you want to achieve.
5 Learn that not all thoughts or emotions are helpful
Some thoughts and emotions are distorted and don’t reflect reality.
When you’re stressed, worried or feeling down, you’re more likely to have distorted thoughts and feelings. That’s when it’s helpful to either:
1 let these thoughts and feelings go or
2 use them to find what’s stopping you from taking action.
Either way, you can keep aiming for your goals without being sidetracked. The thoughts and emotions will gradually lose their power to upset you.
In the next article, we’ll focus on how Bill uses mindfulness to stick to his goals more consistently.