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Here’s How To Turn Goals Into Permanent Life Changes

Every year, thousands of runners make promises to eat more veggies and cover more miles. But often those resolutions don’t get much further than the first few weeks of the year. Women’s Running caught up with Emmy Award–winning life coach Rhonda Britten for some pointers on how to maintain willpower and turn flash-in-the-pan resolutions into permanent life changes.

Women’s Running: Why do we make resolutions in the first place?
Rhonda Britten: It’s pretty simple: People don’t want to repeat the past. We make resolutions out of a desire to change. For many of us, flipping the calendar page signifies the beginning of another chapter in life. It means saying goodbye to what didn’t work before, learning from our mistakes and moving on. But before settling on a goal, you must prepare for this life change and be willing to practice it. You wouldn’t jump into a pool without checking the temperature and depth first, right? Lay the groundwork for this new aspect of your life before you dive in.

WR: What are the most common resolutions?
RB: In my experience, women value love, relationships, health and security, as opposed to men, who seem to focus more on financial gains. Of course weight-loss resolutions are common for both males and females, but the reasoning behind them often differ. Women are often going through some identity issues to justify the change. If your goal is weight loss, ask yourself, Where is this goal stemming from? Is it a lack of self-confidence? If so, consider reframing your goal. And don’t wait—empower yourself now.

WR: Why is it so easy to break a resolution?
RB: People make promises to themselves that are too big and bold. Changes need to be incremental to go the long haul. It takes time to adapt new skills into daily life. For example, instead of setting a goal of losing 20 pounds, use smaller and more attainable milestones, say losing 5 pounds every month until you reach 20. This will make it more likely that these changes will turn into permanent behavior. We live in an instant-is-realistic society and seem to give up if we don’t get immediate results. Resolutions are too often planned like a sprint when they should be thought of like a marathon. As any runner knows, you have to spend quite a bit of time pounding that pavement before you cross the finish line.

WR: What are your tips for sticking with a goal?
RB: The buddy system works best. When you have to stay accountable to someone else, it’s harder to give up on your own goal. Tracking is also helpful when transforming any aspect of your life. Just like the good old sticker chart in kindergarten, a visual illustration of progress is an excellent motivator—you’re monitoring yourself based on data and facts rather than emotions (how you feel you’re doing). Concrete evidence is a great indicator of a job well done.

Coaching also helps. While training for a marathon, my running coach helped me overcome some knee issues just by doing some simple exercises and making a few adjustments. By following his direction, I was able to finish the race. A life coach can work in the same way—simple tips from a pro can help guide you to success. Finally, be gentle on yourself. We are our worst critics and often too hard on ourselves. Without kindness, failure is unavoidable.

RHONDA’S FAVE MANTRA

“There’s nothing wrong  with you—it’s just fear. It’s time to take off that shame blanket.”

Goal-Setting Rules

Set yourself up for success by subscribing to these simple guidelines.

1.  Enlist a friend to help you stay accountable.
2.  Track your progress in a journal.
3.  Hire a coach for extra support.
4.  Don’t be too hard on yourself! Keep your eyes on your end goal, and don’t stress over bumps in the road.

Look Back

Rhonda recommends taking a peek in your rearview mirror before driving forward. Instead of focusing on all the changes you want to make in the new year, concentrate on what you are already grateful for. By fixating on your accomplishments and good fortunes of the previous year, you will enter January with overflowing gratitude and a brighter outlook on your new lifestyle change. Have a reflection ceremony on Dec. 31. Write down 100 accomplishments or things you are grateful for to carry with you into the year to come.