The Power of Yes (or, how to really say yes to your goals)
How do you lose weight when you love pasta? How do you stay in shape when there are a hundred things you'd rather do than exercise? How do you get that project finished when you have an opportunity to go to the beach instead?
It's time to face some hard truths. Do we strive to fill our lives with pleasant activities? Yes! Can we do it all the time? No!
Sometimes we just have to do things we don't enjoy in order to achieve a desired goal. We'll enjoy it when we get to that goal. In fact, we'll probably feel quite pleasantly righteous when we go from the size 10 to size 8. We'll feel a sense of accomplishment when we realize that the snug fit of our shirt is due to more defined muscles from working out. We'll feel empowered when the project is complete and we can move onto the next exciting assignment.
Achieving our goals requires that we not indulge every whim or pleasure. The momentary high of having that steaming bowl of pasta now is definitely satisfying. I'm salivating just thinking about it. Dropping down to that next clothing size is also pleasurable, but it takes longer to get there. Still, you know how awesome it is to switch to the "other" wardrobe, the one you haven't fit into for 5 years.
Happiness experts struggle with understanding the differences between lasting happiness and momentary highs. Which is going to be more lasting, more deeply satisfying? The pasta or the size 8? I'd argue the size 8 every time. When my fitness level improves I experience the satisfaction day after day, and, as the godfather of soul said (fade in James Brown), I feel good! The pasta, on the other hand, is here today, gone tomorrow, and I'm still in my size 10.
The boredom factor also affects our good intentions. While we know that the rewards for going to the beach are not nearly as powerful as the rewards for finishing the project, every so often, we can't help ourselves. We find that the surf (or the X-Box, or the guys, or the . . .) is calling our name so loudly, it's hard to ignore. The editing, research or other final touches we're working on become a drag. When the finish line is so close you can see it, you can't back down. You have to stay the course in order to reach your goals.
Here are a few useful considerations.
Ask the tough questions. To achieve important goals you have to figure out when to say yes and when to say no. Or in coaching terms, if I say yes to the pasta, what am I saying no to? You got it, I'm saying no to the size 8. If I say yes to going straight home after work instead of walking 3 miles, I'm saying no to improving my fitness level. If I say yes to going to the beach, I'm saying no to finishing that project and getting that promotion. Start saying yes to the important goals.
Make it fun. There may be a hundred things that seem like more fun than walking 2 miles in 90 degree heat. Take your iPod and listen to some pump-up music, or walk with a friend. Workout buddies improve our ability to stick to an exercise plan. Promise yourself a trip to the mall or a special night out after you've walked 20 miles. You could do that in two weeks. It's easier to say yes to your goals when you know it's going to involve fun, a small reward, or both.
Mix it up a little. Ride a bike sometimes instead of walking. Join a gym. Take a yoga class. Start making healthy snacks instead of starving yourself or eating celery. To add a little spice to your work on that project you could change your environment a little. Try lighting some incense or candles, or play a little music. Take your laptop to the park. Take breaks and do something you enjoy.
Want to reach your goals? Start asking the tough questions. Practice how to say yes to your goals, and no to the distractions that get in your way. Figure out how to approach it creatively and enjoy yourself.