We all want to improve our lives, so why can it be so difficult to make lasting changes?
In our latest Move the Needle webinar for our Obelisk Support community, Lucinda Acland, Obelisk’s L&D Partner, talked to Carey Davis-Munro, founder of Eat Nourish Flourish, coach and an expert with over 25 years’ experience in organisational wellbeing. They discussed how to approach setting goals to make sustainable changes. Read on for Carey’s advice.
Less than 7% of people’s New Year resolutions last to February
Every year we make (often the same) resolutions but despite our good intentions, most of us are not able to keep to them. Carey says this is not down to lack of will power but to the way we frame our goals and their context within our lives. This is particularly relevant right now, when we have also experienced a huge loss of personal control, uncertainty and perhaps illness and bereavement during the last two years of the pandemic. She explains the concept of the ‘circles of concern and control’. The circle of concern represents the external events that affect us, but over which we have no control, such as events in the news or other people’s behaviour. Reacting continually to such external events can reduce our perception of our ability to influence the direction of our life. The circle of control on the other hand, represents those things in our lives over which we have 100% control, such as what we choose to say, eat, whether we move our body and how we react to things and our actions. Understanding where your power lies helps you make the changes you want in your life.
“Most people don’t plan their lives at all. They plan their holidays far more than they plan what they really want in their lives.”
#1 Outcome setting – identifying your values
Carey says the next step is to understand what you really want in your life. Many resolutions are too vague and general for people to be able to get to implement them. They are usually based on broad topics like losing weight, getting fit, achieving a better work life balance. The aim, she says is to identify your goals and be very specific and clear why you really want to meet them.
Carey explains that when she works with organisations and clients to create meaningful change, she recommends using a tool called the ‘wheel of life’. This helps you consider each area of your life that is important to you – your values – in a clear visual manner, such as work, family, friends, hobbies, health, and visualise how fulfilled you are currently by scoring them one to ten. This exercise helps you to really focus on what is important to you and to see where you need to make improvements. Carey says that in her experience, when people are not acting in alignment with their values or are having their values ignored, this can be a profound source of stress and anxiety and makes change very difficult.
#2 Finding your “why” – your true motivation
The next step is to harness your energy to motivate you to achieve your goals. Carey describes this as finding your ‘why’ in life. You need to form a psychological connection to the outcomes you want, otherwise it’s too easy to find excuses and weaken your resolve. She describes this process as a way to develop your personal philosophy to give you the focus for your drive and motivation.
“Your “why” needs to be all encompassing – what is the most important thing in your life?”
#3 Creating your actions for lasting change
Next, create a vivid image of the outcomes you want your goals to achieve and break these down into specific actions. What do you need to make them happen and what might stop you? Carey recognises this can be a challenge and suggests asking yourself, ‘If I knew the first step, what would it be?’. Follow this by setting yourself 3-4 actions each week. Make them very specific and build yourself a timeline and track your progress in a journal, which will then become a very powerful tool for getting a sense of what works for you.
Carey also identifies the triangle of three core aspects of good health that are essential to pay attention to – what you eat, how well you are sleeping and how you exercise. By paying closer attention to these habits you can improve your wellbeing generally, which generates a positive cycle of developing a routine of good habits that makes achieving goals easier.
“Create a toolkit to support yourself in making the changes – identify what you need as your scaffolding.”
#4 Troubleshooting tactics – staying on the path
We all experience difficulties in making change. Look at why you come unstuck and reframe your approach. Think to yourself, “This is not failure, but it is difficult for me to achieve now – why?”. Again, reflect on what happened in your journal and think about what you need. Also ask yourself, “Do I need help, more support or guidance from someone else?”.
The benefit of developing your personal philosophy is that it will be easier to make decisions if you live consciously according to your values. You can develop better habits and take actions to achieve your goals. By using this framework, Carey suggests we can all revitalise our lives by harnessing our power within our spheres of influence and rediscovering joy and creativity.
“Progress is rarely linear, but keeping going forwards towards your goals to achieve the outcomes you want, is worth celebrating.”
#5 Making the most of working freelance
As we know in the Obelisk community, the freedom, benefits, and opportunities which come with being a freelance legal professional are huge, so make sure you’re making the most of working flexibly.
Take a look at your goals and defined actions and add in the following:
- Prepare fresh healthy meals as much as possible, think of them as a treat
- Increase the amount of water you drink during the day
- Have plenty of healthy snack options to nourish your body
- Get outside each day and observe any nature around you
- Reward yourself with moments of pleasurable relaxation, perhaps through pursuing hobbies, meditation, reading, listening to music or podcasts
- Write in your journal every day and build a habit of reflection
- Make sure that you get support on your journey and seek help from people along the way if you need it.
Watch our webinar for more inspiration
For more tips from Carey, watch our webinar here. You can also tap into previous Move the Needle episodes designed to support you in your freelance legal role with advice on building better working relationships, nurturing your resilience and conquering self-doubt.