In a recent email with a client, a moment of clarity came forth that is often at the heart of the struggle for so many.
She works tirelessly on weekdays to be a proactive eater, to rock her healthy habits and maintain an active life. She has come so far in her health goals but still is chasing her perception of HER own ideal physique.
But the weekends…they are just a struggle for her.
She’s young, doesn’t have children and has a really social group of friends that use the weekends to live life to the fullest.
She was frustrated. Torn between the two goals: creating her dream physique and living her dream life.
She was frustrated by feeling like she was always starting over on Mondays, letting herself down and experiencing weekly “self-sabotage.”
Upon further questioning, I dug deep and asked her, “But Are you happy?”
I wanted to know was she happy with where she was on the scale, in her clothes, in her food choices, in her energy, and in her life?
Or was she chasing something she thought she should have?
It was like I opened the door for her to realize she was happy.
She’s happy in living a full life and for the progress, she’s already experienced. Above all, we helped her realize that she had competing goals: a goal to achieve the ultimate body she is after and a goal to enjoy life before she embarks on the journey of motherhood.
She dug deep and had to identify: Which goal was really her priority right now?
I am so excited to have a friend, colleague and all around awesome lady as a guest writer on the blog this week.
Jamie (MC, LPC) is the Owner and Clinical Director of Elevate Counseling, a counseling private practice. Her specialties include research-based interventions to address stress and anxiety, trauma, self-esteem, eating issues and the struggles of the gifted and high-achieving population.
I am excited to have her on the blog to give her experience and perspective on how to identify your priorities and how to manage the many things you want from life.
Take it away Jaime…
What is self-sabotage?
I often hear people say that they are “self-sabotaging.” They use this in terms of relationships, dieting, work opportunities, and general happiness. But, what is self-sabotage?
It’s the idea of self-defeating behavior that prohibits a person from reaching their own goals.
But do we really intentionally keep ourselves from happiness?
Most often, upon further questioning, we discover that we have competing goals.
For example, a person may want to lose 15 pounds. They may have a good reason to do so. Maybe their doctor told them that they are at risk for developing a chronic condition. Or they want to be able to run around with their kids. Maybe they just want to rock a bikini (no judging)! But what if they have other goals that supersede the weight loss?
Superseding goals are things like:
Being Supermom (or dad)
For many people (women in particular), a scheduled trip to the gym or farmer’s market is often superseded by unexpected family demands. Life becomes too busy to take the steps necessary to accomplish the second goal because they are taking every effort to accomplish the primary goal.
Way to go! You’re rocking your primary goal so well that the secondary goal is impossible. In other words, there may be valid reasons why you aren’t following through on your weight loss action plan.
Ironically, people tend to be pretty judgmental about this one. But behavioral psychology teaches us that humans inherently take the path of least resistance. We automatically take mental and physical shortcuts all day long. This can make healthy changes more difficult.
Behavior changes related to food and exercise require time and attention. Yet we are surrounded by conveniences that increase palatable foods and decrease physical movement at every turn. It’s not necessarily bad to want to live a life of convenience. The key may be lifestyle choices that match your goals so that the hypothetical 15-pound weight loss is not impossible.
Limited Time Demands
Most families have two working parents and two kids in multiple sports, lessons, and extracurricular activities. Despite the increase in conveniences, we are an over-scheduled society.
Many people don’t have the “time” to find a recipe, go to the farmer’s market, select the perfect whole ingredients, come home and lovingly prepare the dish, pull their kids away from their computer or tablet, and sit down peacefully with their loving and adoring children to a mindful meal.
Don’t discount the fact that you are busy while making your lifestyle goals.
A Need For Safety
How could safety be a “superseding” goal for weight loss? Whenever we are engaging in a new behavior, even one that would make us mentally and physically healthier, we enter unfamiliar territory. This causes us to feel psychologically vulnerable.
Even when these changes are positive, we are taking a risk experiencing life in a way that is outside of what feels normal. If these feelings are too intense, or if we don’t have the support to manage those feelings, we often fall back into comfortable behavioral patterns.
Does all this mean that you are doomed? No. It means that you have to look at both your primary and secondary goals and make adjustments accordingly. If you want to eat healthier, you may need to carve additional time into your schedule.
You may have to say, “No, I can’t run that errand for you on Tuesday at 11:00, because I have a Spin Class.” You may need to pull your kids into the kitchen and have them wash and peel the carrots while you prepare the chicken. When you feel uncomfortable or recognize that you are out of your depth, you may want to reach out to a loved one for support.
The good news is that these changes may inadvertently help you reach other new goals as well. Your kids may become more responsible, you may look at your conveniences more critically, and your family may become more engaged.
Or, you may realize that your secondary goal is just where it should be: Secondary. Really consider the life you want to live. What is most important to you? How do you want to spend your time and energy? Now think about your goals. Are they set by your internal value system, or by an arbitrary measure based on external factors? Don’t be so quick to accuse yourself of “Self-sabotage”. Give yourself credit where credit is due and adjust accordingly.”
A big thanks to Jaime for sharing her work with us!
I’d love to hear from you: have you struggled with competing goals? Share how you shifted your priorities below.