A Life Moment : Hacking my Brain towards Sustainable Goal Achievement in 2022
It’s the first of January 2021, a new year, a fresh start and time for the Discovery Vitality Points tracker to reset to zero.
“That’s ok,” I think as I log onto the website and start to plan and book my Vitality Health Checks and Fitness Test. “I did it last year, I’m going to do it again this year. I’ll start now and by being more consistent, it won’t be such a rush to the end as it was last year.” (and the year before, and the year before that, and the one before that one and… you get the picture.)
And yet, 2021 wasn’t any different.
I quickly racked up the points in January by completing those initial health checks and fitness test. All health checks in range, my fitness not as great as I’d hoped, but realistic since I’d had a baby in 2020. I’m short a few thousand points compared to previous years, again no worry as I’ll simply put in more effort on the exercise front and I’m going to be more consistent this year, right?
I was not.
The Best Laid Plans
The reality is that I have been stuck in a pattern that I have repeated every year since 2013 when I first signed up with the Discovery Vitality Rewards Programme. One could call this a habit since it’s regular, going on for 8 years now.
I kickstart the year with a bang and a whole lot of points! And then because of that rush of instant gratification and the dopamine that floods my system, I become prematurely satisfied with my performance and relax into a false sense of “I got this”.
I have a million and twenty excuses about why I can’t keep up with the activities that will earn me consistent points throughout the year- namely going to gym and exercising. “I’m too busy.” “Work must come first.” “Once I’ve done x, then I can get back to gym.” “We’re in a pandemic, it’s not safe.” “I’ve just had a baby, I can’t take time for myself.” “There’s still plenty of time!” And so the excuses and justifications pile up.
But what is the truth of my reality. Why do I find myself stuck in this pattern of reaching the 1st of December with a points balance of 40,060 and needing to amass 9,940 or 20% of the points required to maintain my Vitality status, within the last month or 8% of the year?”
The truth is that this is all me. I get myself into this predicament because of the choices I’m making. Choices that are motivated by what I’m thinking and feeling.
The thing is, I always manage to pull it off and reach my goal, but at what cost?
And here is another hard truth, my excuses for not taking a more sustainable approach throughout the year are not valid.
I’ve proved this to myself every December over these past 8 years. As the end of every year approaches I start to feel the same panic about what I need to do to ensure I get the points before the end of December. And every year, against all odds, I manage to do it.
I’ve proved to myself that the only barrier is me.
How do I do it?
During the final stretch of the year, I choose to make the commitment and prioritize the time to get myself to gym every single day, pushing myself to achieve the required level of activity required to get the points I need. I can do it.
I’m doing it again right now. As I write this today, the 17th December 2021, I have already gone to the gym 15 times. That is more than I’ve gone to the gym in all the months of the rest of this year. I have made time in my schedule, I have successfully navigated the excuses in my head and I have made a different choice.
I have every intention and am committed to making the choice to continue to gym every day until the end of this month in order to reach my goal.
Why am I able to do it now? Why do I do this to myself? How can I break this habit and create an easier pathway to reaching this annual goal?
Because let’s face it, going from zero to full throttle is not healthy, nor sustainable as I’m not getting any younger and I’m creating unnecessary risk by leaving everything to the last minute and potentially not reaching my goal as a result.
Another hard to face fact is that for the majority of the year I’m allowing myself to be driven by an unconscious commitment or belief that I have about prioritizing time for myself to do the things that take care of me. Things like going to the gym or spending time by myself.
Although I know that these are activities that are good for me. Although I enjoy these activities and feel really really good as a result, I am allowing my unconscious drivers to take the wheel and dictate the choices I’m making.
These are called unconscious commitments because they’re not conscious thoughts I’m playing in my head. I’m not thinking “Spending time on me is bad, I shouldn’t do that.” The conscious thoughts in my head are the justifications for why I can’t spend time on myself. They’re the story I tell myself to hide the fact that I have a belief that says I’m not worthy of my time, care or attention.
Until I choose to face these hard truths – face the unconscious stories I believe in my head which influence the choices I make, I will continue to repeat this pattern year after year after year. I will put blame on external factors, I will make excuses and justifications. And nothing will change.
The Pathway to Sustainable Change
There is no magic pill to changing patterns. There is no instant fix. The first step is awareness, followed by acceptance that this is what is and that’s ok. Blaming myself or beating myself up about such things isn’t helpful.
Instead I’m going to try a different approach.
1. Break the Pattern
I’m going to make a commitment to myself to start my January differently. I’m going to delay my kickstart Health Checks and Fitness Test until March and possibly even as late as April, to give myself another two months to start from zero and slowly accumulate points through a regular exercise routine.
I’m going to break my habit and pattern by making a different choice.
2. Work my Brain & Body Chemistry to my Favour
I’m going to hack my brain chemistry in my favour and work towards small, sustainable goals like going to gym three times a week to build a new habit and routine and motivate myself through the achievement of smaller steps (and smaller dopamine hits as a result) as I work myself towards the big goal of 50,000 points.
There is no rush. There are 365 days in 52 weeks to reach 50,000 points.
This will help me with the premature “I’ve got this!” that trips me up so early in the consistency game.
3. Face my Unconscious Beliefs
Whilst I don’t expect to shift these beliefs so that they no longer raise their voices, I do expect that I can quieten them through consciously creating and prioritizing time to spend on myself and my self-care, including activities outside of a health, fitness and rewards programme – because they feel good and are fun!
I have already made some progress in this area by adding daily micro activities to my task tracking tech tool. I have daily tasks that include “Listening to Mood Music”, “10 Mins Stretch”, “10 Mins Journal or Colouring In”, “20mins Family Walk”. Quick, simple, easy to do activities that I can fit in between work during my day.
Activities that feels good. Activities that will help me rewire and strengthen new neural pathways in my brain towards the conscious belief that “I am deserving and worthy of my care, love and attention.”
4. Slow and Steady
I’m going to take the slow, steady and consistent route in 2022. Because you don’t change habits, unconscious beliefs and commitments or patterns overnight. What got you here took years of the same pattern of thinking and behaviour. What will get you there will take years of consistently choosing new thoughts and actions.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
Have you got any patterns or habits you’d like to shift in 2022? What unconscious beliefs and commitments could be driving you? How could you approach shifting your pattern differently to how you have before so that you can create sustainable change?