With the New Years recently behind us, many people have set and are hopefully still working hard achieving resolutions in their health or behaviors. Whether these resolutions are to eat better and lose weight or to keep a cleaner house, to be kinder and more caring to those you meet or simply to approach the world with a more optimistic viewpoint, there is one simple strategy that I have found to help accomplish any goal you have set yourself and to develop the habits to incorporate it into a lifestyle. It’s a simple strategy that I use with many of my own clients and have come to call the Stepping Stones Strategy.
What is the Stepping Stones Strategy?
The Stepping Stones Strategy is rather simple, but that’s the point. What I usually ask people with this strategy is, “What are the three biggest obstacles between you and your goals?” This is an important question because it requires you, or your client, to self-identify what holds them back most. With this comes ownership of their own shortcomings that they may have been avoiding. This ownership is vital and the first step in effectively addressing these obstacles. For some clients, three obstacles may be too much to handle at once. It is fine to focus on only one or two at a time. This will depend on the readiness and motivation for change in you or your client. I would recommend keeping it to no more than three, however.
Now once you have identified your three biggest obstacles, you simply create a strategy that incorporates one small step that you can accomplish this week that will help you overcome that obstacle. Just one small step. These simple strategies over time act as stepping stones towards your goals.
When making these strategies, I like to incorporate what is known as SMART Goal’s which is a term first coined by George T. Doran and stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Result’s Focused, and Time Bound.
Saying something as vague as “I will eat healthier this week” is an example of a bad strategy. This isn’t a specific strategy as you haven’t defined what healthier looks like. It is not measurable in its current form. How will you know when you have succeeded? If you are expecting to eat healthier every day this week, that may not be achievable for some. Now lets look at a better strategy.
Let’s say you would like to lose weight and one of your biggest obstacles is going out to eat often. First, quantify how often you go out to eat. For this example, let’s focus on just lunch and say you currently eat out 5 times a week for lunch. An example of a good strategy would be, “For this week, I will go out to eat for lunch a maximum of 4 times.” You are being specific about what exactly you are trying to accomplish with this strategy. It is measurable in terms of the amount of times you are eating out. You are making a small step of reducing the occurrence of eating out to eat only 1 time less per week which should be achievable to most. It has a focus of reducing fast food intake which is conducive towards your goal of weight loss and your time constraint is the week ahead. This is a solid goal.
Another good example for the obstacle of eating out often is, “This week, I am going to try one new recipe that is high in protein or incorporates two/three fruits or vegetables.” Not only will you be eating out for one less meal, but you are building upon your healthy recipe toolbox and discovering healthy foods you may enjoy that you didn’t know of prior.
The most important part of this strategy setting, however, is that it must be achievable. That isn’t saying it should be foolishly easy. If your goals are too easy, you will not grow, however, if it is too hard you are setting yourself up for failure. Consistent failures can make it hard to stay motivated. Rather, it should be challenging, but leave little doubt in you, or your client’s, mind that your strategy can be accomplished with just a little bit of purposeful effort.
Every morning remind yourself of the strategy you have planned and at the end of the week, reflect on whether you were successful. If you are able to successfully fulfill your strategy for a couple weeks or more, try progressing one small step farther. If for whatever reason, you were not successful in meeting your goal, take one small step back. Also, look at the reason you were not able to meet that goal. This sort of introspection may reveal an even bigger obstacle holding you back.
This strategy can be practiced by anyone; however, this is where a good coach will shine. A good coach should be able to help you develop a wide array of creative strategies to achieve your goals and will know how to properly progress or regress your strategies appropriately. A good coach will also be well versed in the science behind your goals and can help educate you in a way that is easy to understand. If you can understand the fundamentals of the science behind your quest for change, you will be better equipped to craft your own strategies in a way that will most effectively lead to your desired outcome.
Through this manner, you can develop behaviors and strategies over time that effectively turn what was once an obstacle into a stepping stone towards a better lifestyle. These small steps each week, while they may seem insignificant, will result in great progress in the long run. If you practice this method every day, I have no doubt you will achieve whatever goal you set for yourself. That being said, don’t be afraid to look for a coach to lend some guidance. As a wise man once said,
“A great coach can cause a person to see in themselves everything they can be, discover in themselves the drive to achieve it and instill in them the knowledge to bring it all to realization.” – Frank Muntis
If your resolutions this year are to develop a healthier lifestyle, please check out our services page. We would love to help you in your quest to discover the joy of a high performance lifestyle. Have a happy and healthy day!