Yet, it can be really hard to establish—never mind maintain—wellness goals.
We can have the very best intentions in the world but fall short. Repeatedly. And after multiple failed attempts to improve our health, we start to give up hope.
Knowing we’re not alone in our struggles helps.
But even better yet? Figuring out what’s holding us back so we can finally move towards the healthier future we deserve.
This post is for you if you’re eager to improve your health but life keeps getting in the way.
We’ll cover 7 wellness goal barriers and how to overcome them.
Ready to finally see success when it comes to a healthier you?
1. What matters most to you?
There’s a lot of external noise about what we should want for our bodies, our self-care, and other aspects of our wellbeing.
These distractions can get in the way of investing time and energy into what personally matters most.
- Work colleagues run together at lunch but running isn’t your bag. Consider an alternative way to fit movement into your day.
- Friends are raving about the latest elimination diet. However, you can’t imagine sticking with this new diet for a single day. How about an alternative approach to fuelling your body well—one you can actually enjoy and sustain in the longterm?
- Regular spa treatments are all the rage on social media but money is tight. What about another form of self-care—something inexpensive but just as rejuvenating?
It’s hard to ignore external pressures especially when outside opinions around wellness are so prevalent and insistent.
But we’re more likely to stick with healthy habits in the long run when they’re compatible with our unique preferences and life circumstances.
Take some time to consider how external factors impact your choices around heathy living. Have you found yourself pressured into a lifestyle behaviour that ultimately was a poor personal fit?
Take some time to brainstorm meaningful wellness goals—activities that are enjoyable and doable given your current life circumstances?
Do you see any external barriers—such as outside opinions—that might get in the way of successfully pursuing these goals? And if yes, what can you do to get around identified hurtles?
2. We’re drawn to quick fixes
The messaging around wellness can be confusing and contradictory. It seems like there’s a new exercise hack or diet plan every time we open our news feeds or social media accounts.
And these quick fixes can be pretty enticing. Going “all in” with something novel is exciting. I mean who doesn’t want to chase the promise of quick and easy results?
And maybe we’re successful with a vigorous new exercise routine or a strict diet plan for a while.
But most of us don’t find these “holy grail” changes sustainable in the long run. And before we know it, we’ve slipped back into regular habits—and feel worse off than when we began our wellness journey.
If you want to improve your wellbeing, ditch the quick fixes. Moderation may seem mundane, but it works.
It’s the small manageable steps towards a healthier life—strides you can see yourself sticking with in the long-term—that will help you achieve your wellness goals.
What’s a small meaningful step you can take towards a wellness goal? Consider something you can easily fit into your days without having to overstretch your pocketbook or exhaust yourself in the process.
Perhaps this step is to walk for 15 minutes a couple times a week, eat an extra serving of vegetables with supper, or journal for 15 minutes before bedtime.
We’ve all got to start somewhere!
3. Work with your natural tendencies
Our willpower weakens over the course of the day.
That’s why we tend to make poorer choices at night—like demolishing a bag of chips or binging on social media after the kids are finally tucked in bed.
We are creatures who love pleasure (hello chocolate chip cookies), tend to take the path of least resistance (I could prepare a salad or pluck a chocolate chip cookie from the jar), value the short term over the long term (it’s only one cookie, tomorrow’s a new day after all) and are more heavily swayed by emotion than by logic (eating that cookie goes against my diet plan, but I’m stressed so I’ll eat it anyway).
We can fight these natural tendencies and berate ourselves for them. Or we can embrace our full humanity and purposefully design our lives for success.
People who seem to have more self-control than others don’t have a superpower. Rather, they’ve learned to set up their routines and environment for success.
Motivation naturally waxes and wanes.
Infinite willpower doesn’t exist.
So, work with rather than against yourself by making wanted behaviours easy and unwanted behaviours hard.
When it comes to healthy habits, how can you make your environment work for you rather than against you?
Perhaps this involves getting the chocolate chip cookies out of plain site or—perhaps even better still— out of your house altogether.
What about setting a limit on late night social media surfing? Or going to bed with your gym clothes on so you wake up ready to exercise?
How can you best set yourself up for wellness goal success?
4. Deal with triggers
The truth is, change is hard and most of us have at least some ambivalence when it comes to our wellness goals.
While we can see the benefits of a new health behaviour, it’s hard to let go of old lifestyle habits. This is especially true when past behaviours have helped prop us up.
Our habits serve a purpose. They are default responses to cues (aka triggers) within our environment or ourselves that become reinforced over time in a process called a habit loop.
For example, a stressful day (cue) leads me to reach for a snack (response). I feel temporarily better (reinforcer), and as a result, snacking becomes my default response to feeling overwhelmed.
And here’s the really important part.
The trigger doesn’t suddenly evaporate when I stop snacking. Rather the cue remains, insisting—like a temperamental toddler in the background—that its demands are met, and met now!
So, what can we do to escape this vicious cycle? Especially, when mom-life is chockablock with common triggers—stress and boredom—for unhealthy behaviours?
We need to find alternative ways to satisfy the cue rather than attempting to ignore it.
Can you identify triggers that are fuelling unhealthy behaviours—behaviours you’d like to replace?
Once you’ve pinpointed common cues, brainstorm healthier ways to address these triggers.
For example, if stress fuels late-night cookie binges, what alternative activity or activities can you do to relax? If end of the day exhaustion triggers you to reach for your phone, what’s an alternative way to unwind before bed?
5. Don’t get tripped up by perfection
Preparation is important when it comes to setting new healthy lifestyle goals in motion. However, don’t wait for the perfect plan and ideal circumstances to get started.
While some planning is important, we don’t want to let perpetual preparation get in the way of actually doing.
After all, small and imperfect action is better than no action at all.
Changing old habits is hard. But don’t sabotage your goal success by getting stuck in “busy work.” This is the kind of effort that seems productive but doesn’t ultimately bring us any closer to our wellness goals.
So, rather than allow planning to become a form of avoidance, act now and start moving towards a healthier happier you!
It’s easy to get stuck in the busy work of planning—so much so, that we fail to act.
But the thing is, planning without actual action won’t get us any closer to the lives we want.
So, take an honest look at your goal preparation process. Do you tend to get stuck in the planning phase or waiting for the perfect moment to set started?
If yes, set a date to put your goal plans in motion. Also, set weekly self check-ins to ensure you keep taking action steps towards your goal.
6. Focus on what you can control
Changing old habits is hard and it’s natural to face difficulty along the way.
These roadblocks are rarely insurmountable. However, we can find ourselves slipping into a “why bother” mindset.
This negative outlook includes blaming our struggles on outside factors, many of which are not fully under our control.
- My dad’s a poor sleeper, so I’m destined to be the same.
- No one else in the family wants to eat well, so why bother?
- Life’s just too busy right now. There’s no point trying to fit in self-care.
These negative thoughts have a way of burrowing into our internal narrative and setting up permanent residence.
And before we know it, we’ve lost hope and feel worse than before our wellness journey began.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Rather, try changing your inner dialogue to begin with “given that” rather than “if only.”
If you find yourself running into barriers outside your control, try changing your inner dialogue from “if only” to “given that.”
For example, you may find yourself thinking: “If only my family were more receptive to healthy meals … I could succeed at my diet.”
Try changing the wording to: “Given that my family are not currently receptive to healthy meals, what changes can I make to promote my own health?”
This swap in perspective is impactful. It puts the power for positive change back into your hands rather than leaving it up to factors you can’t control.
When wellness goals aren’t going as planned, do you find yourself blaming outside factors?
The first step to changing this unhelpful mindset is simply noticing.
Once you’re better attuned to your internal narrative, try switching from an “if only” to a “given that” stance. The goal is to redirect your focus to factors under—rather that outside—your control.
7. Be kind to yourself
Wellness goals often start from a place of frustration. We’re unhappy with our weight, tired of feeling so unfit, or annoyed by the fact we can’t get our priorities straight.
While this tough self-talk may initially be motivating, it’s ultimately self-defeating.
Because a tendency towards self-criticism follows us throughout our wellness journey. Even when we achieve a personal goal—such as a certain weight or fitness level—we quickly find some other “flaw” that needs addressing.
A self-critical stance also stops us from celebrating the little victories along the way.
Most, if not all of us, will make mistakes as we journey towards a healthier life. While it’s frustrating to see our efforts fall short, berating ourselves for these slip-ups will only make the situation worse.
So, learn to love yourself from the start rather than wait until you’ve reached your goal. And when things don’t go as planned—as will inevitably happen—be kind to yourself by turning to curiosity rather than judgement.
Try gently asking yourself: What got in the way of success? And what can I do differently next time to succeed?
A little self-compassion can work wonders when it comes to achieving our wellness goals.
We all struggle to make new habits stick.
When we pause to consider “why is this so hard?” from a place of self-compassion rather than self-criticism, we’re more likely to stick with our wellness goals in the long-term.
We’re also more likely to accept an imperfectly perfect version of ourselves—one that’s worth celebrating regardless of body size, fitness level, or other wellness yardstick.
Wellness goals are within your reach!
It’s hard to make healthy changes.
In fact, it often feels like life is conspiring against us—determined to thwart even the best designed wellness goals.
In this post we’ve covered strategies to help you get around 7 common wellness goal barriers, including:
- Choose personally meaningful goals
- Avoid quick fix approaches
- Work with rather than against natural tendencies
- Address triggers for unhealthy behaviour
- Don’t let perfectionism get in the way of action
- Focus on what you can control
- Be kind to yourself
Which barriers typically get in the way of your wellness goals and what will you do differently after reading this post?
Please share in the comment section below!
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