My personal New Year's Resolution has been to hit the 6:00a classes at my gym five days a week. I started before the new year and have been having some trouble meeting my goals. Last week it was because of the weather, this week it was because I had an early morning client. Whatever the reason, as soon as I miss a workout, I "fall off the wagon" because I've already screwed my goal up for the week. It's really easy to stay in my warm bed, snuggled up with Talos after I've already derailed my goal for the week.
After beating myself up for a day, I had a mini-revelation. Why don't I teach myself like I teach my dogs?!
A good dog trainer sets the dog up for success. A good trainer doesn't set unreasonable goals. A good trainer reinforces every behavior that gets the dog closer to the end goal.
What was I doing to myself? Punish, punish, punish. I'd say "I'm so lazy." "I already screwed this week up." "I'll never get this right." Another week or two of that and I'd give up on my goal completely.
I'm re-setting my goals so I've got a better chance of success. Instead of my goal being five days a week at the gym, I'm aiming for three days a week. If I get four or five days, that's fantastic, a bonus! But I'm much more likely to be able to get to the gym three days. I'm also instituting a reward schedule as well – when I hit my goal each week, I can buy a piece of workout gear. Or if I am successful two weeks in a row, I can schedule a massage. Both of those are worth working for!
After a month of success, I'll adjust my goal to four days a week. I will reach my goal of five days a week, hopefully by March.
But my chance of success is much higher this way and I'm much more likely to stick with this program than if I kept my unreasonable expectations. We're not much different, dogs and us. Make the task easy enough, the rewards valuable enough, and we can both accomplish just about anything!