Webinar replay: Keeping great habits going
Setting goals and intentions is one thing, but how can we ensure we keep them up? As we move ahead into the rest of 2021, it may feel like we’re leaving that New Year energy in January, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
This month we teamed up with RED January to bring you a series of midweek motivational webinars to help you kick the year off on the right foot. In the last of our webinars, we sat down with life coach Alex Bowman to discuss keeping great habits going, the importance of celebrating your achievements and how we can all embrace progress over perfectionism.
Who is Alex?
Alex is a coach who works with a variety of clients who have two things in common – they’re ready to make a change in their life and they want to have fun in the process. Alex tells us coaching has always been ingrained in his career, right from his early days as a personal trainer in the fitness industry. This was a melting pot of the human condition he explains, a place to see how people motivate themselves and set goals.
“Then I moved onto the more educational phase in fitness, so teaching people to become personal trainers. I progressed through that side of the business into management and leadership and… became stuck.
“And that’s where I employed a coach myself and something clicked. Something resonated in me that I wanted to be the person on the other side of the desk or screen, empowering people to get them unstuck.”
Now offering coaching through his business Clear Water Coaching, this is exactly what Alex does. So, looking at the theme of keeping habits going we started our conversation with a chat about recognising our achievements and why we can find this so difficult.
Why is it so hard to celebrate our achievements?
“It’s human nature not to give yourself a pat on the back,” Alex explains.
“We can be quite finish-line oriented, so we don’t want to give ourselves a pat on the back until we’ve reached that shiny goal, but more to the point it feels uncomfortable. As Brits we’re super humble, we don’t like praising ourselves at all – and I don’t mean splashing our achievements all over social media, I mean genuinely feeling like we have the self-worth to give ourselves a high-five or a pat on the back.”
Noting that, especially right now, we may well be our only motivator, Alex tells us it’s important for us to get comfortable with self-praise. We need to give ourselves permission to recognise our achievements without judgement and this is where our inner critic can show up.
“A big part of coaching is realising that we’re always going to have that inner critic, that self-saboteur, that voice in your ear that is effectively your ego pulling you back to your comfort zone. It’s basically saying ‘don’t do this’ because it’s scared of change and it thinks it’s keeping you safe, whereas what it’s actually doing is stifling your progress.”
Real courage is hearing that inner critic and saying ‘thanks for the input, but I’m going to celebrate anyway’.
Alex also suggests breaking goals down into milestones and to never have a milestone too far away so we can keep rewarding ourselves and keep that motivation high. Keeping track of how we’re doing so we have something to look back on is important and then setting aside time to reflect, “Set a reminder on your phone – it will be uncomfortable at first, change always is, but it’s worth it.”
What stands in the way of our goals?
Coming up against an obstacle as we work on our goals can be disheartening. Asking Alex which obstacles come up often for his clients, he tells us time is a big one. However, when you dig a little deeper it’s usually less about time itself he says, and more about clients giving themselves permission to take the time to put themselves first.
“We get this opinion that it’s selfish to take time for ourselves, but I see it as selfless – it’s a complete perspective change. We tend to put ourselves last as some kind of humble sacrifice for the greater good, but for me that means the world’s missing out on your true impact.
“So figuring out what you need to feel fulfilled will feel uncomfortable at first, but the gains that you will experience and the impact you will have on those people around you will be massive.”
Lack of accountability is another common obstacle and while coaching can be a helpful tool here, there are other ways. Voicing your goals and asking those around you to hold you accountable in a gentle way can be a big support.
Another obstacle mentioned was lack of clarity and Alex told us this can be caused by ‘analysis paralysis’ where we don’t want to take a step until we have everything mapped out.
“This is actually a form of perfectionism, but really things don’t become clear until you start taking steps. It’s the opposite way round – you have to start taking steps towards things that feel like they could be a good fit and then course-correct.”
What can we do if we feel we’ve veered off-track?
Alex notes that this can often happen if we have unrealistic expectations or perhaps if we’re comparing ourselves to where we think we should be (or to others). Reminding us that it’s OK to tweak our goals, Alex explains the importance of coming back to our motivation behind the goal.
For example, sometimes we may set a goal like running a marathon because we want to get healthier. For some this type of motivation works well, but for others the pressure is too much and it would be more beneficial to focus on building a new habit. Is our goal coming from a place of self-love or punishment?
Sometimes, the most helpful thing you can do is step away from your goals. Alex tells us how his coach encouraged him to take a month away from his routine after noting that he was becoming very regimented.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve done in years, but what I got out of that month was a sense of freedom and I got space to think, I got creativity and clarity which meant that I came back to my goals and my regime being twice as hungry but with a gentler approach, a much kinder to myself approach.”
Progress over perfection
Perfectionism is a trait many of us share and in our poll during the webinar, 66% of respondents said they believe perfectionism holds them back. Understanding where this drive to be perfect comes from is essential.
“You need to get clear on what perfectionism is giving you and more importantly where that drive to be perfect comes from. So usually, speaking from mine and my clients’ experience, this drive comes from how you feel about yourself or, more often, how you feel others see you. And I’ve got news for you – you cannot control how others think about you, you’re fighting a losing battle.”
Some of us can also fall prey to the ‘empty finish-line/hollow victory’ effect too, where we think we’ll feel a certain way when we achieve our goal but in fact, nothing really changes. So then we set ourselves more extreme goals to chase that elusive feeling.
“So getting clear now on the feelings that you’re searching for with these goals or these habits and being able to articulate them is really important. Because once you get clear on what they are, you can figure out how you can get them into your life now rather than putting them around an imaginary finish line.”
You can still work towards the goal, but how can you bring these feelings into your life now?
How can we overcome fear of failure and let go of perfectionist tendencies?
Alex admits that he hates making mistakes too, it’s totally human to be afraid of these things. Fear, he says, stands for ‘False Evidence Appearing Real’ and this is why we can work ourselves up and think about what could go wrong, but what would happen if you allowed yourself to imagine what could go right?
We can get caught up in control, so relinquishing it and playing with that can be helpful. Adding play into our lives can be key with this, make your goal fun again and even reward yourself for not being perfect Alex suggests.
“We’ve got to have fun, if we become so tunnel-visioned and so end-goal focused then all the good stuff is going to pass us by. We’ll be so focused on that end result and if it becomes a hollow victory, the treadmill starts again.”
In a time where good stuff can feel hard to come by, this feels more important than ever. Get experimental, be kind to yourself, communicate with your inner critic, celebrate every win and keep going… take a break if you need to and keep going again. This is only the beginning.
If you’d like to listen to this webinar, you can do so here:
If you’re looking for accountability and support with your goals, find a coach near you or online today.