Most of my patients come to me with goal. In fact, if they haven’t clearly communicated their goal to me by the end of our first visit, I will ask them, “What is your goal? What do you want to achieve in our work together?”
I do this for two reasons.
First, I want to make sure that we are on the same page with their goal. If they want to lose 20 pounds and I’m reviewing their case and thinking we need to work on chronic systemic inflammation first, there obviously needs to be a conversation that takes place about reasonable expectations and time frames given the bigger picture of their current health.
But the second reason I ask about their goals is that I want to know what motivates them and how committed they are to their goal. I very much view the doctor-patient relationship as a partnership. We work together. I provide the technical knowledge and know-how to help navigate toward the goal, but the patient must be willing to implement the plan. They must be willing to change their diet, cook more often at home, take their supplements regularly, do ‘homework’ exercises, etc.
In short, they must be willing to show up consistently.
Depending on how a person articulates their goal, I can get a sense very early on of what kind of results they might get. Inevitably, those who are clear about their goal and willing to show up consistently, get the best results and outcomes. Those who aren’t clear on their goals or express resistance at the changes suggested, unsurprisingly, don’t do as well.
It’s as simple as this: I explain how gluten may be causing leaky gut and leading to systemic inflammation or antibody formation. Patient A goes home and adheres to a strict gluten-free diet for 30 days. Patient B goes home and ‘tries,’ but gives in a few times to the bread basket at a restaurant or just has to have a slice of pizza. When I see both for their follow-up, guess who is doing better?
We live under the pervasive myth that change is hard. Its really only hard if you make it hard by resisting it. If you approach change with the simple willingness to show up consistently, its really not hard at all. “Showing up” for something is really just another way of saying “being present for.” When you are “present for something” you are directing your physical and emotional energy at that thing. Think of your energy as Miracle-Gro for whatever you direct it at- whether that be positive or negative! To take our plant analogy one step further, what happens to our plant if its not feed and watered regularly, consistently? It withers and dies eventually.
Most people fail at their goals because they want a quick-fix. They want to show up once and magically have what they want. That’s why all those 3-day crash diets, super-low carb introductory phase, fad diets don’t work in the end. Their real crime is that they let people think they only have to do the hard work for a little bit of time to get lasting results.
Note that “showing up consistently” is different than “being perfect and succeeding consistently.” Failure is inevitable on any journey- we learn more from our failures then our successes. When your focus is showing up consistently, then when you make a mistake or fail at something- you get right back to it. When you think that you have to be perfect and succeed consistently, then you’re ready to throw in the towel at the first failure. Have you done this before? You start a new diet protocol and the first time you eat a food that is “bad” for you, you think, “well, that’s it. I broke my diet. Might as well go eat some ice cream. And cake. And cookies.” Or “I ate 3 Girl Scouts cookies and broke my diet, might as well finish the box!” It’s OK if you have- we all have been there before. My goal is not to make you feel guilty, just to show you why you’ve failed at achieving other goals in the past.
Showing up, being present and directing your energy towards a goal is a practice. People who are good at showing up consistently got that way by doing it repeatedly- that is by committing to being present for their goal, everyday. The good news is that we know from neurology- each time you make that choice- you make that neuronal connection, that association of your goal with an action, stronger. That means it gets easier to make that choice over time as you practice making it consistently!
So that’s the first step to achieving any goal, whether it be to lose weight, get stronger, perform a bodyweight movement you haven’t done before, or regain your health after a period of illness. Commit to showing up consistently. Direct your energy positively toward your goal every day. It’s OK if you mess up sometimes, but keep showing up despite failures and missteps. Commit to the practice of showing up- make that your ultimate goal- and watch how quickly you achieve your other ones.