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Purpose: The Secret to Successful Lifestyle Change


"I want to lose weight." "I want to work less and travel more." "I want to give back to my community."

Most of us have some sort of goal driving our actions or even just tickling the back of our minds.

While people often have the best of intentions setting these goals, achieving them is another matter—not because they’re lazy or distracted, but because they haven’t identified a reason powerful enough for them to make lasting changes.

That’s where Raquel Garzon comes in. The president and founder of Revitalize Project, Raquel spends her time inspiring and empowering individuals to live the most meaningful lives they can, and that usually means helping them identify their purpose. Once they do so, she says, people become far more successful in achieving the goals they set for themselves.

Raquel sat down with WellRight to give us her unique perspective on the role wellness programs play in encouraging well-being, finding purpose, and achieving goals.

Q: If people aren’t successful in achieving the goals they set, what mistakes might they be making?

A: Many people set goals based on things they think they want to change, such as “I want to lose weight” or “I want to start exercising.”

But before you can set goals, it’s helpful to first take a step back and ask yourself, "What’s my overall purpose in life? What matters to me? How do I see my life going? How am I impacting those around me?"

If you’re not asking these questions first, you’re likely to end up picking the wrong goals or be unable to see the connection between your goals and the bigger picture. When that happens, people often bail on their goals the minute things get tough.

Think about your New Years’ resolutions. They often fall by the wayside because you haven’t tied your goals to something compelling or important in your life. You need to have some skin in the game.

Purpose not only drives us, but it also speaks to the core of who we are as people. Former first couple Barack and Michelle Obama have found their purpose by amplifying the purpose of others. Their new initiative will create content with Netflix and Spotify that, in the former President’s words, "curates the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between people, and help them share their stories with the entire world."

Q: So once I’ve identified my purpose, am I ready to start setting and achieving my goals?

A: Not necessarily. Although finding purpose is important to goal setting, it alone usually isn’t enough to propel someone into action. You must also have the right mindset to support your purpose and your goals, and that often means reworking on inner dialogue, beliefs and attitudes, and environmental triggers.

Once we have all that in place, we tend to set outcome-based goals, which might sound like "I want to lose 30 pounds," or "I want to run a marathon in three hours."

This metrics-based approach is the way many businesses and corporations set goals, so it’s understandable that we think it should work for personal ones, too. But science suggests that setting outcome goals isn’t always optimal for personal goals.

Q: So if outcome goals aren’t always the right way to go, what are our options?

A: There are two other types of goals people should consider. Process goals are behavior-driven goals that, when set correctly, can help you meet your performance goals. Performance goals are the stepping stones that might help get you to your outcome goal.

Q: Why the emphasis on “might”?

A: Not all the factors that go into an outcome goal are actually controllable. So while we might have a goal of losing 30 pounds, there are outside forces—such as pre-existing health conditions—that make weight loss not 100% within our control.

Q: What happens if we don’t meet our outcome goals?

A: Many of us tie a lot of our self-worth into our outcome goals, and when we don’t achieve those goals, we perceive ourselves to be failures. Unfortunately, we can’t always see the things that went well for us, like improvements to processes, behaviors, and mindset.

Take the individual who wants to lose 30 pounds and starts to exercise and loses weight but can't quite lose all 30 pounds. However, in the process, they were able to make significant changes in improved health scores, increased energy, and achieved better sleep patterns. Because of the fixation on the number, they may feel like a failure but instead should feel proud of their achievements. 

Q: What happens if you push outcome goals too much?

A: We see the results quite often in business. Pushing the outcome can end in corrupt, unethical behavior, such as taking bribes and engaging in scandals.

We see it in workplace wellness challenges, too. Think of a step challenge, where the individual who takes the most steps wins a prize. Some individuals may attach their step counter to something that vibrates or even to their pets, just to inflate their step count. This focus on “winning” doesn't align with the healthy behaviors the program is trying to encourage.

Q: When people are looking for purpose, where should they start?

A: People must ask themselves, “What’s going to make me really commit to and stick with the process?” Essentially, purpose often boils down to the people who are most important to them, like their family.

When it comes to work, purpose is often derived from the positive impact and influence that people have in the work they do and the knowledge they’re making a difference.

So while you might still set wellness goals, you’ll see the connection between those goals and having great energy for your family, being in a better mood, or being great at modeling work-life balance.

The Power of Purpose
Smoking a half-pack of cigarettes daily was a 10-year habit for one WellRight team member. She knew she should quit—and even tried quitting multiple times—but she was never able to make it stick. Shortly after becoming engaged, she went with her fiancé to visit his dying grandmother, who was a lifelong heavy smoker herself. Seeing the grandmother suffering as the family watched helplessly was heart-wrenching. Looking at the man she loved, a quiet voice inside her head said, “Don’t put him through that.” She stopped smoking right then and there. She had finally found her purpose—a reason that mattered enough to her to make the change. And 17 years later, she's still smoke-free.

Q: How do you facilitate this connection?

A: I’ll take an individual’s goal—improved health, for example—and I’ll ask them why they want to be healthy. Maybe they’ll answer, "I want to be more productive." And the rest of the conversation might go like this:

"Why do you want to be more productive?"
"Well, if I’m productive, I’ll make a bigger difference."

"Why is making a bigger difference important to you?"
"Because I really want to feel like I'm leaving a legacy and serving as a role model and mentor for others."

This conversation continues, with me repeatedly asking “Why” until I’m finally able to drill down to their purpose. This simple question really helps people uncover the reason for their goals and gives them better insight to what they’re working toward.

Q: Do you ever encounter resistance to the “Why”?

A: Of course. When I have people working in pairs, one person talks about something they want to work on. Their partner has one job: No matter what the other person answers, follow up with “Why?”

It can be frustrating to have to think that deeply about your reasons for wanting something. But once both parties get into the exercise, they realize how this exercise helps boil everything down to a single statement of purpose.

When it comes to finding our purpose and making the lifestyle changes that last, Raquel emphasizes that the most important thing is simply taking the time to get to know yourself and what's important to you. Doing so gives employees a better understanding of what they want to accomplish and why. Once employees are taught how to connect their goals with their purpose, workplace productivity, and job satisfaction can increase dramatically. Even better, learning these skills benefits employees at all levels, and they’re just as effective in employees’ lives as they are in their professional ones.

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