We’ve all done it.
We all did it. History suggests, we’ll do it again. We cleaned out our cupboards of junk food. We joined a gym, group fitness class, Jazzercise, or any other great New Year’s commitments. We bought new gym clothes, protein shakes, fat burners, awesome leg warmers and some new headphones, because you really want to be in the zone. We talked ourselves up and now it’s time. We are here and right about to reach that moment when our resolve may start to fade.
“So what do I do!?” you ask. Well, you read this blog for starters. Then you come to the realization that a healthy lifestyle requires a full-blown behavioral change. Changing your behavior is a good deal tougher than wearing your shiny new shorts, but you knew that. It’s why you’re still reading, right?
Understanding Your Goal
First, it is important to acknowledge that meeting a goal or changing behavior is not all about “will-power.” Instead, it’s about truly understanding your goal, being realistic about the steps it will take to achieve, and understanding that there will be bumps along the path.
Let’s look at your goal. Make sure you know what your goal really is. You might think you want to lose 10 pounds, for example.
But ask yourself: “Why?”
- Is it that you want to fit in clothes you bought last year?
- Or is it that you want to like what you see in the mirror when you’re naked in the bathroom?
- Do you want to feel differently?
- How will your life be different if you accomplish this goal?
- Do you think that losing weight will result in having more confidence, more energy, less pain in your knees or your back?
Be clear. Then, rephrase your goal to most accurately express what you really want.
- How will you know when you have reached your goal?
- Is there a way to measure your success? Losing weight is easy to measure. How happy you are or how much more energy you have might be harder to quantify, but think about it.
- Will you be heading to the gym more regularly (3 days/week instead of one)?
- Will you be waking up refreshed in the morning instead of having to drag yourself grudgingly out of bed every day?
- Will you call friends more often to make plans or accept a proposal to go out on a date?
Next let’s look at the steps you will need to take to accomplish your clearly expressed goal. It is important to take small steps – ones that will allow you to be successful as you move along the path toward your goal.
Taking the necessary steps.
Step 1: Pick one small change you can make that will send you in the right direction. It could be as small as packing your lunch one day a week if you go out to lunch all the time, or it could be deciding to add a fourth day to your current gym regimen of 3 days/week. If you can make this one change and keep it up for several weeks, then add another small change. If not, look at what challenged you and adjust your goal to something smaller, easier, or more relevant to your actual desired outcome and values. You want to set a goal you can accomplish so that you will experience success and be motivated to continue on your journey. Slowly, many small shifts in your behavior will result in more noticeable and lasting change.
Step 2: If you stumble, get up! Get over it and get back on track! I’ll tell you a secret. Your personal trainer eats cake. Your dietician drinks beer. Your accountant loses receipts. The point is that no one is perfect in anything that they do. Ask Peyton Manning how his record-breaking season ended up if you want a good example. The point is you look at what you did, ask yourself if the outcome was worth it, and make a more educated decision the next time a challenge presents itself.
Step 3: If you have a plan, stick to it. If you don’t have a plan, get one. If you don’t know where to get a plan, ask for help: Everything we learn in life we learn from someone else. We, more or less, spend our lives replicating things we have seen or heard others doing. It’s not a bad thing – the more we see the more we learn. So, find someone to teach you how to stay on the right track. Instead of trying and stumbling, go ask a fitness professional. Your membership came with two free personal training sessions, so go use them this week.
Step 4: Overcoming a “Relapse”: In any behavior change endeavor, you will encounter challenges and you will sometimes revert to your old habits. Recognize that this is a normal part of the process. It is more helpful to forgive yourself your transgression than to berate yourself for a perceived failure. If you eat something you decided you wouldn’t or miss a day at the gym, rather than giving up on your goal, remind yourself of what it is you are trying to accomplish and why, and start fresh the next day.