With New Year's just around the corner, people are gearing up for those, "self-promises" to a better life. Usually, these promises involve becoming fit and healthy, and living life to its fullest.
But there's one problem. In fact, I see it every year. For the first two weeks, people ride that "New Year's Wave." They go to the gym everyday and make sure to implement a strict diet for the first two weeks.
After those two weeks the gyms become empty and the healthy hopefuls are back on the couch with their potato chips. So what happened to all of these gung-ho people? Why do they burn out after only two weeks?
The answer is simple, yet often overlooked. The fact of the matter is that changing your body is not only a physical process; it's a mental process too - and then some. But people consider getting in shape physical because we're trying to make physical changes to the body; however, if we dig a little deeper we would realize that changing our body involves changing our lifestyle - our habits - which is difficult.
Humans are programmed to seek comfort. We like routines. It's easy. Changing our habits creates uncertainty, discomfort, and unfamiliarity. It's hard and requires a strong mental foundation to create lasting motivation. But how do we build this foundation? What tools and techniques work? How do we start?
I like to think of the process in the form of a pyramid. We must work our way from the bottom (a large, general foundation) to the top (a specific point - in this case fitness). By working hard to develop a large base or foundation, we can climb to the top without worrying about falling.
Defining Our Purpose
The base or foundation of our pyramid comes from defining our purpose. More simply put, why are you changing your life? Why do you want to get in shape? After all, running, weight training, eating healthy; it's not easy. In fact, it can be downright painful at times, so why do you want to put yourself through this?
Most people who create New Year's Resolutions have no idea why they want to get in shape. I guess it's just a trendy thing to do nowadays.
The more emotionally connected you are with your purpose, the faster you will develop a lasting motivation. For example, if your purpose is to look good, you might give up after two weeks because you don't see immediate results; however, if your purpose is to lower your blood pressure so you can be alive for your children, you're going to work a little harder to reach your goals.
In order to find a purpose that is emotional enough, we need to ask "The 5 why's." That is, we need to ask ourselves "why" five times to get a deep enough answer.
Whatever your purpose is, you need to have one. Every time you feel a lack of motivation to get to the gym or start a workout, look at your purpose and remind yourself why it's so important to keep moving forward.
Level 1 Setting Goals
I'm sure you've heard this before, but have you actually created goals - and written them down?
Lately, The Secret and the Law of Attraction have become popular. Well, if you think about it, you're writing down what you want and consciously focusing on those desires. Hmm, that kind of sounds like creating goals to me.
I think the problem most people run into is how they actually set their goals. You see, goals must meet certain criteria in order to be helpful, otherwise, you're just going to get disappointed and give up. Below, I give five specific guidelines for creating goals - and writing them down.
Goals Need To Be Specific And Measurable
Creating a general goal such as, "I want to lose weight," won't cut it. Instead, phrase the goal as, "I will weigh X pounds." Here a specific weight target has been set, and we can measure it quite easily.
When your goal is specific and measurable, you can track your progress and determine if you're on the right path. In addition, specific goals allow you to identify exactly what must be done to succeed. It makes you accountable.
Goals Must Have A Deadline
The above goal is not complete yet. "I will weigh X pounds in the next two months," solidifies your goal. Deadlines are important because humans respond better under pressure and, if your goal has a certain time frame, there's pressure to get it done.
People procrastinate. Setting a deadline helps ensure completion of our goals.
Goals Must Be Positive
Notice the goal isn't about losing weight; it's about weighing a certain amount. Psychologically, we don't want to lose or give up things because losing has a negative connotation.
When we use a positive voice in creating goals, we accomplish them much easier.
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Goals Must Be Realistic
Realistic goals are a crucial part of creating your success. If they are not realistic, you will be far less likely to achieve them. Additionally, unrealistic goals can also be unhealthy. A goal of losing 20 pounds each week is both unrealistic and unhealthy.
Goals Are Stronger In Present Tense
Putting your goals in present tense makes them more powerful. All of a sudden, the goal becomes framed as a reality. It's not something off in the future, it's here - you've achieved it. Our goal, "I will weigh X pounds in the next two months." transforms into, "I weigh X pounds on Y date."
Using present tense creates a feeling, the feeling that is present when you actually achieve your goal. And this allows the mind to conceive and achieve the goal.
Level 2 Creating A Strategy
Having a strategy is comparable to a timeline or "mini-goals." It's creating goals for your goals. If one of your goals is to make it to the gym at least three days per week, your strategy might be to plan a schedule that keeps an hour open for "gym time."
Do you remember that syllabus the teachers used to hand out on the first day of classes? Well, that's a strategy. We want to create our "health syllabus" for the next week, month, year, etc. This allows us to budget our time; plan our workouts, meals, and errands; and to confirm whether we're on track or not.
The strategy also allows you to customize your new lifestyle to, well, you. Going to the gym six days per week might be unrealistic for you, so create a strategy that works by going to the gym three days a week. You might not be comfortable in the weight room and your strategy may be to start a program with a personal trainer. You can see how the strategy solidifies our goals, which ultimately leads to our purpose-our foundation for this journey.
Now, you might not now exactly how you're going to reach your goals, and that's OK. We can't see the future and, by focusing on one route to our goal, we can miss other pathways to success. We do however need to be ready to notice-and jump on-the opportunities that will drive us closer to our purpose and our goals. This involves three steps:
Research And Know Your New Area
Preparing yourself for a shift in habits by knowing what will be required in your new lifestyle allows you to mentally prepare for the changes at hand. Going into anything blind is a bad idea. You can't prepare, you don't know what potential negatives or challenges exist, and it's much harder to create an optimal success strategy. It's like investing in a stock you know absolutely nothing about-you would never do something like that because the risk would outweigh the potential benefit.
If, however, you have done your research, it's easy to know what impending challenges you'll face and how to overcome them. You can also learn from other's mistakes - and avoid them.
So how do we research our topic? Simple. First, try to find a book on the subject. I know there are a lot of books out there, but choosing the right one should be intuitive. You want to look for a book that corresponds to what you want. For example, if you were a beginner trying to get in shape you would want to look for a book that covered nutrition, weight training, and aerobics - a full package.
This would give you a great knowledge base of what would be required and it would provide you with a program to get you started. The simpler the book, the better; too many sources try to overcomplicate fitness when it can actually be a simple topic.
After you've familiarized yourself with a basic understanding, it's time to immerse yourself in the topic. Doing this is hard, but always leads to success. Find mentors; read as many different articles on the subject as possible; read conflicting ideas to look at every possible angle; volunteer your time to work for someone with extensive knowledge on the subject. Do whatever it takes.
Immersing yourself does two crucial things:
- It forces you to become adept in the new field.
- You naturally start changing your lifestyle in order to gain knowledge.
Create A Time Frame
Humans are interesting creatures. We seem to wait until the last minute before we actually perform or change. We put it off as long as possible, fearing what might lurk ahead.
If we create a time frame to start implementing our healthy lifestyle (i.e., a schedule), then we begin holding ourselves accountable. We create deadlines and adhere to them (if we can commit).
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Creating a time frame also allows you to see how much will have to be accomplished within a specific period of time. For example, if you decided to start changing your lifestyle and becoming fit in the next two weeks, you could see that you would be replacing certain habits or changing your routines.
You would have two weeks to mentally prepare for such changes by gauging how much work you'll need to put in for your changes. This time would also allow you to start creating a strategy. This might include such things as when you could work out; what foods you would need to change or start eating; when to eat your meals; even changes in your sleep schedule.
Commit To Your Future
This is the final, and most important, piece of the puzzle. You could know, in depth, everything about fitness. You could set a rigid time frame/schedule to start accomplishing your goals. But without committing 100 percent to changing and following through, without dedicating yourself whole-heartedly to "sticking with it," it's likely you will fall short and burn out.
Truly committed people understand the pain, sacrifices, fears and other roadblocks that must be overcome. They understand that things will get downright hard. They know success isn't a short-term or immediate result. They also realize that, in order to succeed, they must persist through these difficulties.
Committing implies that you've promised yourself that you will keep going-keep trying-until you reach success. Under no circumstances will you give up. If you are truly committed, then you can't fail.
Lasting resolutions start with the mind and end with the body. If you really want to get in shape (and stay in shape) this year, you will apply the steps laid out in this article. These are great steps to lasting New Year's Resolutions. Happy New Year and good luck!