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Dear Dr. Bell,
Every new year I’m super motivated to get inshape and eat right to lose weight. But after a few days it fades. This is probably the 5th or 6th year in a row, I’ve had the same New Year’s Resolution. How do I break the cycle? Do you have any tips for staying on track? I’ve had a gym membership for years and have probably gone less than 10 times. I want this year to be different, but I honestly don’t know what to do to stay motivated for this year to be different.
Thank you for the question. You are not alone!
In fact, the majority of the World’s Population goes through exactly the same thing!
The fact is, LIFE has gotten more complicated than ever and our technology has evolved to the point that “HARD WORK” is now determined by how many phone calls you make in a day or how fast your fingers can move across a Key Board!
It is easier to sit on a couch and let technology entertain us, than it is to use our bodies to create our joy.
We don’t need to do hard physical labor anymore and as a result, we have gotten more and more out of shape. We have more and more health problems that age us prematurely, prevent us from enjoying life’s pleasures and stop us from pursuing Happiness!
A Wiseman once said “Life is what happens when you are making other plans!”
You make a plan, then work your plan.
Plan a specific time on specific days and specific physical exercises you are going to perform.
Be VERY Specific!
Make a Specific graph with the Specific days you are to exercise and make sure you mark in your favorite color when you achieve your “Workout Date” and mark in RED when you get distracted and don’t.
Focus on a goal.
If your Goal is weight loss, set a Specific Date to achieve your Specific target goal.
If it is a Body Composition Goal, i.e.: how much fat loss vs. muscle gain, be Specific and set a Specific Date.
Now…the motivation part.
If you set a large goal that takes a lot of time to achieve, you are going to have a tough time achieving that goal.
What you need to do is set small goals, medium term and long term goals.
Setting nearly daily goals will supply more motivation and help you to be successful.
You need to achieve a goal TODAY to be motivated for tomorrow.
If you do that, achieving goals becomes a habit.
Your first goal could be something like: I will get to the gym today and do SOMETHING! Know exactly what you are going to do before stepping foot in the gym. Set yourself up from success by having a plan.
Your first workout should not be a killer workout that leaves you sore and exhausted. Get to the gym, do an easy warm-up, a few easy strength exercises that you will not strain too much, 15 minutes of cardio and some gentle, leisurely stretches and leave! Nothing too demanding and then give yourself some simple reward for a Job Well Done!
Your next workout can be a little longer and just a little harder.
You do this because your body is already adapting to your exercise.
REVEL in your bodies adaptive process. Enjoy the process. Imagine how you are going to feel, getting stronger, leaner, harder, healthier, fitter and happier after each exercise session.
Set Mid-Term Goals: i.e.: How you are going to look on the beach this Summer compared to last Summer!
Set Long-Term Goals: i.e.: How you will look at next year’s Christmas Party, Class Re-Union, Family Re-union, Wedding, etc. or preparing to compete in your favorite sport once again.
Use whatever will be an event, activity or Goal you can use to motivate yourself when LIFE is trying to distract you from being the Best “YOU” that is deep inside screaming to get out!
Find something you can use each and everyday to keep you focused…Eyes on the PRIZE…to keep you moving toward your goal and to avoiding all of Life’s interference from living your Best Life!
A reward system can also be very effective, and it can help you track your progress as well.
If your goal this week is to get to the gym four times and meet your nutritional goals Monday-Friday, your “reward” could be your favorite meal and dessert on “Saturday”. So, at the end of the week, if you have 4 green check marks (that represent the days you got to the gym) and 5 blue marks (that represent that you successfully met your nutritional goals)….dig into those buffalo nachos and fudge brownie pie.
You can break this down further. If you meet your exercise goals, but not your nutritional goals, enjoy the nachos, but sadly, forgo the pie.
It is important to have a monthly reward system as well.
At the end of the day on January 31st, take a look at the 31 days. If the goal was to get to the gym 18 days this month, you should see 18 green checkmarks. If you do, it is time to collect on your predetermined reward. The reward should be something that will really motivate you.
A cookie isn’t going to cut it.
Think bigger, treat yourself to a massage, buy the shoes you’ve been wanting, take a day trip to the beach. Make the reward worth staying on track for.
Complete the same process quarterly as well, but make those rewards more substantial. At the end of March, (June, September & December), review the months that make up the quarter. Did you hit all of January, February, and March’s goals? Fist pump….get tickets to the concert you’ve been wanting to see or watch your favorite team dominate from their stadium, take that weekend trip to Vegas, buy the grill…whatever “experience” or “purchase” will really motivate you for the next 3 months, use that as your preset reward.
Again, it is important to remember that, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
You could have created the most impressive plan to achieve your goals, however, you need to realize you will be tempted to put your workouts on the back burner for….everything else in your life.
Make a plan to avoid Life’s distractions: work, career, family, dating, kids, favorite video game, TV show, etc. the distractions can wait till you accomplish your daily goal or be re-scheduled.
Lack of time may require you to cut-out that favorite TV show or other distraction.
Achieving goals is difficult.
Life throws multiple challenges in the way to prevent your achievements.
It is precisely those challenges that makes Achievement so SWEET! The greater the Battle, the Sweeter the Victory!
Think of this quote from Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
You may want to consider repeating his quote daily.
If you build a habit of excellence, it will not only help you achieve your Fitness Goal, it will help you achieve ALL your goals!
You said you have been trying for 5 or 6 years in a row to achieve this goal. Keeping your eyes focused on the prize is Positive Motivation. Some people do better on Negative Motivation.
If you are one of those, consider this: “If you do NOT get in shape now, when will you?”
If you do not get in shape now, what kind of shape will you be in 1, 2, 3, 4…5 or 6 years from now?
If you do not get in shape now, will it be easier to get in shape when your doctor tells you that you have heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, arthritis, hypertension or 60+ other chronic disorders that result from poor exercise, nutrition and life style habits?
Will it be easier to get in shape when your body is incapable of having sex with your Lover or is racked in pain from all these diseases, disabilities and disorders that you could prevent RIGHT NOW by getting yourself in shape?
The Wiseman said: “Doing the same thing over and over and over, again and again and again and expecting a different result is one definition of insanity.”
Don’t go insane.
Make the changes you need to make.
Make the plan you need to have.
You need to be using these same thoughts when it comes to healthy eating, sleep and stress management and the lifestyle choices you make to help or hinder your pursuit of your goals.
Whether you use Positive or Negative Motivation is irrelevant. The only thing that should be relevant to you, is your success in getting in shape, so you can live a longer, healthier and happier life.
AND PLEASE…DO NOT RESPOND WITH…”I’LL TRY THAT!”
That is the worse response you can have!
To try something is to fail! To try, is to say: “I am going to put a little effort in this, but when the going gets tough…I’ll QUIT!”
“I’ll try” almost always ends in failure!
“Be the Master of your Fate. Be the Captain of your Soul”, and get it done.
“Do…or Do NOT! There is no TRY!” —Yoda, Jedi Master
Happy New Year from all us at the IFPA
Dr. Jim Bell