2018 is almost upon us, and it’s great to use the beginning of a new year to reflect on what worked in the year that is closing, and set some new wheels in motion for the next year beginning. One door closes, another door opens.
January is usually the busiest time in any fitness facility. Many people join in droves to accomplish their New Year’s Resolutions, of wanting to lose weight or improve upon their bodies, in general. Many people also drop out around March, having not accomplished what they set out to do. Either, the goal was not realistic, or the actual effort required was far greater than the perceived effort needed. The perception is that healthy people are somehow naturally good at being healthy, and that for everyone else, it’s a hard won struggle. Here’s the thing though, anyone who is successful has had to work for it, and has had to work very hard for it. All behaviours are learned. Everyone has a different set of circumstances: for some, their biggest challenge is motivation. For others, their biggest challenge is finding the finances or time to accomplish what they want. I cannot help you manage your time or finances, but I can help you with motivation.
Let’s start with why you are setting a resolution in the first place. In order to get to the meat of your motivation, ask yourself why 3 times. That will get you to the real answer. I’ll start with a personal example:
“I want to lose weight.”
“Why?” (first time)
“So that I have less weight to pull to do a pull up.”
“Why?” (second time – can also add “…is that important to you?” to the end of this question)
“So that I can scale vertical walls and more obstacles during obstacle course races.”
“Why?” (third time)
“So that I don’t have to be reliant on others to help me with obstacles which I cannot complete, which helps me enjoy my race experience more, which helps me enjoy my life more!”
These were relatively easy for me to answer, but that’s because I’m well practiced at digging deep into my motivation. Also realize, that resolutions are shit. Set yourself goals, and you will get much further. People oftentimes tell me that they are terrible at goal-setting, and largely, this is due to not setting SMART goals.
Specific – what do you want to do?
Measurable – by what magnitude does this need to happen, for it to feel like progress is being made?
Attainable – compared to what you are doing right now, is the goal much harder, or just a little bit harder? The loftier the goal, the less attainable it is. Use that BIG goal to work backward from, and use that to adjust your timeline.
Realistic – what are my resources available? Are there any setbacks which I can identify now, and plan for it?
Time-bound – when do I expect to accomplish this by?
If I apply SMART goal setting to my above statement of wanting to “lose weight”, it would sound like this:
“I want to lose 30 lbs (specific) by July 01 (time-bound). I will accomplish this by sticking to the meal plan from my dietitian, and sticking to my training program. If I lose 5 lbs per month (measurable, time-bound), then I will know I am on track. I lost 10 lbs in 3 months last summer (realistic), so I know that I can lose at least 1 lb per week (attainable). To ensure my success, I will track my food intake at least 5 out of 7 days per week (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound). I will also set my exercise plan in my calendar, so that I can ensure the proper amount of progression and recovery that I need to support my fitness goals, beyond what happens on the scale (peace of mind and focus to go beyond an outcome which I have no control over).”
“…beyond an outcome which I have no control over.”
Here’s the other part where most people struggle with goal setting. In creating their goal, they choose something that is outcome-focused, rather than behaviour-focused. We have absolutely no control over the outcome. This is how some people can have a healthy lifestyle and still get diagnosed with cancer and die, and why some people can smoke a pack of cigarettes per day and never get lung cancer.
Physiology is such a complicated subject, each body responds differently to stimuli. All we can do is hedge our bets in establishing behaviours which are either more likely or less likely to lead toward the outcome we are seeking. For example, I will be more likely to feel rested if I sleep for 8 hours a day, rather than 6. To most people, that statement would be quite obvious, but for some reason, our minds don’t follow the same pattern when it comes to establishing proper eating and exercise habits. We think too much about the outcome (losing/gaining weight, getting faster/stronger) without much attention to the behaviours or process that will lead us there. And the most frustrating thing about that is? Each person’s process is going to be as individual as they are. What works for one person, may not work for you, and depending on their actions and temperament, may not result in a permanent lifestyle change. People who are successful are not simply “lucky” or stumbled across a fad that magically worked. People who are successful simply don’t take failure personally, or see being short of a goal as being a setback. They fall off the horse, repeatedly, and get back on again, and again, and again. All others will see is the success, they will seldom know your process because only you experienced it.
Give yourself the love and attention you need to turn inward. Ask yourself WHY you want to accomplish something. Set your why into SMART goals. Realize that success is not linear and some of your goals will need to be revised on a frequent basis to match your expectations with reality. Be honest about your limitations, but also, research what resources you need and you may already have. Create a framework that increases your likelihood of the outcome you seek, but remember that it’s completely out of your control. Which is a great thing. This is what makes life interesting! This is where we have the opportunity to learn!