We are a little way into the new year now, so who made a list of resolutions? And how many of those have you broken already?
Statistically a large number of you will have already deviated from your plans to make big changes this year and even those who haven’t, if you approach it like most people, the odds are strongly against you following through on your targets.
New Year’s resolutions are so easy to make – but not so easy to stick to. For the first few weeks of the year it’s a new page, a fresh start and everyone feels a huge sense motivation to stick to the fitness and diet plan, often developed as a reaction to the indulgences of the festive period – but all too quickly excuses begin and, as research shows, by February and March more than 50% of Keep-fit New Year’s Resolutions have gone by the wayside.
But there may be a way to stick to your New Year fitness and diet resolutions – by thinking about things in a different way.
The key to realising resolutions is to focus on the emotional drivers behind the desire to change. Forget about weight loss as your goal and focus instead on constructing a version of you that you will make you happy, not because you have done it quickly, but because you have done it effectively and have achieved something you can not only be proud of, but also something that just ‘feels’ right.
Resolve and willpower can get you through most things short term but in the end willpower alone will fail.
As an example, more than half the people who attempt to give up smoking fail in the long run even if willpower carries them through a few days or weeks.
The rebound rate for weight loss is higher than that of smokers. Why? Because you can’t just WANT to achieve something. There has to be an emotional connection. And given most resolutions are little more than wishes to change with no preparation or thought as to how they will be achieved, is it any wonder that most fall flat as soon as distractions get in the way or things don’t go 100% to plan?
Over the past decade I’ve worked with hundreds of clients over thousands of hours in the pursuit of specific goals, but one thing became apparent very quickly in my coaching career. That, regardless of what people ‘say’ their goals are, the truth is buried much deeper than the cosmetic changes most claim to want. Those who accepted this truth and were able to tap into what was driving them emotionally to achieve their goals were able to take a more focused and methodical approach to the changes rather than simply seeking a ‘quick fix’.
Among those I work with, this route has since developed the name ‘Emotivation’.
The importance of emotions for reaching fitness goals
Like it or not, our emotions rule our actions in the long-term. They cause internal hormonal activity and the resulting chemical reactions cannot be overcome with willpower alone.
Thousands of years of evolution have created these reactions and they are there to protect us.
Our bodies like the “status quo”. They don’t like change or the unknown as that can spell trouble. So in order to overcome these emotional responses you need to create a stronger emotion that you can connect to.
Getting emotional about goals starts with one easy question – “Why?”
For example, Brian is 24, overweight, single and depressed: “I want to bring my waist size to 34 inches, improve my body composition to a level where I can see my six pack. I want to feel healthy, energised and confident in my appearance and I will do all of this by the time I go on holiday in June,” Brain claims.
Why? “Because I want to feel good about how I look on the beach” Why? “Because I want the girls who see me to find me attractive” Why? “Because I have never had a girlfriend and it depresses me to feel that women don’t find me attractive. So hopefully with an improved physique and level of self-confidence, I can put out a more positive personality and attract someone suitable to have a relationship with.”
Now we are getting somewhere. So the next time Brian thinks about skipping the gym, going for a curry or heading out for a night of boozing with the lads, he has an alternative emotion to draw on. As long as the idea of feeling confident and feeling attractive to the opposite sex remains stronger than the feeling of eating a curry, the menu stays in the drawer and he heads to the gym.
However, even with the right level of ‘Emotivation’ you still need the tools to put it into practice.
Again, if you are like most people you will do what most people do. Even if you take this approach and give yourself more specific, emotionally charged targets, if you don’t know how best to achieve them then you are likely to expending a lot of energy in the ‘hope’ of achieving something, but whether you do or not is more of a lottery than a science.
What would ‘Most’ people do?
At the beginning of the year, most would pick a list of things they want to resolve to change in the new year.
Assuming there were fitness of physique related goals in there, then the next thing they would resolve to do is to make changes to their diet and to exercise more.
But that’s usually where the planning ends.
So when January rolls around there is no plan in place. They may ‘want’ to do something, but they don’t really know what to do. So they just follow the crowd. Head to the local commercial gym and find out what diet other people are following and follow that.
Again, as with the goal setting, there is no planning, no thinking about how this specifically fits with their individual needs and there is no way of measuring progress, because they don’t have a clear enough idea of what progress is. So when they’ve been working hard at sticking to ‘something’ for over a month and don’t see huge levels of weight loss or are feeling fatigued from the lack of nutrients in their over zealous diet approach, they cave and fall back to what is comfortable.
This is meant to be your resolution for the year. Your big life changer. The thing that is truly going to make a difference this time. And if you just follow the crowd, at best all you are going to achieve is average. But as most people fail, if you do what most people do, guess what you are going to get?
Rather treat this with the same respect you would if you were going to move house or buy a new car. In either of these instances you would, to some degree, go with your gut and what you ‘want’ or the option that makes you most excited. But you wouldn’t buy a house without getting a survey, checking out the market to see what else was out there and the going rate for similar properties. You’d probably measure up to see if it was practical for your furniture or just for your daily purposes. In other words, you’d put in some time before making any kind of commitment to it. The difference is, if you don’t like your choice a year down the line or you end up messing it up via DIY or something, you can always move to another house, your body is something you have for life and you are going to have to live with what you do to it. So does that not warrant a little prep work to try and get it right?
One thing though, don’t use prep work as an excuse for procrastination. Spend a day thinking about your choices, maybe a couple of days researching options from nutritional plans to your choice of gym and training programme and then get on with it. Continue to assess as you go and be ready to change direction if you need to, but do it with forethought and reason. But most of all do it with energy, passion and excitement in knowing you are moving towards your true, emontionally charged goals.
Could this be the way to actually stick to your New Year’s Resolutions?
What is different in this approach is simply that there is a reason for your goals now and so you can take logical steps to achieving them. Your desire to make the long term change is deep rooted and therefore you are much less likely to deviate from the path you then set yourself.
So rather than making a ‘resolution’ to change this year, why not look take some time to get to know yourself. Discover what it is you truly want to achieve and most importantly ‘Why?’ Really FEEL the difference it would make to create these changes (Looking good is not a feeling, though feeling good will generally result in more positive choices resulting in an improved appearance and body composition). Then make a structured, logical plan to take you where you want to be.
Feel who you want to be then live your life as that person.
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