The quickest route to falling off the health and fitness wagon is to set yourself unrealistic goals, which you simply haven't thought through. Spending a little time really thinking about what you want and why is every bit as important as taking steps to making it happen. Always set goals that follow the SMART principle; make sure they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-framed.
The power of positive thinking
Once you've formulated your year's goals, be positive and confident about your ability to achieve them. Look for 'evidence' that this time will be different. For example; do you want it (whatever 'it' is) more than ever this time around?
Do you feel in a better position to achieve your goal than you have done on previous occasions?
Have you finally reached a position in life where it's less scary to change than to stay the same? We human beings don't like change and fear the unknown - so no matter how much you may want to give up smoking, or ditch your party lifestyle, part of you will resist.
Find as much evidence as you can that 2014 is the year your resolutions are going to be successful. And don't fall into the 'oh, I'm useless or I've got no willpower trap.' You - and every other human being on this planet - have willpower. If you have had a baby, what about that whole nine months when you resisted having a few drinks because you were pregnant? What about when you stayed late at work every night for a week to perfect your presentation? The secret is learning to channel that willpower in the right direction.
Many of us unwittingly set ourselves up for failure by formulating 'away from' goals rather than 'towards' ones. What does that mean? It means instead of focusing on where we want to go, we dwell on what we want to move away from, sending negative messages to the subconscious mind, such as that we are 'bad' and 'unacceptable' as we are. Motivating ourselves with negatives - such as that tightness in your chest when you run up the stairs, or yet another pounding hangover - is often sufficient to kick-start a new regime but it doesn't have the power to enable us to sustain it.
Take a look at your resolutions and 're-frame' any that are negatively motivated into something more positive. For example, I don't want to throw up in public or wake up feeling like an ashtray ever again could be re-framed as I want to wake up each day feeling focused, energetic and healthy and be in control of my actions at all times.
Put pen to paper
It also helps to see your goals in black and white - write them down somewhere and refer to them regularly. Ask yourself if the small steps you are taking are in the right direction. Congratulate yourself for moving closer to your dreams. If the changes you want to make are personal, then write them in a 'goals journal', and you can use the pages to write down how you are feeling about your progress, record successes and determine the cause of minor setbacks. This enables you to engage in the whole process of change, and is very empowering.
Having said that, it is always fantastic to have external support too. If, for example, your goal is to lose weight, then you might have a picture of yourself looking rather overweight stuck on the fridge, and ask your kids and partner to write down their top reasons for wanting you to succeed in losing weight next to the picture. That way, everyone wants to play a part in helping you succeed. While the bottom line of motivation has to come from within, support and encouragement from your friends and family can be wonderfully inspiring.
Resolving to do or change something in your life is a big step. Once you've made the decision, it's tempting to expect it to happen straight away. But be patient! Things don't change overnight. That's why it is important to have a time frame for your goal. But even if your 'deadline' is, say, six months away, that doesn't mean that you can't set mini goals along the way. These stepping stones give you something more immediate to aim for, and also help you build confidence and faith in yourself when you achieve them. Don't forget to give yourself a reward when you do!
And finally, just because on New Year's Eve you made a specific resolution, it isn't writ in stone. Do be flexible. This isn't carte blanche to ditch your fitness efforts at the first sign of a challenge, but a reminder that sometimes things don't pan out as we choose. If, for example, you resolved to run a marathon but have had back pain for two months, you may need to defer that goal for now. Or if a close relative falls ill, you may need to put your thrice-weekly visits to the gym on hold while you tend to their needs. Whatever your New Year resolutions are - keep them in perspective and enjoy the journey of achieving them as much as the destination.
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