By Giacomo Marchese
Setting resolutions for the new year is an age-old pastime and almost expected of you. I think it's a way to talk about how you will better yourself and learn from the past. After all, we should be able to get better with time. However, I am of the mindset that when you are ready to change, there's no reason to wait on it. Why push off till tomorrow what you can do today?
Let's say for argument's sake that today is your day. It's time to make way for the new you. As silly as that might sound, a little self-affirmation never hurt anyone. Now that you've stroked your ego a bit, it's time to get real and think about what you want to accomplish. If you are like most people, you are likely trying to accomplish something you have already failed at more than once. Or worse, you didn't even get to try to take a crack at it. I feel your pain, and I am here to tell you that you are not an anomaly.
Have you ever seen images that illustrate the path to success? It is anything but linear. Not only do we have setbacks, sometimes we have to go back to square one and start from scratch. That is OK. Consider yourself normal and just as capable as the person you look to for inspiration because he/she/they have already accomplished what you are going after. I don't think there is anything wrong with fitspo, but it can be a slippery slope. The first step is to discover where you are and focus on what is right in front of you. So what's next? Please give me the juice!
Step 1 - Set your sights on the process, not the outcome.
Thinking about the finish line is exciting and motivating. I get it. But if we get too hung up on the outcome, we risk not developing the habits and routine to get there. Regardless, it's a sure-fire way to set yourself up for disappointment once you do cross the finish line. Even for those go-getters that manage to do the thing, the end goal isn't what satisfies you. It is who you needed to become to reach your destination that matters. If you focus on the process from day one, you are far more likely to enjoy what you're doing and go after the next goal that much faster.
Step 2 - Don't rush.
We can think our way right out of establishing a routine by trying to do too much too fast. It is a hard sell for most but those who start small and build from there last. Ask anyone motivated and raring to go what they can do. Most of the time, you'll get a response like this: "I am going to train five-plus days a week and am ready for a super strict diet now." I love an ambitious person, but the approach still has to be realistic and manageable. Ask yourself what you think you could be doing for the next 5-10 years, consistently. Whatever your answer is, that is your foundation. You can always ramp up your efforts once you have a sensible routine in place. And you can always go back to it when you need to.
Step 3 - Set realistic expectations.
Big goals are exciting. I am also a firm believer that dreaming up what isn't possible is healthy and necessary. It's how incredible things happen. I am the last person you will hear offering discouraging words when someone shoots for the stars. After you have imagined where you want to be, it's also a good idea to file away that thought and focus on what is possible in the short-term. When it comes to fitness, I can tell you with certainty that where you want to be in the next year is where you will be in the next five years. Perhaps this is disparaging to hear, but I am much more of the mindset that it helps to be in it for the long haul. It also makes it possible to celebrate small victories along the way.
Step 4 - Keep track of your progress to build habits and routines.
I feel that this is especially important in the beginning stages of habit building. We become set in our ways. Being aware of the changes we need to make is step one. Tracking the new habits you are looking to build helps make them a part of your new routine. It also gives you a little dopamine hit and a sense of pride, knowing you are accomplishing what you set out to do. Eventually, you can let go of the rigidity of tracking your every move and realize that your newfound habits and routine are just a part of you. Not doing them isn't even a thought or consideration.
Step 5 - Check-in with yourself along the way
I recommend checking in with yourself every three months. Sometimes routines need to change so that your habits can still fit neatly into your lifestyle. Call it a re-balancing of sorts. It's easy to assume that we control all the variables in our environment, but the truth is we don't. As our world changes, we must adapt. Checking in with ourselves several times a year allows us the opportunity to do clean-up. It also gives us a chance to get some feedback on how things have been going. I find that it's less about the fear of change and success for driven individuals and more about the failure to recognize when we need those adjustments.
Finally, it is OK to stop and smell the roses. There is no shame in feeling a sense of pride while transitioning to a new and better you. Being hard on yourself can be useful at times. It can also lead to self-sabotage and a decreased quality of life. Give yourself grace before you need it, be kind to yourself, and you'll never need to pour from an empty cup to reach your end goal.