How many times, year after year, do you compile a lofty, beautiful, mostly achievable list of New Year’s resolutions? And how many times, after a couple months, couple weeks, maybe just a couple days, do you find yourself slipping back into your old habits, eating your old snacks, hitting the snooze repeatedly to sleep right through your workout? It might be time for a little self-reflection, to help kick-start your productivity.
You’ve buried your resolutions under a pile of mail, so it doesn’t stare you in the face as a reminder of what you’re not achieving. Maybe that’s because a list isn’t the best motivating factor out there. Maybe it’s our mentality on bettering ourselves, on changing bad habits, that needs to change.
What’s that supposed to mean, you ask? Maybe we never reach our goals because we don’t set ourselves up to reach them. It doesn’t mean our goals are inherently negative – trying to implement a daily workout routine is a great goal! Similarly, eating well and taking care of the body from gut to skin are admirable goals. Here’s where we need to improve: eliminating the distance between Point A (goal-setting) and Point B (goal-achieving). With just a few strategies, you might find yourself more capable than you ever believed yourself to be.
Can you keep a secret?
You’ve decided to work out everyday — fantastic! Now, don’t tell anyone.
No, seriously. Don’t post the news anywhere. Stay off social media, and refrain from publicizing your life choices. Make sure that you do this for you. You’re not working out for those individuals who occasionally see your life updates online.
You’re not competing for online approval.
You’re competing for control over your own life.
As soon as the affirmations and positive feedback start flooding into your notifications, it tricks your brain into thinking you’ve already accomplished something huge; in reality, you haven’t. Posting good intentions of a daily workout isn’t doing anything for your muscles. Instead, consider this a challenge – surprise everyone. Surprise the people who occasionally follow your online life updates. Surprise friends and family members. Better yet, surprise yourself. Earn appreciation not for setting lofty goals for everyone to see, but for completing them yourself.
Slow and steady wins the race
Keep expectations high, but not impossible. If you’ve spent the past year eating take-out most weeknights, switching to a balanced diet, complete with portion control and meal preparation, won’t happen overnight. Any life change takes time. If you slip up and pick up Chinese food on Thursday that’s ok. Sometimes the best form of self-care is listening to yourself. If you need a night of lo mein and fried rice, not a problem. Just make sure you get yourself back on track the next day. Also, if you begin living a healthy lifestyle of balanced eating and exercise, you’ll find yourself wanting to eat well because of the strong link between diet and everyday performance. Not only will you feel better eating tuna instead of fried shrimp, but you’ll see how simple meat selection choices will affect your energy, stamina, skin condition and productivity. Before you know it, skipping take-out will get easier and easier.
Not with that attitude!
We’ve likely all been on the receiving end of the following comment: “Nothing is going to change with that attitude.” Typically, this comment isn’t received well. However, this is the best moment for a pause.
Have you ever wanted to make a life change, only to have that little voice in the back of your head whisper, “This will last two days. Don’t do something you’ll regret.”? Success comes to those who commit. No wonder we fall off the self-improvement bandwagon so fast — no one believes they’ll actually be able to stay on. Depressing, no? Instead of making the first item on your self-care list “Work out everyday,” try this one: “Change mentality on working out everyday — you can do it.” When you tell yourself “you can,” you will.
What works for you?
Waking up at 4 a.m. for an hour-long run in order to shed a few pounds might not be the best entry strategy when it comes to adopting an action plan you can maintain. Success often lies in the baby steps. Writing out a list of meals for the week and preparing them on Sunday night might conflict with already-made commitments. No big deal. The key to staying motivated in your workout or diet program is this — do what works for you.
Maybe you work out best in the evening. Make that a habit! Maybe you like to grocery shop after work for ingredients, one meal at a time. That works too! Does plastering your mirror with sticky notes of affirmation, or maintaining a workout journal, keep you enthused? Don’t stop! Hate lifting weights, but love the toning poses of yoga? Find a yoga class, and don’t feel pressured to bench your weight if that’s not what you do best.
Just like there’s no one cookie-cutter human being, there’s no one cookie-cutter method of keeping healthy, in shape and motivated. Find the method of weight loss that works for your body, whether that’s strict eating or CrossFit or Paleo. “One size fits all” doesn’t exist when it comes to self-motivation, so stop looking for it.
As much as enthusiasm remains necessary, don’t quit bad habits cold turkey in the hope of new, good habits rising up to take their place. It takes time, patience, and the occasional “treat yourself,” to establish habitual routines of self care. The first few days of building a new habit are crucial, so give them energy and effort, and try to avoid skipping a day. But as time passes, these new, good habits will begin to take root in your life, and you will enjoy the satisfaction which comes with taking care of yourself.
No one said weight loss or working out needs to be a punishment! Celebrate your victories, the milestones in the routines, and the habits you’re creating. Enjoy a fancy meal out after week one of great success. After week two, assess the condition of your skin and see if you need to implement anything to care for your external wellbeing. Oftentimes, the key to a healthy, productive outside is a healthy, happy inside. We suggest the luxurious Mother of All Creams, to give your body the moisture it needs after a post-workout shower? Whatever it is, whatever keeps you motivated or excited to continue with these positive changes, do it! And don’t forget — you can do this.