If I didn’t get a chance to say it to you, Happy New Year! The start of the new year is always one of my favorite ‘holidays’ to celebrate. I have had a long time love affair with the idea of improvement and betterment and the new year is always like the Valentine’s Day of those ideas. It’s the time of the year when I get to unabashedly gush about the things I am always trying to do routinely anyway. I am always excited to see other people hop on to that new year improvement high and cheer them on their attempts to stay consistent.
So here we are in February, a month after you’ve made your resolutions and set those “better you” goals. Are you fully engaged and avidly pursuing your new goals now that we are four weeks into the new year? In the actions that you have taken, are you closer to accomplishing what you aspired to? Now some of you may be keeping your head high and feeling good about those questions but I know a lot of people are not. I know this because I bring it up. I inquire about it often to the people in my life. Sometimes I hear good news but more than anything, I hear a lot of excuses: a trait I recognize because I used to do it a lot myself. It’s amazing how many people have a fantastic set of goals to achieve and are completely done with efforts toward them in just a single months’ time. If you are a well –intentioned person that has fallen off track from your fitness goals or if you would just like some good advice on maintaining the ones you are pursuing, I want you to read these with a good attention span. These small ideas are very valuable pointers and made some big changes in my life. I hope they can do the same for you.
Know the power of a list.
Whether it be a list of long term goals or just the things you plan to get finished by the end of the afternoon; lists are incredibly powerful. They help you to reaffirm your goals in a solid form that you can hold in your hand and see over and over. There is a wonderful feeling of purging and setting order that comes about in creating a list and there are certainly few comparisons to the satisfaction of marking through or checking off a conquered objective. I start out each day with a list. Anything that I don’t get finished gets moved to my list for the next day. I became remarkably more productive doing this. Making list helps you to remember everything you need to get done, big and small, and helps you to create a mental game plan of how it can be played out through your day. It’s truly amazing how much you can get done if you plan your day with a list and refer to it. Around my desk at home, I have two lists that I smile at and read often. These are both my long and short term goals and my entire mood changes for the better when I read them. Seeing them listed out to myself, gives me inspiration and encouragement. One says “Practice martial arts every day. You have the time.” Whether you are strict or kind, be supportive of yourself. You know what you need to get done, write it to yourself in a way you know will encourage you to be constructive.
Stay within reason.
Now lets move on to how you set your goals. I don’t think a lot of people realize how easy it is to sabotage your own ambitions just on how you present them to yourself. I used to make a lot of really incredible goals and then beat myself up when I didn’t achieve them, blaming myself for an inevitable failure. First and foremost, make all of your goals REASONABLE! It sounds simple but it’s really not that easy. Let’s say your goal is to eat healthy. So you get brave and write it down: Eat healthy. You look at it and you have all these great thoughts of triumph. You are picturing yourself eating a salad and smiling. You’re saying “No thank you.” to dessert. Your imagination is incredible and you feel good. Now, fast forward to two weeks later. Read it again. Eat healthy. You think back to the salad and now that triumphant thought seems pretty unremarkable. You roll your eyes now at the same goal you were all pumped about. Why? Because it was vague and unreasonable, that’s why. Now let’s pair a reasonable goal with a bit of action. Your new and improved goal is “Eat fruit with every meal.” Now go out and buy some fruit. Make the effort to bring it to work for your lunch breaks. Now guess who is eating healthier? You see what we did there? Setting goals that are defined and attainable will mark the difference between failure and achievement. Another example is in how you approach your workouts. Don’t expect to be working out more than two or three times a week for the for the first two months. Picture it now: You buy a bunch of workout clothes, get your water bottle, headband; you are amped to start Monday. Your goal: “Workout more.” (We are vague and unreasonable by nature.) And you plan to go to the gym for an hour every day: cardio for three days, strength training for two. On Wednesday your muscles are so sore, you can barely take a step. You have bottomed yourself out and now need a longer recovery time. What are the odds that you will attempt that again on Monday? Slim to none. Now, be reasonable. If you can consistently make an hour workout two or three times a week for two straight months, you are ready to move on to more commitment. Your new and improved goal: “Make it to kickboxing class at 5:45 on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.” Write it into your planner; add it to your list. Incorporating exercise into your lifestyle is not an overnight change nor should it be.
Share your story.
When we write down our goals, we are statistically more likely to accomplish them. The chances get even better when we talk about them with the people in our lives. Tell your family and friends through conversation or social media what you’re doing and how it’s going. Besides being encouraging to both yourself and others, sharing your progress also helps hold you accountable to your commitments. It helps you to constantly consider your improvements and remind yourself of the strides that you have made.
Finally, stop becoming used to starting over. When I learned to evaluate my improvements and use them in a new approach, I found myself more successful in everything I tried to do. Forgive yourself for falling behind and consistently keep moving forward. Not every trip, stumble, or fall, needs to be a fiasco. If your goals are reasonable, they are clearly obtainable. Look at every day as a chance to do better than the last. Improve your bounce back time by becoming super focused and resilient. I’m trying not to end this in a cheesy way but there is a great quote by David Brooks that has stuck with me and I will share the part that resonates: “The future is better than the present and I have the power to make it so.” So where are you now? Brushing off your knees? Reevaluating the way you wrote your goals? Laying down your to-do list? Awesome. It’s February. Whether you are well on your way or revising your list, remember to keep moving forward.
Teresa Cherry is a writer and instructor at MA Fitness. To follow our blog on fitness, kickboxing, nutrition, and health, subscribe to our newsletter. Follow us on Facebook for the latest news and events.