Staying on Track: Four Simple Steps

So, you’ve gotten started.  You’ve taken that leap of faith and tried something new.  Now the question is – how do you stay started?  How do you keep rolling with the good choice that you’ve made?

The answer, for me at least, is to keep it simple.  Here are the four steps I follow to help turn a great start into an ongoing behaviour.

1) Find Out What Motivates You

What keeps you doing the things you do?  Think about the things you are already successful at – why are you able to keep on track with them?  Do you make it to every derby practice?  How?  Do you make your meal plans at the start of each week?  What keeps you consistent?  In Switch, Chip and Dan Heath tell us to look for the “bright spots” when making a change.  Find what is working and clone it.  Once you’ve got your motivation, own it.  Every one of my clients has a different motivation, and their motivations are different from my own.  For me, a big motivator is vanity.  I love the way my arms and back look when I’ve been training.  I will literally stare at my abs in the mirror and look at the 6-pack progress.  I used to feel like that was kind of shameful (won’t lie – still do now that I’m sharing it on the blog), BUT I know that it’s what gets me going.  When I first started training, about five years ago, the only thing that kept me doing my workout videos day after day was wanting to look good in my wedding dress.  Sure, there were other factors – not feeling great about my body or my energy level, wanting to be healthy and so on – but the thing that connected with me on a visceral level was how I looked.  Which leads me to my next step –

2) Set SMART Goals Rooted in Motivation

We’ve all heard of SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely), these are the kind of goals we need to have to stay on track with any new habit.  Your goals can be anything that connects with you emotionally.  Sometimes they’re performance-based,  “I want to skate 31 laps in 5 minutes”, “I want to complete 1 deadhang bodyweight pull-up”, sometimes they’re number-based, “I want to lose 10 pounds”, “I want to have a 24 inch waist”, sometimes they’re feeling-based “I don’t want to be in pain every morning”.  Whatever the goal, be specific about it.  Set a timeline – when you attach a deadline, you are far more likely to succeed than if it’s a “sometime” goal.  It’s not that some goals are better than others, but some are framed more effectively – instead of looking at what you want to lose and what you don’t want, think of positive goals – what do you want to gain?  Strength?  Body awareness?  Lean muscle mass?  Energy?  A new skill?  Next, connect the goal to the motivation – how will achieving the goal make you feel?

3) Encourage Habits That Get You Closer to Your Goal

Your time is precious, try not to waste energy researching what not to do.  We all know what not to do – it’s often what got us to where we are in the first place.  Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t, what you should do rather than what you shouldn’t.  In derby, if I tell myself over and over “don’t cut the track” (or in my case “don’t use your forearms”), I am WAY more likely to cut the track (or use my forearms) than if I tell myself “stay tight, find your way through” (or “keep your elbows tucked” ).  What’s true in derby is true in training, in nutrition and in life – if I focus on the cookie I can’t have, I will obsess about the cookie until I eventually give in.  Sites like Eat This, Not That do the work for you – they give you the positive choice, without you having to dwell on the negative.  With habits, as with goals, keep it simple.  Encourage one sustainable habit at a time.  I’ll repeat –

ONE.  SUSTAINABLE. HABIT. AT. A .TIME.

Set action triggers to turn your new habit into a lifelong habit.  I lay out my training clothes every day before I leave for work.  I arrange my schedule so that my workout is normally around the same time each day (between 6 and 9 pm in case you’re curious) and my body expects me to be moving when that time comes.  I keep a picture of Neghar on my fridge, since she’s my ab-spiration, and looking at her abs every day makes me want to eat cleaner (I hope that’s not creepy).  For some, the action trigger is having a gym buddy, a derby wife, or a trainer to be accountable to.  Habits should be logical and easy to stick to – they should make your life easier, not more complicated.  Remember the Pareto Principle – 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts – find a couple of habits that work best for you, your “bright spots”, and cultivate them.

4) Help Yourself Along

Often, in health and fitness, oh heck and in life too, we try to do it all.

via Hyperbole and a Half

 We love to multitask – I love to multitask.  But too often multitasking gives us an easy way out – ““I tried, but it was just too much, I couldn’t find the time”.  Absolutely, when you try to do All The Things, there will never be enough time.  Trust me, because I am always trying to do all the things.

To be sustainable, not only do you need to introduce small and achievable habits one by one, you also need to give yourself room to fail.  Miss a workout?  Lose a game?  Eat a Big Mac?  It’s going to happen.  Expect valleys on the way to the peaks.  You will miss a training session along the way; acknowledge it, and train hard the next time.  Your team will lose a game (even Gotham loses sometimes); use the loss to analyze your play, learn from it, and apply what you’ve learned to the next game.  Your nutrition will not always be 100%; eat that Big Mac, feel like crap, and remember that feeling next time you want one.  Don’t give small missteps more weight than they deserve.  Planning not to be perfect lets us be realistic.

Realism + Small Logical Habits + SMART Goals + Emotional Connection = Sustainable Success

And sustainable success is the best kind of success.

Keep it simple and go be awesome.

 

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