Why is it that by mid-February our New Year’s resolutions are faded memories? It’s easy to be optimistic in your declarations with a glass of champagne in hand. Your future self is always disciplined and will never lack determination. However, when that alarm clock goes off and it’s time to hit the gym, your present self has a much harder time being dutiful.
To succeed at changing a habit, your present self must have the same resolve as the future self you envision. Your future self will not quit smoking if your present self is unwilling to forego a cigarette. If the diet always starts tomorrow, it will never begin.
Instead of optimistically imagining what your future self will do, focus on making it easier for your present self to follow the new direction. Everyone knows that present selves can be as hard to turn around as a cruise ship, but remember that even a slight turn of the wheel will set the vessel on a totally new course.
Make 2018 the year that you actually get your money’s worth out of your gym membership. Here is how to set up your present self for lasting success.
Set aside time to contemplate
It’s important to have blocks of uninterrupted time to focus on your goals. Make a special date with your present self to map out what you want for the year. Hold yourself accountable by scheduling monthly check-ins to celebrate accomplishments, evaluate next steps and adjust goals.
Set realistic goals
Robert Shoop, a personal trainer at Iron-Bound Gym in Williamsburg, points out the instinct to have unrealistic expectations for ourselves. “When we are 40, we don’t assume our eyes will see as accurately as when we were 20. We need to have similar expectations for the rest of our body.” What is a reasonable goal? If you haven’t worked out for years, don’t expect to go to the gym and make it through a tough class. You will be frustrated and likely quit. Walking 15 minutes during your lunch hour and stretching in the evening is a realistic way to begin exercising. Make the path doable so that your present self will choose to follow it.
Get back on track
You ate pizza and brownies at a party. You think, “I just blew it, I may as well eat some ice cream now.”
The norm for our culture is to berate ourselves for failure. But, what would you say to encourage a friend who did the same thing? Likely it would be the opposite of what you say to yourself. You would tell them, ”It’s ok that you ate pizza at the party. You are only human and no one can eat perfectly every day. Don’t let this little setback ruin your progress. I believe in you!” Using compassionate language with yourself may seem odd at first, but your chances for success are much greater when you show yourself kindness and encouragement.
What has worked in the past?
What successful changes have you made before? Did you stop having lunch with your office mate who only likes fast food? Did getting better music for your car and leaving for work 10 minutes earlier set you up for a less stressful day? Whatever has worked, pull out your playbook and use it again.
Hire an expert
What will it mean for you to no longer have the burden of your habit, thought pattern or unhealthy lifestyle? If your attempts to conquer personal albatrosses have not worked, consider what it’s worth to become the person you want to be. Specialists such as personal trainers, therapists, life coaches and yoga teachers, as well as weight loss programs and other support groups can guide you to break through your barriers.
Sleep always helps
Sleep is the linchpin to successful habit change. Without enough rest, you won’t have the energy to get yourself out of bed and into the swimming pool, the willpower to get through the 4 p.m. munchies, or the clarity to resist the temptation of screens before bed. No one ever says they feel too rested.
Your new lifestyle
Don’t think of habit changes as temporary; they are your new lifestyle. You must think of your future self as you, not some other person who will effortlessly make the change for you. Having compassion for your present self will support your efforts, helping to make the new habits sustainable until you become your best future self.