Yesterday I had a conversation with one of my clients. Her job demands a lot from her, and she's traveling a bunch. As you know, traveling doesn't make adhering to a plan any easier.
We were catching up and I was asking her how the previous week was. She responded, telling me how frustrated she was with herself. While expressing that frustration she said things like "I slacked off so hard while I was gone", "I can't wait to get back to the gym this week", "I can't wait to get back on the wagon", and "I'm motivated as hell to get back into it". Not surprised by her frustration, (as I usually coach most of my clients through this) I asked her this:
"Do you honestly expect yourself to follow everything perfectly to a T?"
She responded: "Yeah, I do."
I then asked her "Why, though?"
"I don't know, I just do. I know it seems insane, but I do", she replied.
I then ended the conversation by saying one thing: "No but seriously, I want you to take the time to think through that and answer the question. I want you to seriously reflect on why you expect those things from yourself, and get back to me."
It's been a day and she hasn't replied to me. Which is good. I want her to take the time to deeply reflect. And I want you to do the same.
The Reason Resolutions Die Quick
When we go into the new year, we have all of these goals that we want to accomplish. Whether it's fitness/health related, career related, or even relationship related, there is almost always one thing that you set out to accomplish when the new year begins.
As great as those goals may be, and as much as they may enhance our lives, they die quick. An interesting study looked at 200 resolutioners and the longevity of their behavioral changes. It was discovered that 77% of the participants maintained their pledges for 1 week, and only 19% of those 200 individuals maintained their pledges for 2 years (1). We don't know how many of those people didn't keep their pledges for 6, 9 or 12 months, but with the above data as well as anecdote, we know that there's a steep decline in success when it comes to maintaining pledges or resolutions.
There may be a lot of different reasons that people end up quitting such as lack of will power, or a lack of accountability, but I believe theres a much bigger piece the the puzzle, especially when it comes to health and fitness resolutions.
I strongly believe that most people quite their resolutions for two reasons. The first being a lack of acceptance at the beginning, and the second being the influence they've had from their environment. I also believe that both of these feed off each other.
Our Environment Expects Too Much
How many times have you heard the following?
"Go Hard or Go Home"
"No Days Off"
"I'll Sleep When I Die"
I'm guessing you've either read or heard someone say each of those things more times than you can count. It's a plague and it's setting you up for failure.
I am extremely proud of the mentality that our country, culture, and society was built on. It was built on hard work, and I do believe that there is no substitute for hard work. But somewhere along the way, we took this "hard work" mentality and put it on a steroid cycle for the ages.
This appreciation and value for hard work has turned into a mutated message. It's no longer the hard-worker that's praised, but rather the person who has become a slave to their work. There's a big difference.
It's all or nothing.
This all or nothing mindset has also made itself at home in the health and fitness industry. We've been brainwashed to believe that if we're not working out 6 days a week, we're not doing anything beneficial for our bodies. If we eat one donut, we've officially ruined everything we've worked so hard for.
Let me ask you this:
If you have $300,000 in your IRA, and you forget to invest your usual monthly amount of $500, do you think you're going to wake up the next day and see a big fat ZERO in that account? Of course not.
Same goes for your health and fitness. If you spend 3 weeks adhering to your program, and you skip the gym three days in a row, and eat too much junk, you haven't ruined everything and burned it to the ground. Will it be a little harder to work hard in the gym the next time? Sure. But by no means have you ruined anything.
There Is No Freaking Wagon
It drives me nuts when people say they've been falling off the wagon, or they're completely off the wagon. It even gets me crazy when people tell me they're back on the wagon.
WHAT WAGON ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT?
This whole wagon thing never made sense to me, and I don't want it to make sense for you either, because I want you to completely forget about it. Why is it that we have a wagon for fitness and health, but it's rarely discussed with anything else?
When's the last time you heard someone say "yeah, I forgot to brush my teeth this morning. I need to get back on the wagon"? Never, because that's ridiculous. Their teeth are fine, and so is your health if you've given it the attention in needs.
Rather than thinking in terms of wagons, we need to begin thinking in terms of a sidewalk. It's pretty hard to stray away from a sidewalk. If you're walking on one, keeping yourself on it is fairly easy. In this scenario, the sidewalk is your health and keeping your health in line is pretty easy too.
Think of the last time you were on a sidewalk, and there's a massive lip on the next slab of concrete. You don't see it, and you trip. You stumble for a couple steps, and everyone has a good laugh. Then what?
You keep walking.
When's the last time you tripped on that lip, laid down on the sidewalk, and decided that your walk was over, and you had to go back to the beginning and start over without tripping? NOT ONCE. So stop thinking that way with your fitness.
I bet there's been a period in your life where you've worked out consistently and treated your body with healthy foods. Then, your friend invites you out for pizza and you decide to go out with them and have some delicious slices of 'za. Did you wake up the next morning to find yourself 20 pounds overweight thinking that getting out of bed was far too difficult? NO!
Because that's not what happens, and you know that full well. So why is it that you still give up on your aspirations once you trip on the lip of the sidewalk?
It's a Mental Thing
Crushing your resolutions isn't a matter of having an incredible amount of will power. It isn't a matter of having all the tools and resources available to you. It's not a matter of having the best coach, trainer, or supportive figure there for you.
It's a mental thing.
It's not complicated, though. It's quite simple.
Buckle up. Here's how you crush your resolutions... *drumroll*
Understand, and ACCEPT that you are going to trip on the lip of the side walk. Then, understand and ACCEPT that you are going to continue walking.
If you go into the new year with clear expectations that you WILL slip (because you're not perfect), you WILL stumble, but after you stumble you WILL continue to to take the next step, you'll succeed.
If you go into the new year with a new meal plan, and new training protocol, and expect yourself to follow every single thing perfectly, good freaking luck. Life happens, and it'll throw you into a poo storm when you least expect it. It's not a matter of remaining perfect during the poo storm, its a matter of taking another step, no matter how big or small.
Crushing your goals isn't going to come down to you perfectly sticking to a plan. There's no wagon. Don't expect yourself to perfect anything, and don't tell yourself you've failed and it's over. It's never over.
No matter how big or small, take another step. And then another, then another.
1) Norcross, J C, and D J Vangarelli. “The Resolution Solution: Longitudinal Examination of New Year's Change Attempts.” Journal of Substance Abuse., U.S. National Library of Medicine, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2980864.
Thanks For Reading!
Thank you for taking time out of your day to hear what I have to say. I truly appreciate it. No matter where you're at along your health and fitness journey, remember that you've got a guy. I'm here to help you take that next step, regardless of what that might look like. From a simple note of encouragement to completely tailored coaching, I'm here for ya. God bless.
Adam is a fitness professional, Chipotle fanatic, and cookie enthusiast based in Fort Collins, CO. After hanging up the baseball cleats, he found a strong interest in the human body and how it performs. Since then, Adam has been transforming lives through fitness in a fun and encouraging atmosphere.
As an ACE CPT and Fitness Nutrition Specialist, he's constantly moved to helped people improve in all walks of life. If you're interested in hiring Adam as your coach, fill out an application here.