It’s that time of year again where everyone makes promises to themselves to get fit, lose the Xmas podge, have a dry January, or even go vegan for a month. The gyms get busy full of enthusiastic hopefuls dressed in their new spangly gym kit, the bars are quiet, sales of Nutribullets shoot up, Instagram is full of gym selfies and health food porn where avocado is obviously the new sexy. People proving to the world that they’re sticking to their new health regimes. But it sadly doesn’t always last, and the reason for that is ironically, bad timing. I get it. It makes sense that the turn of a new year should spark desire for a fresh start and new beginnings, but if we tend to fail at keeping to new year resolutions perhaps we should rethink whether we make them at all, or more importantly, when we should make them. Read on to learn about the cycle of behavior change and reconsider making those new year resolutions.
The new year rolls in and we make these huge promises to ourselves to be better than what we are. And that’s a great thing to want to achieve. We should all be ready and willing to grow as individuals, to become enhanced updated versions of ourselves for the ultimate goal of happiness and fulfilment. But shouldn’t we want to do these things in our own time and all of the time, not just because it’s the start of the New Year. Life is an ongoing upward journey of growth and whether it’s the 1st of January or the 25th September, it shouldn’t matter when we decide to make positive changes.
But that’s the thing isn’t it. Is it simply something that we decide to do or is there more to it? You can make a decision to do something to make a change to your life, but ask yourself this; is it something that you really want? Are you truly ready to commit to the task right now? And does this change actually have an underlying motive that perhaps could be the more important thing to address?
The theory of change suggests that there are 6 stages we go through before we actually succeed in making any form of change, cycling through from having zero awareness or desire for change, having awareness but no intention, having intention and readiness for change, actioning of and then maintenance of changed behaviour, and then the inevitable relapse. Forcing yourself to make a change, or attempting to do so at the wrong point in the change cycle will lead to an unsuccessful adaptation. #fail
So many new year resolutions are made and broken because ultimately the thing they’ve promised themselves is so far from who they are, or the change is far too great and thus unsustainable; because people are ill prepared or really do only see it as a short term goal, a break from their normal life, and once the period of change is over, revert back to the same old ways they always have done. And potentially returning back to their unhappy unfulfilled selves. The same old you. Not enhanced. Not updated.
Most people reading this will have some form of health related goal, and of course being a personal trainer my business thrives on clients having these goals. But let’s start looking beyond January and at the bigger picture. Making a conscious decision to be healthy should be for life not just for New Year. And being healthy goes beyond just hard dieting and frenetic training at the gym. Better food and more exercise only scratches the surface of improving your health and changing your body shape. And those are the easier things to change. Lifestyle and mind-set are the 2 things that can hinder anyone’s attempt for long lasting change. And that applies to any change regardless of whether its health related or not.
We all know that having the goal to lose weight means we must a) exercise more and b) eat a cleaner healthier diet. If these are the only 2 things we change in our lives, what are the chances of success if we continue to live a lifestyle that is incongruent to our weight loss goal? Eating well and exercising more is only a small part of the health and weight loss equation. Are you prepared to make small sacrifices and modifications to your lifestyle to give you the best chance of success? Are you willing to spend more time preparing your own healthy meals or are you still eating out every night? Are you going to bed earlier to help improve your sleep or still burning the candles at both ends pointlessly staring at your iPhone until 1am? Are you managing your stress levels or are you taking your work stresses home with you and constantly sweating the small stuff?
If these are things that you hadn’t even considered would be part of your weight loss journey then you’ve probably skipped the preparation phase of the change cycle, trying to change but not having enough information or guidance in how to get there. Achieving success without having the right knowledge is near impossible, and this is where seeking professional help might come in to play to help develop a better understanding of what it means and what it truly takes for long term weight loss success.
But it these are things that you’re not quite ready or willing to change and make little sacrifices, then despite wanting the end goal you’re still at the stage of contemplation. Without intent, commitment, and conviction, any changes you try to make will only ever be short term and the bigger picture never achieved.
Breaking out of this stage in the cycle of change requires a change in mind-set and perspective. And this is the crux. That big giant spanner in the works. Our behaviours and the choices we make are all dictated by our emotional response. Our past experiences and deep set fears guide us towards making the safest decisions, the least emotionally harmful decisions. For some people it’s a fear of failure that leads them to not even make an attempt for change. For others, and I’d say for the majority, it’s a lack of love and compassion for one’s self. We all give ourselves such a hard time and hate on ourselves so much. Women in particular. How many of us look in the mirror and hate what we see? How many of us go through these depressive cycles of being unhappy with our weight, feeling hopeless, and then act self destructively, getting further stuck in this viscous cycle of unhappiness?
How do you break this cycle and start moving toward having a positive mind-set that is ready for change? We stop battling with ourselves. We stop fighting against ourselves for not having what we want, and accept what we do have and love ourselves anyway. The biggest cause of disappointment is when our realities fall short of our expectations, and the upset is when we fail to have any compassion for that short fall. Stop being so hard on yourself and love yourself unconditionally. Accept who you are and all your misgivings and love yourself anyway. And in doing so, you create less resistance to change and open yourself up to the opportunities for growth. Let me highlight here that accepting who you are is not the same as accepting your fate. Recognising that you may be carrying more weight than you would like but loving yourself in spite of that is very different to thinking that you will never lose that weight and that you should give up trying. Accepting yourself is about being ok with who you are and not setting conditions to meet before you can love yourself. Consider the following statements: “I am overweight but I am happy within myself and love myself anyway” vs “I hate my body and will only be happy when I am thin”. This kind of negative fixed mind-set is what cripples us in our attempts for change.
So what do you make of those New Year resolutions now? Are your goals realistic in relation to your current mind-set? Are you ready to fully commit to your new year promises or could you do with giving yourself more time to mentally prepare yourself, and set the goal when you’re truly ready for change? Are you ready to love yourself and have self-compassion for whatever level of success you achieve and learn from your experiences?
I would say this: If you are to make any resolutions this year, rather than setting yourself a superficial goal consider making this one promise instead; to be kind to yourself, to have compassion, and love and accept yourself unconditionally. So that whenever you do decide to make a change of any kind you have already created a positive environment to nurture that change. Here’s to a happy and fulfilling 2017.