Sunday, 10 January 2016

Making Changes Stick

We are a week and a half into the new year, January is here with a resounding chill and flying snow.  Decorations are down and packed away for another season and we are back into the swing of regular schedules.  The resolutions loudly proclaimed at the start of the month may be teetering on the edge of being lost in the land of good intentions.  

Everyone - myself included has committed to making a change or giving something up only to cave temptation feeling as though we have turn our backs on our goals.  Statistics tell us giving up resolutions are bound to happen.  New habits take 21 days to establish.  During those 21 days, old patterns and feelings surface that create desires for established behaviours to creep back into our decision making process.  Once we break our resolution and return to the patterns we were looking to break, it is difficult to get back on that train.  But it doesn't have to be.

How do we make a change in our lives whether its healthier eating, working out, or dropping an old habit take effect?   We need to build some room into our plan for change and our approach to developing new habits.  After all with a new resolution or goal regardless of what we have chosen to change, we need to establish new neuropathways.  This process can be successful with a bit of time, effort and a bit of pre-planning.

Last week I laid out seven different New Year's resolutions I wanted for myself over the next year.  I don't really view these as resolutions but more as intentions or goals for myself.  There are many things I want to achieve over the next year and I can think to myself that I would like to stay in shape, or travel somewhere new but it helps if I make a plan or write it out.  

The act of writing out my goals makes things more permanent.  It also moves my desire for change beyond something I'm thinking of and turns it into a physical act.  Sharing my written goals with others creates more permanence by holding me accountable to someone.

Those are two steps to creating strength behind your goal or intention but when your tempted to skip a workout or eat an entire bag of chips what happens to your public proclamation of healthy eating or work outs?  

  • First make your goals attainable.  As a personal trainer, part of my training included goal setting with clients following the SMART theory.

        S - specific
        M - measurable
        A - attainable
        R - realistic
        T - time sensitive

It is easy to proclaim that I am going to go to the gym 5 days a week and eat only salads for lunch.  Is that realistic?  Not at all.  Perhaps for 2 - 3 weeks I could achieve this level of commitment but if I come down with the flu, work gets really busy, my kids are sick or my friends want go for lunch - I need to relax my goals a bit.  

  • This line of thinking leads to the second step - flexibility.  The biggest downfall for people is the all in or all out approach.  When we slip with our resolutions, that isn't the end of the resolution.  Tomorrow is another chance to start again. If you miss one, two even three workouts, you can still get back to your routine.  Life happens - find a way to fit your new habits into yours.  If a workout at the gym isn't attainable you can still do something physical.  A series of yoga poses or even 10 squats, 10 push ups and a 30 second to 1 minute plank.  Commit to taking one little step.

  • And here is the third concept behind making changes stick.  Breaking your goals down.  One of my goals this year is to do a chin up.  Right now, my chest and arms won't lift me half a inch.  So for now I'm working on developing upper body strength.  I'm starting with lat pull downs, pushups and working core strength to provide the foundation for a chin up.  I'm sure if you pick one of your resolutions, you can break the steps down into something smaller and work each day to building toward your end goal.

  • The final step - realize that any particular resolution isn't the end.  There will always be something more to achieve and do.  As humans, we haven't stopped evolving - that is when we become extinct.  We picked our resolutions to improve ourselves.  The start of a new year is a nice time to make changes, but we can decide to improve ourselves at any continually.

Know that the desire to make a change in your life is the first and most important step - enjoy the journey!

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