New Year, New Me: Making Change Last
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Brief Article Overview
- We love New Years resolutions, they’re a great opportunity to take the first step towards something you’ve been pondering for a while.
- Unfortunately most resolutions don’t last, we believe guidance and support are key is ensuring that this first step develops into a long and fruitful journey.
- Motivation is truly powerful, but it’s also transient. This is partially down to something called “Ego Depletion”. Rational decision making diminishes and motivation drops, which is where we need coping strategies.
- Habits account for 40% of all our behaviours and represent our true beliefs, identity and priorities, although you may not realise it!
- Plan, Organise and Schedule – Front load your efforts and decisions helping you falling into the inevitable traps of ‘winging it”.
- Remain Optimistic – understand that progress is not linear. There will be ups, downs and plateaus. Remember that failure is an opportunity to learn.
- Shift your Personal Identity – mentally become and speak as if are the person you want to be. Say “I will” or “I am” instead of “I might” or “I wish I was”.
- Identify your Deeper Why – This will reinforce your resilience when times are tough.
New year, new me. It’s something many of us come across around this time of the year. Although some may roll their eyes at this notion, we actually think it’s a really positive place to be. Lofty motivations often lead to lofty goals, which lead to honest attempts at taking action. Especially after we’ve pondered around those weight loss and fitness goals over the festive period, we almost can’t wait to take action. This is brilliant! You’re doing better than you probably think you are and are way ahead of the game.
The ‘Transtheoretical Model of Change’ is what Psychologists use to explain how we adopt new behaviours. In this, there are five stages of change and in January many of us move away from Stage 3 ‘Contemplation’, towards Stage 4 ‘Action’. We want to reiterate how positive this is, so won’t spend this article explaining the benefits of being more active or eating better. You’re mostly likely already doing that.
Making it Last
Where we find most people struggle is moving on towards the last stage of change, ‘Maintenance’. What we aim to do in this article is give you some insight on how you can pre-empt the inevitable barriers and how you can make those recent changes into lasting ones.
Motivation is a truly powerful thing. You’ve got to make the most of it but it’s so crucial that we have coping mechanisms for when we’re not. The research seems to tell us that most of us do actually suffer from what’s known as Ego Depletion. The diminishment of will power and positive rational decision making.
We won’t be able to rely upon our motivation indefinitely and this is where habits come in. Habits are the small subconscious decisions you make and actions you perform every day. According to researchers at Duke University, they account for circa 40% of all behaviours. In the words of Rob Gilbert, “we form habits, then they form us”. They are essentially a manifestation of our values, identity and priorities. It is your habits that will determine your success.
Here are a few ideas that we hope will help maintain your newly established actions and make them last.
Planning, Organising & Scheduling
The first of the ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’…be proactive. Taking some time to plan and organise your next steps will significantly improve your efficiency, effectiveness and odds of succeeding. This front loading effect is truly game changing, take one hour today to save 4 hours tomorrow.
Think about how you can create a schedule. Think ahead to find (or create) opportunities to exercise, prepare meals and meditate. It’s crucial that you don’t wait for a good time to do these things. Forge the time, make it sacred and make it recurring. Life happens? Not to worry, of course you can reschedule. It’s much better to find room for something that’s already in the diary as opposed to carving out new batches of time.
How many times have you gone to the gym and spent half the time wondering what exercise to do next? Or walked aimlessly around a supermarket deciding what you want for dinner that night? Imagine having a shopping list created for your weekly meal plan, and a training program to follow? How much more efficient would you be with your time? And how much more likely would it be to adhere to your diet and/or training program?
This is where hiring a personal trainer / coach really comes in handy. It’s their job to write the exercise program and help you execute. They can also give ideas for shopping lists and meal plans depending on your preferences and goals.
Writing out a plan really helps you to;
- Break down big goals into smaller, more manageable steps.
- Prioritise your next steps, and create a schedule that takes you towards your end goal.
- Massively increases the chance you will put them into action.
Change your identity. Think “I do/don’t” instead of “I can’t/will”. You’re choosing the behaviour. You are the person you set out to be, and your decisions will reflect that. With that being said, consider the social situations you place yourself in. Your behaviours, habits and norms are hugely affected by your social circle. When embarking on this journey, it’s important that we consider our shift in identity. The Author of Atomic Habits, James Clear, discusses this application in the context of a smoker. It’s better for someone trying to kick the habit to identify as a ‘non-smoker’ rather and an ‘ex-smoker’.
Someone trying to become a healthy and more active individual should identify themselves as one, not as someone trying to do so. It helps in social situations. For one, you’re more likely to seek the company of like minded people. This limits the amount of weird looks and funny comments you may get. Like when Sharron from next door asks “Is it not a bit extreme to be able to deadlift your own body weight?” You can reply “no Sharron, it’s awesome!”
Perhaps you subtly open up to those close about your recent change in identity. Going a bit public with a goal is likely to surprise you in terms of how many people will happily and positively support you. Also, the mere act of making your goals explicit and inviting some social pressure will increase the likelihood of following through with them.
Does someone reducing their alcohol intake go to the pub after work for one beer? Or do they grab a decaffeinated Americano with a friend and walk across the park on the way home? Opting for the latter is more representative of a shifting in identity. This person is removing those unhealthy cues and replacing them with new, healthier ones. We say this again. Your behaviours, habits and norms are hugely affected by your social circle, including friends, family and environment.
Finding the Silver Lining
These are all useful tools which make change easier and/or enable long lasting change. But what happens if we fall off the bandwagon? We fail to adhere or comply? So long as it’s a relatively uncommon encounter, it really doesn’t matter. Rather interesting research tells us about the power of finding the silver lining. Those who are able to do so, typically bounce back much quicker and are able to stick to the process and achieve their goals. Wherever there’s struggle, there’s an opportunity to learn and then move on quickly. Next time you’ll be better prepared. In the words of Henry Ford “failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely”.
Hindsight and retrospect can be very useful in times where motivation is diminished and circumstances haven’t quite gone our way. Hard work and success can sometimes go unnoticed, particularly by ourselves, as we are often our harshest critics. It’s always very useful to reflect on how far we’ve come since starting. Don’t just reflect on yesterday’s failure to hit a personal best, or how busy it has been at work and its effects on your eating and drinking, or even that last week you didn’t quite lose the amount of weight or body fat you’d been hoping for. Instead, think back to this time last year where your tough sets are now your warm up sets. Think about the updated wardrobe you have due to the changes in your physique. Think of the fact you haven’t had any back-pain flare ups for months!
Your Deeper Why
Know your why. ‘A reason, or reasons, for acting or behaving in a particular way’. What is your reason? What is your why? We always believe that this an important question to ask out right. So much so, we actually ask it three times in our pre-consultation questionnaire!
Motivation is a really powerful thing, but as we’ve discussed it’s also very fleeting. In fact, getting to understand the deeper motivations that drive our clients is something we’re very passionate about. We think it deserves much more than a mention than it usually gets. If you’re interested in how to find yours, click here to read our article on ‘Finding your deeper why’.
Food for thought? If this has encouraged you to think about your health, fitness & wellbeing, why not click this link and fill out our enquiry form. We’d love to see how we can help you on your journey.
Disclosure: This article is not to be used as medical advice. If you are currently experiencing physical or mental health issues, please seek professional advice from a fully qualified Nutritionist, GP or Physiotherapist.