Before anyone gets too upset at the extreme pessimism of this title hear me out 🙂
How many of you have tried a New Year resolution related to health/fitness/nutrition? Everyone is probably raising their hands.
How many of them worked? And by worked, I mean more than the 12 weeks that you did it…how many of them stuck, or lasted for a lifetime?
The issue with setting resolutions, or other willpower based goals – is they often don’t work out the way you hope. They can be easy to stick to when motivation is high but are often unrealistic for the long haul, or a lifetime. Willpower is finite. Eventually, something’s gotta give, and when you are in an environment which fosters a certain behavior or lifestyle that doesn’t match up with your goals, well, you can only willpower your way through it for so long.
Environment – this is where the real magic happens. What if you had to go to work in an office that banned sweets, sodas, chips, etc. from ever entering the building? You wouldn’t be able to mindlessly snack on them because they aren’t there. While this may be a bit extreme, this is often what it takes to some extent to set up your environment for success.
Our environment is more than the area, or foods we are around- but also the people.
It is often said that you become like the 5 people you spend the most time with, and I believe it.
Let’s say your goal was to quit drinking. But all your best friends always want to drink, multiple times per week. How long do you think you could make it, hanging around them constantly, without drinking? Some may last longer than others, but likely you would give in.
What if your goal was to save up money for a big trip, or purchase, but all your friends want to live in the moment, and live the high life every weekend, with fancy meals, nights out, lavish parties… good luck saving money.
So what do you do? Stop hanging out with friends, or stop going to your office that has sweets? That probably won’t work out too well either.
This is where you set limits on yourself – upper and lower.
Rules is another way to put it.
When a woman is pregnant, people don’t throw drinks at her because we all should know by now that pregnant women don’t and should not drink. If someone is fasting for religious reasons, we don’t say “aww come on man, who cares” – we respect their rule or limit that they set due to their religious beliefs.
So when it comes to sweets, or drinks, or spending money… set limits. Upper limits on the stuff you are trying to break, and lower limits on the stuff you are trying to build. These should be rules, not suggestions.
Upper limits might be: I will only go out for drinks one night per week, I will only spend $100 on eating out per week, I will only eat 2 sweet treats per week.
These limits do two things: they limit your total intake/usage of what you are trying to break BUT also allow yourself to enjoy them in true moderation. This is where hardcore willpower based goals/resolutions miss the boat – it’s ALL or NOTHING.
Lower limits might be: I will go to the gym 3 times per week, I will put $50 in a savings account per week, I will eat vegetables once per day.
These are bare minimums, that if you do more of – GREAT! But as long as you stick to your minimums, you are sitting better than the all or nothing folks who might be hitting the gym 7 days per week now, but let’s check back with them in a month.
As you go, you can adjust your lower limits too. Maybe you have don’t great with $50 per week savings, so bump it to $60. That’s an extra $520 saved a year from now.
The last point to setting lower limits is: set them low. You want them to be winnable, even on your most stressful/hectic weeks. So if you currently don’t go to the gym at all – your lower limit might be – go to the gym on Mondays. Do that for 4 weeks, then bump to 2 times per week.
I know it’s not sexy, nor will it bring the results as fast as you might want – but I promise you this – if you stick to it over the course of a year, and build on it…you will be so much better off in a year, and over a lifetime.
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Stay healthy my friends,