Updated: Dec 26, 2018
A new year comes with new goals, hopes, and expectations of improving. We come up with new ideas for getting healthier, but too often we stop this pursuit not long after we’ve started. We don’t organize our time properly, we set unrealistic goals, or just convince ourselves it can’t be done. To avoid this, perhaps the answer is to set the foundation now for what you want to achieve later.
Recently, I completed the first book from author James Clear, “Atomic Habits.” Clear has written extensively on habits, decision-making, and continuous improvement, and regularly speaks with Fortune 500 companies and professional sports teams on building better habits.
The insight, tools, and techniques he offers all apply to any kind of health pursuit, especially if you are looking for long-term gains. To achieve a lasting change must start with a series of daily habits.
Prepare today for what you want tomorrow
On January 2nd 2019, many will do things like buy a pair of running shoes, finally go to the gym, or add kale to every meal in the hopes of getting healthier. But how quickly will that end? A good way to set yourself up for success is to prepare before that day arrives! Based on Atomic Habits, here are a few tips to develop a plan before you start.
Write down goals, go into detail, and share with those close to you.
“Get into shape” is not a goal. It’s not even a plan. It’s a hope.
What do specific goals look like?
“I will sign up for gym membership and go M/W/F morning between 630-730am for 6 weeks straight.”
“I will train to run 3 miles by the end of March”
“I will learn to make 3 healthy meals so I can eat cleaner, save money, and lose weight.”
“I will increase my workouts from 8 days a month to 10. Only 2 more hours a month!”
“I will go to the gym 2 times a week and invest in healthier meals so I have more energy and become a better example for my family.”
“This quarter I will go to the gym twice a week and cut my calorie intake by 10%. Next quarter, I’ll go to the gym 3 times a week and eat less sugar.”
The idea is to make the goal specific and attainable and having a clear “why.” If these are accomplished sooner than later, great! Start new goals. Providing a level of detail and specificity will keep you close to your priorities.
Whatever your goals are, a helpful strategy is to discuss with people you are close to. Family, friends, colleagues, etc. Since theirs a level of commitment and energy, it is important that those around you know what this means to you and why.
Invest financially now. Not later!
I’ve never met anyone that doesn’t appreciate the value of money. Especially when it’s their own. Investing now means you’ll hold yourself accountable later. Invest now when you are motivated and before you are distracted by other priorities in the new year.
Health related purchases you can invest in right now:
Purchase a yearly gym membership. Not monthly
Buy multiple training sessions with a trainer and start in January
Consult with a professional about the best plan for you that you can do on your own
Buy in bulk from a meal service plan. How much easier could it be to start eating healthy if you knew 3 packaged meals were waiting by your door? Or how disappointed would you be if 3 meals arrived you never ate and eventually wasted? Both scenarios can create motivation.
Buy new exercise clothing. Equipment will just collect dust, but new outfits look good which makes you feel good. You’ll also want to look your best in those outfits
Research to find what is right for your goals
With so many options and new trends it’s easy to get lost in all the information. One size does not fit all. As a trainer, before I start working with a client or during my evaluation I also consider:
What equipment or space is available in their home or gym?
What are the clients strengths and weaknesses?
What does the client enjoy and feel comfortable with?
What works with their personality? Does the client focus on number’s (weight, strength increase, frequency, counting calories, etc.). Or does the client like variety?
Most importantly, will these things help this individual meet their goals?
If you are not working with professional, some things to consider:
Does this program match my goals?
Do I see myself following this program for an extended period of time?
How frequently will I follow this program?
Is it safe and will it properly address my injuries or issues?
This can also be true for nutrition. Almost all nutrition plans can be adapted to meet any kind of goals. It is a matter of preference.
Keep It Simple
James Clear talks about “making it easy.” A concept that most of us do in our regular lives without realizing. This is more about creating a routine or a system that takes less time and extensive thinking.
Examples of making it easy:
Organize and have workout clothing laid out and ready for the next day. Or sleep in workout clothes the night before.
Make and prep food the day before or even at the beginning of the week. This way the food you’ll need is ready and you’ll know exactly what you’re eating. It is also less likely you’ll deviate and eat things you don’t need.
Have a clear work-out plan before you step into the gym. Going to the gym is hard. But it becomes even harder if we have no idea what we are doing when we get there and trying to be exceedingly self-motivated after a long day or night. If you know exactly what exercises or body part focus you’re doing during that block of time, you’ll save time and energy. You’ll also rely less on mental energy by just following a pre-determined plan.
James Clear discusses people who’ve created accountability systems to make sure they follow through. However, this is not just a reward system. As he says, it must also be “immediately unsatisfying.” He says, “Pain is an effective teacher. If a failure is painful, it gets fixed. If failure is a relatively painless, it gets ignored.”
What is an accountability strategy that most people are familiar with? Contracts!
Would a contract help if you knew you’d be penalized for breaking it?
“Since I’m a Democrat I will pay X to the Republican party every time I miss 3 workouts in a row!”
Another option is having a partner that can hold you accountable? Would you feel guilty letting this person down?
Whatever direction you take, these are the questions and issues to determine before you begin. The more prepared you are on day one the easier it will be going forward. More importantly, you’ll be more likely to stay with the plan and create a discipline to help you succeed.