Wednesday 14 November, 2018

How to get off the ‘New Year, New Me’ treadmill in 2018

By Meisha-Gay Mattis

The year 2018 is still shiny and new; those resolutions are still fresh in your mind; you’ve even bought fitness gear and a juicer; you’re convinced that this year will be different because you have the drive and the willpower to make it all come together.

You certainly have good intentions, but willpower is not enough to ensure that your resolutions don’t fall by the wayside by the end of January—as happens with more than 80 per cent of people around the world. But you want to achieve these goals. They are important to you. So rather than telling you how to “make your New Year's resolutions stick”, I'm going to share with you some ways to focus on making lasting changes instead. The truth is, it's a lot simpler than you may think.

Firstly, don't be shamed into thinking that you are weak or lack motivation because you have struggled to make that behavioral change. The bottom line is that change is hard and motivation is not always the answer. You might be strong enough with all the motivation but still be unable to stick to something long enough to effect lasting change. Recognise that your environment and systems are also important—maybe even moreso than willpower. The most powerful step you can make to take action is to have a plan. Can you create a plan to facilitate your new habit to weather even your worst day? Think about this question and if you can, then half of your battle is won in making lasting changes. Sometimes the most important thing you can do is to just show up, be consistent and have systems in place if you are really looking to make any kind of sustainable change.

Build systems in your life that allow you to do the things that are important to you. Love the things that we want and yearn for, but most importantly, cultivate and love the habits that will lead to things that you want. For instance, your goal is to be fit, healthy and strong and that’s a wonderful goal to have. It’s rather easy to fall in love with those goals, but here's where the struggle will arise: do you love the habits that will lead to you being fit, healthy and strong?

I go to the gym time weekly at 4AM and there are usually about five or six other folks. There are occasions when a few unfamiliar faces will pop in for a week around that same and we never see them again. It always boils back down to the usual six or seven of us. I’ve been going to the gym for almost seven years now, but there’s a particular gentleman who’s been doing this for more than 20 years—4AM, four to five days weekly. Do you think he’s just been motivated for 20-plus years? The answer is a resounding no! No one wakes up every morning motivated to go to gym, not in the real world anyway. But guess what? You show up most days and that's because you’ve put a system in place and a habit was formed, which is built in a schedule. Action drives further action. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” So a major key is to find something that you are likely to do rather than just think about doing.

When you show up continuously, you ultimately build a schedule which you're more likely to adhere to. When that happens, you’re less likely to rely on willpower. You know you take the kids to school at 7AM every weekday; that’s built into your schedule. Do you need motivation to do this every weekday? You know the answer, so you get where I’m going. Willpower is a muscle and muscles fail and fatigue.

My simple recommendation to help you adhere to your tasks is this: think big, start small, begin now. You can even make it a mantra if you wish. We’re oftentimes sidetracked by how long it will take to accomplish a goal and delay getting underway because it seems like forever away. But it’s on the journey where most lessons are learnt and habits are formed. Appreciate and respect the journey. Usain Bolt didn’t just get up and run the 100m in 9.58 seconds. He put in years of training, day in and day out. And it was no secret how much he disliked training! But he had a goal in mind—to become a legend, so he stuck to the systems that his coach and team put in place and reaped the rewards.

Make big goals manageable and be cognizant of your worst and most hectic days, because life happens and will need to find a way to still stick to the plan. If your plan can survive on those days, it is a good plan. If not, you are in for a world of trouble. That’s often the case with New Year’s resolutions—they’re only achievable in a “perfect” world. Life is not structured that way, so if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

Contributed by Meisha-Gay Mattis, founder of Bodhi, a Kingston-based holistic wellness company. She is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Personal Fitness Trainer. Email meisha@ourbodhi.com for more information or visit any of the following 

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