Everyone has a shopping list of habits they would like to change and New Year is usually the time when they're wheeled out.
Unfortunately, the statistics are bleak on this one, with only 8% of people who make a New Years resolution sticking to them, and those who don't usually abandon them after just one week. So, if you do the same as last year, chances are things will be just the same in 12 months time. Here's a few of the common mistakes and some suggestion on how you can do things differently this year, and every year.
Mistake #1 - Setting goals
The problem may be with the idea of setting goals at all. Here's why...
1. Goals can make you unhappy - When you're working toward a goal it's like you're saying 'I'm not good enough right now, but I will be when I reach my goal'. This puts you under pressure straight away, and is made even worse if you don't achieve your goal - more unhappiness!
2. Goals can hamper long term process - When a goal deadline is reached, unless you set another one straight away it's very easy to let things slide. This can often happen when your Carnet expires and you don't buy another one immediately. That's why we recommend a monthly Carnet so you never fall off the wagon!
3. Goals are an illusion of control - The future is unpredictable and to think we can control it with resolutions and goals is misguided. There are always unexpected things cropping up that are liable to impact your plans - life gets in the way.
1. Focus on the process, not a goal. Building up your habit until it becomes 'mindless' will reduce much of the energy wasted in planning and procrastinating. For example, concentrating on showing up for 3 workouts a week will automatically contribute to long term goals such as losing weight, sleeping better and so on.
2. Build on reality - a goal is some future fantasy place with no guarantee of it ever being reached. Plan by looking back at what you did in reality, 'I did 2 workouts last week and I'm going to do the same this week'. This is much more achievable and realistic.
3. Reduce the work in progress - Aim to change just one thing rather than having lots of goals on your list. Your motivation and willpower is like a muscle - it gets tired and overworked if it has too many things to do. The result will be slipping back into bad old habits in no time.
Mistake #2 - Putting it off
Often, the most difficult part of a new habit is starting. It takes a lot of motivation to head to Hiitgirl after an exhausting day at work, but once you're actually there and doing it, it doesn’t take much willpower to finish. For this reason, one of the best things you can do for building a new behaviour is to start with something small and non-scary. But why is it so damn hard to turn over a new leaf?
From an evolutionary point of view thinking is expensive, it uses up lots of calories - dangerous when food is scarce and unreliable. To combat this, our brains adapted with a kind of mental shorthand to reduce conscious decisions and preserve energy. If an activity is rewarding the brain will store this as 'a good thing' so the next time the trigger comes up, no expensive decision making is required and you just do the action automatically i.e the habit is formed.
Our prehistoric brains still work this way so next time you come home and sit on the couch with a nice glass of wine, it's probably because you didn't need to think too hard! You can get started easily and harness this 'mindless' habit forming for your fitness life too.
1. Start small - Make it so easy you can't say no. For example a Yoga session once a week is much more achievable than expecting to do 3 full-on sweat workouts from day one. Only move on when the habit is consistent.
2. Trigger - Find a habit you already have and use it as your trigger for exercise. For example, if you drop off your children at school, do your workout straight after, each and every time.
3. Action - Do it as soon after the trigger as you can. No delays, no dawdling. That way you reinforce the trigger with the action. You can practice by doing a pressup every time you brush your teeth. It works!
4. Payoff - You need a reward immediately after you finish. It could be applause, a yay! or a pound in your money box. It's important you reward yourself straight after the action to reinforce the feelgood factor.
Mistake #3 Planning for perfection
Reality check - you will slip up. The trick is how you plan for chaos and bounce back when it happens. The most important point is not to confuse a setback with a defeat and then beat yourself up about it. When you fall off the wagon, expect it and get right back on.
Here are some tips to keep you on the straight and narrow.
1. Schedule it - 'Soon' isn't a time and 'some' isn't a number. Be specific about the time and the place and use whatever tech you have to send reminders (your trigger) to get it done.
2. Stick to your schedule - Even if you can't make it to Hiitgirl, go to our YouTube channel and do a Fitin5 video. The key thing is to do something to keep your habit alive.
3. Have someone rely on you - Arrange to workout with a friend or in a group. Our Trainers put a lot of time and effort into prepping a session and they get really upset when you don't show up!
4. Create a helpful environment - Make sure you have kit available and to hand. Is your childcare sorted? Do you have a plan B if something goes wrong? It's amazing how all these small changes can work together to keep you on track.
5. Stay focused but keep your perspective - As long as you do the right thing 80% of the time you'll make progress, don't stress about trying to be perfect. Good enough is fine so make sure you factor in enough slack for when things inevitably go pear shaped.
Mistake #4 Living in a toxic environment
Inhabiting an environment that is toxic to change makes it almost impossible for new habits to form and become embedded. For example:
- Trying to eat healthy when you're constantly surrounded by unhealthy food.
- Trying to remain positive when you're always with negative people.
- Trying to cut down on the tipples if you're constantly surrounded by alcohol.
- Trying to become more active when all around you are couch potatoes.
You get the idea :)
We seldom admit, or even realise, that our habits are simply a conditioned response to the environment we find ourselves in. In fact, you can assume that the lifestyle you have today (all of your habits) is largely a product of the environment you live in each day. The single biggest change that will make a new habit easier is performing it in an environment that's designed to make that habit succeed. For example, let’s say that your New Year’s resolution is to be able to sleep better.
Start by removing all phones, computers and tablets, along with any other sleep distractions such as books and so on. Buy a good old-fashioned alarm clock and invest in a sleep mask if there's a lot of light in your room.
Bottom line - if your environment doesn’t change, you probably won’t either.