In a recent article, we talked about New Year’s resolutions and goals. Specifically, we talked about why most people fail when it comes to them. We also went over how to properly plan and execute, so that you can give yourself the best chance of beating the high failure rate.
If you’ve set a New Year’s goal for yourself and you’re still reading this, congratulations. You’d be absolutely shocked at how many people give up on their goal not only within the first month, but even in the first few weeks.
You may, however, have noticed that, whatever your goal is, things are starting to get tough. The initial high you felt the first few days in has worn off, and you’re starting to lose your motivation.
While this is no doubt frustrating, the good news is that it’s also completely normal.
There are a number of steps you can start taking now to make sure that you stick with your plan and not let things spiral out of control.
Tip #1 - Adjust Your Action Plan Accordingly
In our initial article, we talked about the importance of setting not only a goal, but an action plan to go with it. So rather than something like “I will lose 20 pounds by April 1st”, you should go with something like “I will lose 20 pounds by April 1st by eating 2200 calories per day, doing 30 minutes of cardio 3 times per week, and eating at least 20 grams of protein with every meal”.
Having said that, despite our best planning, things often don’t go the way we want them to. Perhaps it’s been two weeks since you started, and (after taking detailed measurements and weigh-ins), you determine that the weight’s not coming off.
Or (more likely) you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, and you’re finding your weight loss plan to be unbearable.
At this point, it’s perfectly reasonable to course correct - but you have to be methodical about it. In other words, you can’t just make changes to your plan because you have one day in which you’re feeling crappy and lethargic. It has to be a well-thought out, logical shift, not an emotional one.
The other thing to keep in mind is that you want to make small, gradual changes rather than big ones. If you’re not losing weight, don’t go and immediately cut 800 calories and start crash dieting.
Conversely, if you’re miserable on your diet, don’t just jack the calories up and go back to eating donuts for breakfast. Make a gradual change, and track it for a few weeks to see if it makes a different.
This applies to any non-fitness goals you have as well.
Tip #2 - Use A System Of Rewards
Ideally you’ll have chosen a goal that means something to you, and provides you with sufficient motivation to see it through till the end.
Unfortunately, that’s sometimes not enough. Particularly for a goal that’s a few months in the future, it often helps to use rewards to keep yourself going.
The reward can really be anything you want. Maybe it’s a delicious (but less than healthy) dinner with your family on Sunday’s after a week of sticking to your diet. Or watching your favorite Netflix show after successfully making it to the gym that night.
In addition to small, intermittent rewards, you can also set up a system where you give yourself a fairly large treat after you’ve successfully achieved your goal.
For example, if your objective is weight loss, a trip somewhere warm where you’re likely to be in a bathing suit is a fantastic way to keep you on a diet.
But it could be anything - a weekend trip somewhere with your spouse. Or buying yourself something you really want.
Tip #3 - Use A System Of Punishments
The flip side of the reward system is the punishment system - some kind of consequence if you don’t do what you’re supposed to. This is definitely something you’ll want to use sparingly, since it can really mess with you psychologically (particularly when it comes to weight loss).
A fantastic example of this is giving your friend or loved one money and telling them to donate it to a politician you hate if you mess up.
Again, definitely something you want to use sparingly. But it can be quite effective for certain people.
If you do go this route, however, make sure that you punish yourself for failing on your action plan, rather than failing to reach your goal. It may seem like a simple distinction, but it’s important.
Your day-to-day actions are one hundred percent in your control. You choose whether or not you go to the gym.
You choose whether or not you eat what you’re supposed to.
You DON’T, however, choose the result - you simply take steps that you think have a high probability of getting you to your goal.
Tip #4 - Take (Planned) Breaks
Just like you sometimes need to readjust your action plan, there are times when you simply need a break from the whole thing. While this certainly won’t apply to you now that you’re only two weeks in, you may find after two or trhee months that you’re legitimately worn out.
However, just like the readjustment strategy, you need to be strategic with this. Don’t just throw the whole thing out the window because it’s hard. Logically, methodically make the decision, and make sure you plan it meticulously.
In the case of dieting, this means knowing exactly how many calories you’ll be eating on your break, and exactly when you’ll be getting back on your diet.
And most importantly, only do this once you’ve tried all the other strategies on the list. Taking a break should be a last resort - not the first thing you run to when things get tough