Many of us feel we need to be in better shape. Many of us say we want to lose weight. A Nielsen survey revealed that weight loss and fitness made up 69 percent of all 2015 New Year’s resolutions. It’s interesting to note that while in January you may have had to wait to use your favorite elliptical machine or dumb bells at the gym, by now you are now likely able to start your workout right away. Why is that? A study by the University of Scranton suggested that only 8 percent of us actually achieve our New Year’s goals. The truth is that it’s hard maintaining the motivation. Exercising is hard work. Eating less and feeling hungry are not fun, but there is still time to get ready for this summer if you want it.
New Year’s resolutions are typically made because we weren’t able to maintain sufficient motivation throughout the previous year. Assuming you have the motivation now, assuming you already have your exercise clothes and sneakers on, then what we need to do next is identify the factors that want to rob us of that motivation and overcome them. Two of the most frequently identified culprits that despoil our motivation are impatience and inaction.
Why is it so difficult to stay engaged once the initial excitement of starting something new has worn off? It might be because we are impatient to see results and we don’t feel we are seeing them fast enough. If we are driven by impatience we won’t take the time required to accomplish anything worthwhile and burnout is inevitable. Impatience has a way of making you think you’ll never make it. Anybody who has achieved great things needed patience and the fortitude to endure. Michael Jordan is quoted as saying: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games; 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”
Maintain your motivation by setting defined, short-term, achievable goals. You are more likely to get frustrated and give up if your goals are longterm and very ambitious because the rigorousness of that game plan is very difficult to maintain and the gratification of achieving it takes longer to realize. A plan to lose 50 pounds by changing a sedentary, couch-potato lifestyle to a routine that involves going to the gym six days a week would be less likely to succeed than multiple goals of a two-pound weight loss and two workouts per week. Define achievable incremental targets and make no excuses about achieving those objectives.
According to the Mayo Clinic, we are more likely to maintain the motivation to exercise by choosing activities we find fun. Choose something rewarding enough to make you feel good about doing it. Join a tennis or basketball league. Participate in a dance class. Consider martial arts. Whether you enjoy a sport, spin, dance, kickboxing or aerobics, you can make friends with the regular attendees. You can get your social fix and exercise at the same time. They may liven your mood and may hold you accountable by asking you why you didn’t show up the last time. Exercise does not have to be tedious and you will be more likely to stick your workout regimen if you are having fun.
Have you ever noticed what happens to your motivation after a period of inaction? Ever reflect on what happens to our get-up-and-go when we allow ourselves to procrastinate? A stationary stone will gather a lot of moss. Take an action, no matter how small, and it will build momentum. Continue to act and you will soon find yourself in the habit of taking action. At that point you may actually find it harder not to act. Every one day of inaction can create resistance to acting. Do something to promote your beach body every day. What you choose does not always have to involve a major commitment, but you can keep the motivation alive by doing just enough to keep the chain intact.
Jeremy Skow (firstname.lastname@example.org) maintains a private practice in Great Neck at 516-322-9133. For more info, visit www.mentalhealthcounselingny.com.