I’m writing this at my kitchen table. The house is quiet- save the hum of the dishwasher and gentle repetition of the dryer. Our household appliances are doling out their best effort to keep up with the demand of a houseful of family over the holidays.
Outside the snow is falling once again, blanketing the Fraser Valley. It’s beautiful. Looks like a snow globe.
As an introvert who loves planning, reflecting, and gets a high off of checking boxes, I love this time of year.
The turning of a new calendar year, and the disruption of routine over the holidays make it a perfect time to pause, reflect, and to create intentions for the year ahead. I do it personally, and for Ascend Fitness, and I encourage you to do the same. It’s an opportunity to check in with yourself, where you’re at, and to write your story for the year to come.
For me, and for Ascend Fitness, 2016 was a great year. It didn’t start that way. The beginning of 2016 was in the shadow of 2015- a year of struggle and lost inspiration.
In 2015 and into the start of 2016, every step in business seemed so challenging. Not because the things I needed to do were challenging- but because I had lost my drive and my passion. I went through the motion, kept reaching for something to hang onto, to give me focus and purpose. I felt lost.
And it happens the same way when it comes to your health and fitness. When you’re motivated, and you’re absolutely clear on your why- maybe you have no more clothes that fit you, or a loved one recently had a heart attack- taking action is relatively easy. Sure, the workouts may be tough, or you need to carve out some extra time to plan your meals, but you are unstoppable. You want it. And you’ll do anything to get it.
But the tough times are not necessarily when you need to fit in workouts around taking care of kids, or a busy work schedule. The tough times are when you lose the drive, the desire, the motivation. It’s when your mind plays tricks on you and says, “oh what’s the point… you’ve failed so many times before” or “this is just so hard… you can start again next week”. It’s when you forget your why.
In his book, Start with Why, Simon Sinek writes “All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year.
Because the loss of motivation and drive comes from the head, it can be hard to recognize what it actually is: a challenge. It’s not the end. It’s not something that has the power to derail your plan, your dreams, your goals. It’s simply a challenge. And you knew there would be challenges.
There are two ways to approach challenges: you can wish them away, or you can embrace them as the great teachers they are. Looking back at the past 10 years in business, I’ve learned more from the tough times than I did when things were easy.
To be fair, I’m not always grateful for a challenge when I’m going through it. In fact, usually I wish it would just go away; and I’m working on that mindset.
I wanted to share with you the lessons I’ve learned that help me stay inspired, motivated, and focused on my goals. They are powerful strategies, and here I will relate them to your health and fitness goals, so that you never fall completely ‘off the wagon’ again; so that you’re motivation lasts far beyond the first few weeks of January.
1. Celebrate your Successes. Something I don’t do nearly enough- and is a big cause of my personal burn out. So often we expect a lot of ourselves, and keep checking boxes and looking to the next thing that we need to achieve. What is our next step? And when we look back, we think that we could have done better. There’s always going to be a next step, and we could always do better. When you pay attention to all the slip ups, you can easily write the story “I always fail..”
On the flip side, when you look back at how far you’ve come and start to celebrate the small wins, something magical happens. You start to feel successful. You get a boost in confidence, and you’re inspired to keep going. Success begets success..
I have incorporated this habit into my daily personal life, and made it a part of my monthly, quarterly and annual business review. At the end of each day, I simply give thanks to the day and acknowledge all the things that I did well. I recently wrote a blog post and recorded a podcast about this strategy. To read it, and to download the ‘celebrating success’ journal, click here. Before planning the upcoming month, quarter or year, I look back and reflect on the challenges I have overcome and what I have accomplished.
2. Make your why bigger than yourself. While it may seem noble and quote-worthy to declare that you are _______ (enter healthy habit) just for yourself, doing it for someone else may help keep your motivation high. Andrew Shatté, Ph.D., a leading expert in resilience describes the “why” in terms of four levels, in order of ranking from level 1 to level 4, Individual goals, Family, Community and Spirituality. The higher the level, the greater the resilience.
In business, I started to spend so much time behind the scenes, that I lost the connection to why I started my business in the first place. As soon as I changed that I became re-inspired. Now my three ‘whys’ are simple: our clients, my team and the community. For our clients, our why is to ignite positive lifestyle changes so you can enjoy and live life’s adventures. For my team, I want to provide an opportunity for each person to learn and grow and to support his or her long-term vision. For our community, it’s to support less fortunate people in our community and make our city an even better place to live.
What are your reasons why? Do you want to be able to play football with your kids? Be mentally strong so you can lead your company? Be able to travel with your partner?
3. Be intentional with your motivation. Motivation is like food for the brain. You cannot get enough in just one sitting. It needs continual and regular top ups. –Peter Davies
At the beginning of a program, or the beginning of the New Year, motivation is high. You’re excited. It’s fresh and new. But, as the days and weeks go by, motivation wanes. And soon enough you’re finding it tough to make the healthier eating choices or to not press snooze when the alarm goes off for your 5:30AM workout.
You’re not alone. Expect that motivation will fade. You need to consistently add fuel to keep your inner fire burning. There are many ways to do this; you can decide what works best for you. Here are some examples:
· Have a clear short term goal, such as completing a 10K race
· Follow social media accounts that offer daily inspiration (just make sure the accounts actually inspire you, not make you feel bad because your body doesn’t look like the model in the picture
· Give yourself reminders. I set an alarm that says “You got this Tanja” on most days. I vary the message and time it rings, but it reminds me of my goals and intentions when my motivation is likely to dip- the evening.
· Be a student. Read books, magazines or listen to podcasts relating to your topic.
· Have a workout buddy or coach- someone you will not let down, even if you don’t feel like showing up.
· Apply lessons one and two from this article
· Just START. Do SOMETHING- and it can be small. For example, if you’re really not feeling like working out, go for a 10-minute walk. Then go back to tip #1 and celebrate that small win.
A final note on motivation: there will be days, or even weeks that you’re not motivated. That’s normal. But imagine if we only did things in life when we felt like it? Imagine telling your banker that you didn’t pay your mortgage because you didn’t feel like it? Imagine telling you kids that you didn’t take them to school because you didn’t feel like getting out of bed?
You do these things, regardless of how you feel because you’re committed. And if you’re not always committed to yourself, then commit to someone else. Find a workout partner, an accountability partner or hire a coach. I love hearing our clients describe how, for the first time ever, they have actually successfully stuck to a program. How do we do it? Simple. We design a realistic plan to help our clients reach their goals and we help keep them accountable to their plan.
4. Have a plan, and plan no more than 3 months at a time. This strategy is especially important at New Years. We set lofty or vague goals such as “I’m going to lose 40 pounds this year” or “I’m going to get healthier this year”. A year is much too long to focus on; you need to break it down. 90 days is a good starting point. From there you can break it down to a one month target, then a weekly target, and finally, you can decide what action steps you need to do TODAY to move you in the direction of your goals.
No clear goal? 90 days too long? No worries. Simply focus on one or two things that will move you forward. Be sure to celebrate your success! Sometimes a goal ‘to get healthier’ is good enough, as long as you pair it with daily action steps.
I recommend creating a rough plan each month, then set clear targets for each week. At the start of each day, look at your weekly goals and set targets for the day. Having clear goals will make it easier to celebrate your success.
Without a plan, it’s easy to experience decision fatigue and rely on willpower (which is a very limited resource). Instead of going to do your workout with a clear plan, you’ll wander into your workout not really knowing what you’re going to do, and miss out on the feeling of accomplishment when you’re done. The question of ‘what to do’ at the gym can easily turn into ‘should I go to the gym?’ Likewise with eating. Have a plan. You’ll need to make fewer decisions. Best practice? Decide what you’re going to eat during the day in the morning when your willpower is at its peak.
There you have it. 4 lessons I’ve learned to keep laser focused on where you want to go.
I sincerely hope that the lessons I have learned can help you as you move forward into 2017. Let’s do this!
Tanja Shaw is a health and fitness coach, Rotarian, passionate entrepreneur, mom, runner, and owner of Ascend Fitness Inc. and host of the Fit & Vibrant You Podcast. Tanja and her team of expert fitness coaches work with their clients to help them become stronger, more confident and energetic versions of themselves. Visit Tanja at www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com and www.tanjashaw.com.