Five years ago I made a decision to make real changes in my life. I was inconsistently doing at-home workouts, drinking a lot, and eating poorly. I didn’t have much structure in my life and I wanted to be happier. Since then, I’ve joined a gym (and I actually go), simplified my life by minimizing the amount of physical things I own, and I cook most of my meals with fresh, whole foods. Instead of candy, I eat fruit with sunflower seed butter and hemp seeds. I actively try to live plastic-free and even save my food scraps for composting. I acknowledge that I can be a bit extreme about the habits I’ve developed, and this is in no way pushing you to do any of these specific things. The transformations I’ve made in my life are an example of how goals can be achieved. Everyone makes new year’s resolutions, but not everyone follows through with them. Whatever it is that you want to accomplish, I believe you can develop the discipline to do so with the ideas that I’ve outlined below.
- Start Slow
This is a very important concept that can be applied to all aspects of our lives. If your goals for 2019 include physical activity, whether you want to take up a new sport, hobby, or you have specific body goals in mind, take it slow! Many people think that the way to meet their goal is with intense workouts right out of the gate. This may be effective for some, but most people will burn out quickly and then decide that they hate working out. That’s why there is always an influx of people joining gyms in the beginning of the year. If you are someone who continues to go, you will see how the crowd dies down as the year goes on. Start out with short and light workouts. Create a baseline for yourself. Then you can build on the frequency, intensity, and quality of your gym time. It will soon turn from a chore to something you look forward to doing!
- Be Accountable.
Holding yourself accountable to your goals is something that we often do not consider when we initially create our goals. A great way to do this is to form a community of people with similar goals. This may be in a group texts, social media, or a partner! If your new year’s resolution is to be more active, try creating an environment with friends who have like-minded goals. Join a gym, class, or fitness club together. Update each other on your workouts and take progress pictures. Progress does not happen overnight, so having the safety network of others will help keep you motivated. Even if you’re more introverted and prefer to do it alone, document it anyway. Keep a file of progress pictures and journal entries to remind yourself of where you came from and where you are going. Furthermore, if you have a dog then you have an automatic workout partner! Your pup can benefit from the exercise of an extra walk or runs with you. You’ll feel great knowing you are positively impacting the health of your fur baby!
- Make a plan.
For me, making a plan is the glue for keeping all of my goals together. If you looked in the notes section of my phone, you would find a lot of lists. I plan what I’m buying at the grocery store before I go, and what workouts I want to do at the gym. This keeps my mind on track and prevents distractions, because I know my attention can be derailed very easily. However, sometimes those lists get lost in more lists, so I’ve gone a little old school with my most recent goals. In order to keep myself accountable with my gym routine, I’ve resorted to a paper calendar. When I receive my work schedule, I write it on the calendar and then schedule myself for the gym ahead of time. I also decide which days I will focus on cardio or resistance training. From there, the lists in my phone narrow down my specific workout routines. If you make a plan, then there’s less opportunity for “I don’t have time to work out” excuses!
- Create a Routine
This point, just like the rest, is going to vary depending on each person. My routine for success is going to be different from yours, but routine nonetheless is key to consistency. One of my best friends sent me a text last week exclaiming how great she’s felt since she created a morning skincare routine. As small and simple as that sounds, it can have a profound effect. Ritual is found everywhere. Ritual can be your morning coffee and news, stretching or meditating before bedtime, or weekly yoga class. We may not be aware of our rituals, but now after reading this you may notice your daily routines a little more, or you may create new ones! I try to begin and end my day with a short meditation, followed by multi-step skincare routine, and a cup of tea. There are nights where I don’t always follow through, because I’m not perfect, but I move on and begin again the next day.
- Self Care
In my opinion, each of these techniques build on one another. They are stepping stones for the ultimate goal that you’ve created. The order of priority may differ from person to person, but collectively they will help keep you on track. Self care is the cherry on top of it all. Exercise has a profound effect on, not only your physical body, but also on your mental state. I find that if I exercise after work, I have more energy and confidence for the rest of the day. I try to workout four times a week, but if I am physically or mentally tired I take a break. Sometimes a break from the gym can be a day or an entire week. I allow myself to take the time I need for binge-watching shows in pajamas, ordering Thai food, using a face mask, reading a book or just doing nothing. Find what works for you to reset. Trust me, there will be days or weeks you decide not to go to the gym or follow through with your plan, but that does not mean that you failed and you’ll try again next January. It just means you can start over when you’re ready, like on Monday. I recently heard someone say that the beauty of meditation is that you always begin again. It’s that simple. You can always begin again with any goal you’ve established for yourself. Everyday is a new opportunity to do just that.
I know I’ve thrown a lot at you in a short amount of time, but if you break down your goals into these focal points, you will find that you may stop allowing yourself to make excuses. Pay attention to the moments when you hold back and forgive yourself if you break your rules. Listen to your body. Progress is something that is deeply personal. You cannot compare your progress to anyone else’s. Celebrate your progress and yourself for working to improve your life. Focus on the things that are going right and find what works best for you! You may even notice that the more you grow as a person, the more momentum you will have to continue to improve more areas of your life. Most importantly, love yourself, because you have to spend the rest of your life with you!