The Willpower Dilemma: Part 2

The holiday season is possibly the hardest time of the year to maintain resolve when it comes to balanced eating and working out regularly. It’s easy to find you’ve gained some unwanted pounds in January. In the Willpower Dilemma Part 1,  I discussed the rider and the elephant, with the rider being our willpower and the elephant being our instinctual drives. This month, I want to dive in a little deeper and look at what Chip and Dan Heath call “Shrinking the Change” in their book Switch.

For many, a New Years resolution usually lasts a few weeks, at best. Change is hard! It takes a great deal of willpower to make alter the way you eat and be active enough to achieve to a goal weight. Plus, I find that the closer to goal weight you are, the harder it is to continue on your path. This is not just psychological, but also physiological. As your body mass shrinks, so does your resting metabolism, meaning you’re burning fewer calories at rest (and during activity); Remember, the caloric deficit has to keep increasing to lose body fat. This is one of the reasons why people often hit a plateau. The psychological reason is far more complex and has quite a bit to do with the decision and the feelings associated with the decision itself. This is what we’ll discuss in this blog.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the process of change. Procrastination, a five-syllable word for fear, is something that has paralyzed me at times, especially when it’s a big goal. Former UCLA coach John Wooden once said, “When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens – and when it happens, it lasts.”

Success builds on success! This is why you should start with small goals; As you succeed in accomplishing your goals, your self-efficacy and self-confidence builds, which in turn increases your willpower. Remember willpower is like a muscle; it grows when you work it. But just like muscles, it also will fatigue. By keeping the goals small, visible and within reach, you are doing just the right amount of exercise. This will make you feel good about yourself and confident that you can accomplish your next goal

First, small goals have to be deeply meaningful, and secondly, they should be something within your immediate reach. The author of “Getting Things Done“, David Allen says most people make a fundamental mistake when they create their to-do lists. He believes that it’s critical to make a “what’s the next action?” list. So if your goal is to take an indoor cycling class after work, the first step would be to check the schedule, then prepare your gym bag, and continue to break down the task into small achievable pieces.

Becoming active, improving fitness and enhancing health are all great goals. The most common error that people make when it comes to fitting in regular exercise is thinking that you need an hour (or two) to make it worthwhile. This is outright wrong! Every little bit helps! My solution for my clients (and myself) is to start with a shorter training session. Even if it’s just 5-minutes of foam rolling or a short run, remember that every movement counts towards being fit and active. Sometimes I shrink the change so much that I say to myself: “Just do the warm-up and the first set of intervals.” The funny thing is, I always end up doing the whole workout!

The whole notion that you have to workout for an hour for it to be effective is incorrect; I’ve had tons of amazing testimonies from my 10-Minute Solution Kick Box Boot Camp and from my Time Saver Series that demonstrate that all it takes is 10 minutes regularly. Every little bit counts! I have a new acronym for S.M.A.R.T. goals (aka Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) for your 2018:

  • Small
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-saving

There are no excuses! Set small goals to create big results. Happy New Year!

Posted in Healthy Tips.

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