The new year is a natural time to put behind all the mistakes of the previous one and look forward to making positive changes.
Each January, roughly one-third of us resolve to make a change for the better in some way. But a much smaller percentage of people actually make good on those resolutions.
While about three quarters of people stick to their goals for at least a week, less than half are still on target six months later.
As most know from experience, we will inevitably run into challenges to keeping our resolutions on-track.
There are many tools and ideas that can help people to achieve their goals – from writing SMART goals down, tracking your progress, scheduling in time for exercise and so on.
But even though these tools can be essential to many people, sometimes the best tools are mental motivators and ways to think about the process.
Any change in our daily routine or in a physical process takes time.
Researchers at University College London published a study in the European Journal of Social Psychology in 2009 which showed it takes at least two full months (66 days) for a new activity like exercise, to become habitual.
Whatever your goal, even if you are making small improvements, you need to persist to allow the changes to take effect and the new pattern to become a habit.
It can sometimes be frustrating if changes are not readily apparent, but it requires patience and persistence.
What most people would like to do is adopt the most efficient and productive method of exercising (or structuring their eating plan) to get the best results the quickest. But even if you are using an inefficient method, if you persist you will eventually change yours habits and increase the likelihood of achieving your goal.
Another way to stay motivated for people trying to lose weight and get fit is to perceive and understand that your efforts are being rewarded – even though you don’t see measurable differences occurring on the scale or tape-measure.
Most people think that if you eliminate or reduce the amount of ‘feel-good’ foods (chocolate, sweets, potato chips, burgers) that you will miss them and therefore be depriving yourself. However, when you change your eating habits, if you persist long enough, you find that those foods don’t have the same allure they once had – and you don’t seem to crave them as much. That is because your metabolism has changed. The hormones that get released and circulate in your blood stream affect your appetite, taste and digestion to be more favourable to healthy foods.
Exercise has its own rewards. As we exercise consistently, we improve our fitness levels. Activities that were once challenging become easier. Changes in metabolism, cardiac and circulatory system, as well as muscle structure, give a person more energy and a greater motivation to keep exercising and trying new, more difficult challenges.
The effort that was felt in the initial stages to exercise, after a while, becomes replaced by an attraction and an affinity for exercise.
Once this process begins to be felt, external methods of motivation become less important as internal motivators take over and new habits are formed.
To be successful in achieving these types of goals, it helps to be patient, persistent and perceptive.
Kerry Senchyna is the founder, owner and president of West Coast Kinesiology and a provincially registered kinesiologist.