Meeting a challenging goal is a great feeling. But not every goal has a happy ending—and goals concerning getting fit are especially difficult to reach. Here are some tips to help make the journey easier by improving your mental toughness.
Know your reasons for change. Changing a habit for anyone other than yourself is never as powerful as making a change for yourself. For example, you are much more likely to lose weight (and keep it off) when you find your reasons for doing so (maybe you run out of breath climbing stairs), rather than, say, acting on a co-worker’s suggestion that your team should lose weight. Intrinsic, or self-generated, motivation is far more powerful than extrinsic motivation—changing behaviors for a reward or to please others.
Set up specific, measurable, controllable goals. Goal-setting is invaluable when it comes to maximizing performance. Countless sport and health psychology studies support this idea. In order to maximize your effort and motivation, you must set specific goals. “Getting in better shape” is a start, but you can improve it by saying, “losing ten pounds in 60 days to get in better shape.” Notice how this goal is measurable (you can count the pounds that come off along the way), as well as 100 percent controllable (you decide what you eat each day).
Journal your progress. Keep running notes of the behaviors you engage in daily that help you toward your goals, and record other important advice and inspiration you pick up along the way.
Seek support from friends and family. In psychology, social support is defined as the people in your life who back you up and encourage you as you pursue your goals. Friends and family help you find the strength and confidence to stay positive and bounce back from adversity. When you set goals, be sure to tell the people in your life. Ask for their encouragement and seek their help in keeping you accountable if you slip. You will be surprised to learn how much this additional accountability will add to your effort and help you reach the results you desire.
Try, try again. When we set challenging goals, we sometimes run into problems reaching them. Keep in mind that anything good in life that you go after will involve stress, frustration, adversity—and failure. The key is to learn from what didn’t work and figure out new ways of reaching the goal. You will discover how resilient you are, and how much you learn from tough times in life.