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Friday, February 14, 2014

5 Strategies Winners Incorporate to Make Their Goals a Reality

Not just a plan; a good plan
“I always start the New Year with the best of intentions,” a client recently told me, clearly discouraged, “and yet by mid-January, reality kicks in and my resolutions come down with a crashing thud.”

While I enjoyed working with this client, she had dropped the ball and canceled or rescheduled three of our January sessions.

Listen, as a personal trainer, I can only take you so far towards your goals. I can lovingly kick your ass during an intense workout, but I can’t drag your ass off the couch when you’re feeling unmotivated to show up for training.

Much as I wanted to gently reprimand her, I also sympathized with my client’s frustration. Every late December I set my resolutions high and develop concrete strategies to meet them, yet by early January I usually half-jokingly ask someone, “Can’t we just start this year over!?”

Resolutions can become a challenge to maintain, yet unless you’ve got a plan to make them happen you’re pretty much guaranteed they won’t happen. Winners don’t get lucky; they have concrete, easy-to-implement strategies that help them work towards their goals. They have an arsenal of tools that keep them motivated and determined.

During my nearly three decades as a fitness trainer, I’ve learned quite a bit about the psychology of success. People who create lofty goals but actually achieve them embody these five characteristics:

1.     They have a solid support system. I’m not a big fan of commercial weight loss programs, but one thing they got right is group support. Surround yourself with goal-oriented, like-minded folks – family, friends, or even health coaches – and you’re far more likely to succeed than those who quietly go it alone. Take weight loss, a big resolution on nearly everyone’s list. One study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology with 109 overweight participants found those with at least one successful partner lost significantly more weight than those with no successful partners and those without partners. If you’re not a group-joiner, you can benefit from an online support forum. One study in the International Journal of Medical Informatics showed an online weight-loss community played a vital role in participants’ weight loss efforts that clinicians, family, and friends might not be able to fill.

2.    They create accountability. Most of us recall a mentor who pushed us to become our best selves and held us accountable for our goals. Maybe it was a college professor, a parent, or a good friend. You deeply admired them and didn’t want to let that mentor down. You didn’t always like that push, but your accountability coupled with hard work propelled you towards the finish line. Recently I made a pact with a close friend. “Let’s set an appointment on our calendars when we’ll discuss what we’ve accomplished toward our individual goals and report our progress once a month.” If you don’t have a close friend or confidant for support, hire a personal trainer, life coach, therapist, or other professional who will hold you accountable and call you out when you’re not focused.

3.    They take the time to plan. You know the cliché: Fail to plan, plan to fail. The more time you invest in preparing, the less effort and fewer obstacles get in the way of your goals. Let’s say you want to ditch those stubborn 10 pounds by spring, yet you know you’ll be inundated with work and other priorities. Preparation saves time, money, and effort. Sunday night, cook some organic chicken breasts, chop kale or your other leafy greens, and pre-sort everything into grab-and-go containers. If that sounds too much work, buy pre-cooked meat and triple-washed bagged veggies. That way, when you get home from the Day from Hell, you won’t be tempted to order a pizza or Chinese take-out.  If you need to, actually schedule prep time on your calendar just like you would a workout or visit with a friend.

4.    They find intrinsic motivation. “I’m just 10 percent,” I told my frequent no-show client about her success. “The rest is up to you.” What I mean is, you need to find your own motivation to sustain you long-term. I see this time and again at my gym: A client will stay motivated as long as she has one-on-one training sessions, but attempt to do it alone and she falls off the wagon. Do some soul-searching here. Find the impetus that motivates you and gets your ass to the gym on those days you’d rather lie on the couch watching The View. (Trust me, even the most disciplined of us have those days.) I have a client who keeps pictures of the body she wants on her fridge: That gets her to the gym. Another client has a pair of skinny jeans that helps her maintain her ideal weight. Find the impetus that moves you towards your goals and liberally employ it.

5.    Give yourself limits. In college, I always wrote my papers ahead of time. The stress of writing them was far greater than actually doing it, so I knocked them out early. My roommate, on the other hand, was often burning the midnight oil even while cranking out her senior thesis. Whichever way you work, create realistic time limits. “I will lose 10 pounds by March” is a realistic goal. “I will lose 10 pounds by this weekend” is self-sabotage and a surefire way to feel lousy when you don't attain that goal. “I will lose 10 pounds this year” is too vague, sort of like driving from Los Angeles to New York and hitting every rest stop along the way: You’ll get there, but it will take forever. Establish balance there. Once you create a reasonable time limit, you put strategies into effect to make them happen. If you want to lose 10 pounds by March, you plan ahead, you find an accountability partner, you maintain that intrinsic motivation, and you create a solid support system that make your goals a reality.
I love hearing your success stories. They motivate and inspire me. (Yes, even personal trainers need a healthy dose of inspiration sometimes!) What effective strategy – or strategies – have you employed to help you meet your goals? Share in the comments section below or on my Facebook fan page ______________________________________________________________________________
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Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!  Take Jini's "Are you Ready?" Quiz at © 2011 Jinifit, Inc.

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