…by Mary Pearsall

How many times have you vowed to lose weight, get fit, exercise, or eat healthy for the New Year? It is certainly true that January 1st is the traditional time to resolve to either kick a bad habit or start a good one. However, if you have attempted this unsuccessfully in the past, the chances are this year won\’t be any different.

If the New Year is the traditional time of change and resolution, the holidays preceding this annual event are the catalyst that drives these good intentions. We look at the parties and celebrations as license to eat and drink whatever appears before us. We think “I can eat this now – I\’ll start my program in the New Year”. Even if this is not a conscious thought, you may be telling yourself not to worry about today – the New Year will take care of it all. Usually it doesn\’t.

A year is a long time – a slow progression of days, weeks and months. Any resolution you vow to keep at the beginning of that prolonged span of time would be daunting. Especially since you probably enjoy – or get some kind of pay off – for the behavior/habit you are trying to change. Or you are dreading adding some kind of exercise routine in to an already jammed schedule.

The fact is a healthy lifestyle requires much more than making a New Year\’s resolution. It is a process of change, one that needs attention all year long, not just at the first of the year. Change is difficult, no doubt about it. But if you make small incremental adjustments and re-group when necessary all year long, you will be much more likely to make these changes stick for a lifetime – well beyond the predicted two weeks of the most well intended New Year\’s Resolutions.

Four Simple Steps

The first steps are always the hardest, especially when you not all sure what those steps should be. The good news is that they are simple and will get you off dead center and moving toward a target. You will gain momentum as you move along.

Step #1: Identify your long terms goals. Your goals may be about your health, appearance, fitting in your favorite pair of jeans, or having more energy to keep up with your younger counterparts or grandkids. Whatever they may be – your goals are specific to you and there is no right or wrong. Come up with as many as you can and write them down.

Step #2: Find your “why” for making the change. This is the crucial step that most people totally overlook. Without taking the time to really dig deep and determine just exactly why you want to lose weight, lower your cholesterol or blood pressure, or have more energy, your chances of success decrease dramatically. What you value in life is what is important here.

People exercise for a variety of reasons, and when you look intently at what is most important to you, you may even discover reasons you hadn\’t thought of. When asked what you value most in life, what would you say? Here are but a few answers that are possible:

  • God
  • Family
  • Honesty
  • Fun
  • Education
  • Freedom

Identifying what is really important to you – the reason you want to get and stay healthy – will get you up out of bed and into your walking shoes when you would really rather turn over and catch a few more “z\’s”. While the value of good health is obvious, think about the less apparent benefits of achieving your long term goals that extend beyond your health. For example, a business owner might connect exercise and their health with the financial success of their business. Parents and grandparents might connect it with being active participants in the lives of their children and grandchildren, being healthy examples, and being around to see the little ones grow up. Be sure to write these values down in the same place you write your goals.

Step #3: Visualize the new you. Now that you have identified your goals and examined your “why”, imagine what it will be like when you are “there” – when you have achieved your long term goals. Imagine a beautiful picture of the healthy, vibrant, energetic person you will be for your business, your spouse, your children, yourself.

What will your life look like? How would you feel? What would you be doing that you aren\’t doing now? What activities would you eliminate that you do not value as highly as exercise? All of these questions will keep you motivated when the going gets tough.

So, go ahead, paint a vivid word picture, or if you have an artistic flair, draw it- however you can best imagine the new you.

Step #4: Break it down: Taking your long term goals and breaking them down into small, incremental steps will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed. You will gain that all important momentum that will keep you focused and moving forward.

Start by taking one of your long term goals and divide it into a weekly goal. For instance, if you want to exercise five times a week consistently, start the first week with something specific, measurable, and achievable. Getting up 30 minutes early to walk on Monday, Wednesday and Friday will get you started. As you experience success, and the great feeling that accompanies it, build on this energy by adding in extra time or an extra day every week. And be sure to document your progress. Tracking the steps you have taken is very gratifying and will help you stay the course.

Yes, change can be daunting. But taking small steps will get you there – day after day, week after week, month after month. Each step in the process, each task that moves you forward toward your goals can teach you a lesson. This gives you the push to keep going until, before you know it, you are there, fully living the life you want.