It’s the time of year when people want to start fresh. People recommit to their health in a number of new ways, including making New Year’s Resolutions. They envision that this will be the year they achieve all of their health and fitness goals.  Unfortunately, even with the best of intentions about 20% of people go back to their old ways within a month.  Mid-way through the year it’s likely that over half of those who made resolutions have given up on their goals.

According to Men’s Health magazine, a lack of willpower was the biggest reason respondents to a major poll last year provided when explaining why they were unsuccessful in achieving the goals they had set for themselves at the turn of the new year.  The article continues to say if you are blaming willpower for your failures, you don’t understand how willpower works. Willpower is a learned skill not something you simply have or don’t have. Authors of “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength,” Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney, support this concept and say willpower is a normal human brain capacity that can be strengthened or tired out like a muscle.

Here are some willpower building strategies you can employ:

It’s not about deprivation~

Relying solely on willpower is the quickest road to ruin, says addiction-behavior researcher John C. Norcross, PhD. If you are too rigid and restrictive, you are three times more likely to give up after one misstep. Allow for the occasional indulgence and don’t use it as an excuse to throw in the towel.

Don’t say “No” – Try “Not Right Now”~

Often one of the biggest reasons we give up is that it’s overwhelming and depressing to think of going without for long periods of time.  Willpower does not have to mean ‘forever,’ it can simply mean ‘for the next few minutes.’  Rather than thinking “I will NEVER be able to have another cookie”, instead think “I’m not going to have a cookie today.”

Do a little more~

Incremental changes are more manageable.  You don’t need to run your first half marathon in two weeks.  How about just committing to getting out for a run or walk 3 days a week to start? Or once you are out there and you feel yourself begin to falter, how about just sticking with it for two more minutes?  Who knows? At the end of two minutes you may decide you can do two more!

Don’t get discouraged~

Often people are unsuccessful because they take on too much too soon not because they lack willpower. Make realistic goals, seek out your intrinsic motivation and quiet your inner critic. Your sense of accomplishment and mastery grows as you make gradual changes.

Write it Down~

Write down your goals someplace where you can access, review and update them easily.  Often people are more engaged when they write down their goals rather than just thinking about them.  In addition, come up with the some incremental goals that allow you to feel like you are making some progress that will motivate you to continue.  Lastly, keep track of the progress you are making so you can look back at all you have accomplished in moments of frustration.

Make it easier to achieve~

If your goal is to work out more, than put those times into your calendar and treat them with same respect you would any other appointment.  If your goal is to eat healthier, take the time to plan what you will be eating.  Ask yourself “What can I do to focus better or make things easier?” When you don’t plan you are more likely to make bad choices in the moment and stray from the path toward achieving your goal.

Make it fun~

Your road to success doesn’t have to be a lonely one. Your willpower will be bolstered by involving your friends and family in your efforts. Plan a healthy recipe swap, a walk with a friend or go skating with your family over the weekend.

Let’s make 2013 the year where you accomplish your health goals!

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