Over the last five months, I’ve achieved something I’ve never been able to do before. Not only do I have the results I wanted, but I’ve enjoyed the steps I’ve taken, been happier having persevered and mildly smug that I’ve stuck to something for so long.
I’ll explain more later, but for now I want to share a few thoughts about how we can make sure we get things done.
We all understand the importance of having goals that mean something to us. They are very personal things and I’m not going to tell you how to set them (though of course for health and fitness goals I’m an expert; for everything else there are people much better qualified to help with this than me, such as The Change Agent).
Whether your goals are health and fitness related or not, having a goal is not in itself going to make you succeed. There needs to be a change in what you’re doing:
- Take steps that move you closer to your goal, no matter how small; and
- Do them consistently. It’s easy to start something; keeping going is what makes the difference.
Without actively taking steps towards our goals, we’re basically leaving it up to the universe to decide whether we succeed or not. Sometimes that works, but we deserve more certainty than that.
Paraphrasing Nelson Mandela, “… vision with action can change our world.”. Do something, anything, which moves you closer to your goal. Do it with purpose. Make it count. Even small changes can have big effects over time.
Action without vision is only passing time.
Vision without action is merely daydreaming.
Vision with action can change the world.Nelson Mandela
I’ve been telling my clients for years that consistency of effort is more important than the specifics of what you do if you want results which last for the long term. The trouble is consistency is not sexy. It doesn’t yield the fast results that we come to expect; it requires effort; and doing the same thing repeatedly can get boring.
But consistency sets us up for success in the long term. It helps us form new habits and stick to them. Even better, it can establish rituals which happen without us batting an eyelid (e.g. brushing our teeth, walking the dog, folding sheets of paper in half before writing on them (or is that just me?)).
The question is how do we stay consistent? For me, the answer is accountability.
This could be a tick list, a trusted friend who will keep you on the straight and narrow, an independent coach, or an online app. Whatever it is, it needs to be sufficiently structured and effective that you stay consistent. Random posts of good results on social media is not going to cut it.
This very much depends on you; how strong the pull of your goal is and how much the implications of missing your goal matter are factors in internal motivation. It could be a weekly update call with an accountability partner, daily habit tracker or progress photos shared with friends.
If you’re not moving towards your goal despite taking actions, doing so consistently and you are being held accountable, then it’s more likely that your actions are not the right ones at this time. However, honesty is key here:
- Are you doing your actions as wholeheartedly as you can?
- Is your accountability system working as you want it to?
- Have you been consistent long enough to be justified in expecting results?
Don’t be tempted to throw the baby out with the bathwater without being honest with yourself first (I am a massive believer in taking personal responsibility for what we do or don’t do). On the flip side, the best plan is one which you will actually stick to.
I mentioned earlier that I’ve achieved something over the last five months which I’ve never been able to do before. As of today, I’ve completed four resistance training sessions at the gym every week for 22 weeks. That’s 88 hard, focussed, exhausting sessions which ordinarily wouldn’t have happened.
Now, as a personal trainer, you may think that’s what I should be doing anyway. Fair enough. But working on my own, designing programmes and coaching others to reach their health and fitness goals, my own training tended to slide.
Being honest, my longest, most consistent, training programme has been three weeks. That’s not to say I would stop exercise completely, but my focus would go and the results would be limited.
“What’s changed?” I hear you ask. About six months ago I realised that I was going to be 50 in February 2020 and decided I wanted to be the fittest and healthiest I’d ever been. For me, that meant increasing muscle mass, losing body fat, becoming stronger and all whilst retaining my already good health.
I have all the knowledge and experience to design a fantastic plan to achieve this, but I knew I needed something to keep me accountable. That something is an online personal trainer called Ben who lives in Australia. I’ve never met him (but I know and respect his boss), but we correspond at least once a week.
Ben designs my training and nutrition programmes. He monitors my sleep, stress and gut function. I send him weekly progress photos of me in my pants and occasional videos of exercises to check my form. Basically, he tells me what to do and I do it.
Since using Ben for accountability:
- I have a 100% exercise track record.
- My food choices have improved and I drink less alcohol.
- I’ve submitted every bit of every progress report, even when things were not great.
As a result, I’ve gained 7kg (1st 1.5lbs), mostly lean body mass, my blood pressure is still excellent, I’m prioritising sleep more than before and going to the gym is no longer negotiable to me.
I still have nine weeks to go, and quite honestly, I can’t wait to see what I can achieve by my 50th birthday. And I suspect that’ll not be the end of the journey – whilst I can’t claim to have created a new ritual of exercise, it’s certainly a strong habit for me now.
Albert Einstein is attributed with saying “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”. I did something different and I got different results. Who’d have thought it?!
It’s that time of year when you may be thinking about what the future holds, what you want to achieve, or just how you’re going to get through another year. I encourage you to think about establishing some form of accountability to make sure whatever you want next year to look like actually happens.
If that involves health and fitness goals, then Thrive is here to help. Through our range of online personal training packages, we can provide as much accountability as you need. The same is the case for our nutrition programme which includes daily accountability checks.
Are you ready to thrive?