You started off 2021 with grand aspirations, right? You were determined to lose 20 pounds, have more energy, and fit into your “skinny” jeans again. But now that February has arrived where do you stand with those goals? If you’re like the majority of us, your fitness and diet plans have already waned or totally died down. Why is that?
It’s NOT that you lack motivation or aren’t able to do it. The problem is a) resolutions aren’t habits and b) you aren’t taking the time to create the correct mindset for fitness. How can you truly create a fitness habit if you haven’t changed how you think about fitness?
Shifting how you think has been shown to help people cope with addiction, depression, anxiety and more. So, why wouldn’t it help you reach your fitness goals?
THE FIRST RULE FOR A FITNESS MINDSET IS…
To develop a fitness mindset, there’s something you should first understand – whatever your physical health may be today is a result of thousands of habitual actions performed over time. Think about what your eating and exercise habits currently are, then think about how long you’ve been doing them that way. It wasn’t overnight, was it? Just like how getting out of shape didn’t happen overnight, neither will getting in shape.
That makes the first rule of a fitness mindset understanding that getting your physical health back on track is a journey, not a quick and easy fix. That means that even though you might think it’s a linear process – “I will do A three times a week for 30 minutes for a result of B” – journeys aren’t linear. You may skip a day of exercise (or more!) or you may have that second piece of cake and THAT’S OKAY. It doesn’t mean you lack the willpower to commit, it’s just how the process goes. If you tell yourself that a setback is failure, you’re telling yourself a story of how you can’t do it which makes it more unlikely you’ll do it in the future. By understanding that the process of change and habits means setbacks will happen and accepting that, you change the story you tell yourself and, thus, your mindset.
So, be kind to yourself as you set your new fitness goals and change the story you’re telling yourself!
THE REST OF THE RULES FOR A FITNESS MINDSET
What other things do you need to do to change your mindset?
- Identify your reasons. Instead of focusing HOW you will lose weight or develop a fitness routine, ask yourself WHY you want to do those things. And when I say WHY, I don’t mean a reason like “Because I want to lower my blood pressure” or a general “Because I’ll feel better”. Neither of those will keep you going day after day. Look for the reasons that really and truly resonate with you – reasons like “I want to meet my grandchildren one day” or “Exercising results in my having more energy which means I can play with my kids more”. Essentially, it boils down to finding the reasons that give you personal satisfaction rather than reasons that involve the validation of others. Try asking these questions: 1) Why do I really want to do this?; 2) Why is this really desirable to me? (how will it improve my life); 3) What’s in it for me and others? (NOT what kind of response will I get); and 4) What are the consequences of me not doing it?
- Baby steps are key. Research shows that trying to make too many changes at once is the number one reason people fail at developing good eating and exercise habits. Aiming too high and setting up unrealistic expectations of yourself such as “I will go to the gym 5 days a week” or “I will get rid of all the junk food in my home and never touch food like that again” will only lead to feelings of hopelessness when you aren’t able to attain them. Because, let’s face it, who has the time to go to the gym 5 days a week and who is really going to give up chocolate FOREVER? Instead of trying to go all out from day one, simply make a few small changes (“I’ll drink a glass of lemon water every morning” or “I’ll take a 15 minute walk each day”) and do them until THEY BECOME HABIT. When you succeed at achieving each tiny goal you set, you’ll realize that small changes add up to big results and small successes make it easier for you to increase your efforts.
- Turn those baby steps into habit. You have your baby steps, now how do you make them a habit? Consistency is key, but being consistent can be hard. One of the easiest ways to turn your small steps into habits that become building blocks for bigger habits is by anchoring them to existing habits. For example, if your goal is to drink a glass of lemon water as soon as you wake up, set a glass out by the sink each night so it’s the first thing you see in the morning. Want to eat more fresh veggies? Make a veggie tray and keep it on the top shelf of your fridge. Dust off your dumbbells and place them on your dresser so every time you admire your reflection, you can flex those biceps as well.
- Visualize. When we spend some time in our minds visualizing our success, we move in the direction of that success. So take a few minutes to visualize the end result of your new habits. How will you feel? How will you look? How will your life have changed for the better? Training your mind in this way will help you with the physical side as well.
A FIXED MINDSET VS A GROWTH MINDSET
Psychologist Carol Dweck came up with the terms fixed and growth mindset and both are essentially what they sound like. A fixed mindset means you believe things are predetermined, while a growth mindset means you believe there is room to improve.
When it comes to fitness, a fixed mindset puts you in a place where you believe things won’t improve. You believe your abilities are unchangeable (“there’s no way I’ll ever be able to run a mile!”); you avoid failure or obstacles where you don’t know what the outcome will be; obstacles are a sign to quit (“I missed my workout today because my child got sick, clearly I will never have the time to workout!”); and success is equal to what you’re born with and nothing else. The thing is fitness ISN’T fixed – whatever your current fitness level, it can be changed. But first, you need to change your mindset into one of growth. When you have a growth mindset, you believe you can improve your skills over time (though not overnight), that challenges and failure are opportunities to learn, and where you’re starting from doesn’t matter.
How can you ditch the fixed mindset and settle into a growth mindset?
- Remember that perfection is a myth. As women, we get a lot of pressure to be “perfect” but perfection is a myth – it doesn’t exist. Being ambitious but willing to make mistakes with your goals rather than striving for perfection will help you change your mindset.
- Challenges will happen. And you should expect them to, because when you expect that a setback will arise you’re more likely to take it in stride and bounce back quicker.
- Celebrate! Acknowledging what you’ve accomplished, each tiny success, is a sign of a growth mindset. So, own and celebrate each goal you’ve smashed whether it’s drinking more water in a day or running a mile.
THE FINAL WORD
Changing your mindset can change your life and it’s easier than you think. Take small steps and watch them add up into something big and amazing, then celebrate each success. You’ve earned it. Remember:
You can fill a gallon-sized bucket to overflowing using only one teaspoon of water at a time.
Will it take a while?
But you can absolutely achieve it.
Achieving your health and wellness goals is closer than you think. And if you need a helping hand or a little guidance on your journey, I’m here for you. You can set up a FREE consult with me anytime and together we’ll set your goals then achieve each and every one.