Bottom Line up Front: Identify your goal, DECIDE that you can actually accomplish your goal, then incentivize yourself appropriately to make it “worth it.” This is the appropriate two-part framework that will give you the motivation to accomplish any health and fitness goal that you set out to accomplish.
Hint: The “juicy” part of this article is going to cover the ways in which you can incentive yourself, but before we get to the juicy part, we simply must cover the gateway – THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS:
Just do it – Decide. Take your goal, and make a swift, sincere, firm decision that you can and will follow that goal through until you get the desired result. Be flexible. Before you even take one step down the path of making your health or fitness goal a reality, go ahead and accept that there is a decent possibility it may take you longer than you initially thought, perhaps months longer or years longer. That is OK! Adjusting the finish line’s place in time as you work hard to get there is a healthy practice for goal completion but QUITTING when you do not achieve the results as soon as you initially wanted—that’s not OK! Expediency should never be a requirement. Patience and long-term dedication, on the other hand, are virtues!
One more bit about the decision-making process before we move on – don’t bite off more than you can chew! What we mean here is this: do not set unreasonable goals. Take enough time to think about what is actually reasonable for you and start with that as your goal. Reach that finish line, then start from scratch with something bigger.
For example: If you have no experience whatsoever as a runner and have never even attempted to “run” any distance longer than the length from your parked car to the entrance of the grocery store during a downpour, then your first goal should not be to run a full-length 26.2 mile marathon in 4 weeks from now. Start with something smaller. Start with something like “In 4 weeks from now, I’d like to be able to run 1.5 miles at a steady pace without walking.” Then, 4 weeks after you meet that goal, run a 5k. Then 4 weeks later run a 10k. Then a half-marathon. Then, maybe several months or a full year after you started running, you go for the full marathon. Maybe the very first time you do the full marathon after a year of training up for it, you must stop and walk a few times along the way… that’s not failure, that’s victory. Walk less on the next marathon. Eventually, you run all the way through a full marathon, and you did what you set out to do!
Now, that is good goal setting, and that same incremental goal setting process can be applied to weight loss, body building, physical therapy/rehab, or almost any other area in the physical or mental well-being spectrum.
RIGHT - Let’s get down to the juicy part. The carrot on the stick. The way you are going to REWARD yourself – because, let’s be honest, you are working hard at getting after this goal here, so you obviously deserve a treat!
Let’s start with a big question: What are the things you enjoy doing, having, and eating the most? Break that down and answer it separately for each individual area: Things you currently enjoy doing, things that you have that you enjoy, and things you currently enjoy eating. Alright, take a snapshot of that, and save it for later – this is going to be your category of things you can sacrifice and add back into your plan as an incentive.
Now, let’s ask this question a little differently: What are things that you might enjoy doing, having, or eating that you currently do not? Take note of what they might be. These are going to be your potential new incentives.
More than likely, if you are starting down a new path towards a major health or fitness goal, this incentive piece is going to involve you sacrificing something. Maybe, like most people, you have a tight budget, so perhaps you will have to sacrifice your satellite TV subscription to afford a new gym membership or afford to shop for healthier foods. Or, maybe every minute of every day of your week is already farmed out between work, family, sleep, and your current hobbies you enjoy in your down time – and perhaps you are going to have to make a hard sacrifice in one of these areas for the sake of bettering your overall health and well-being.
But don’t just make all these sacrifices without adding back in a reward. Come up with something good. Let’s take into consideration soda and ice cream. Perhaps you currently enjoy sugary sodas that you consume daily, or you are used to eating ice cream after dinner several nights a week, but you know you need to eliminate these from your diet to achieve the goals you have in mind. Set a starting reward for yourself, and let it be one soda or one cup of ice cream at the end of the week. Commit to something like this: “if I eat healthy throughout the week, I’ll reward myself with _______ at the end of my 7-day week.” Maybe that blank is a soda, maybe it is a small bowl of ice cream. But think about how rewarding that ice cream will taste after you have given it up for the entire week!
Think about how much better you will feel physically after going to the gym 4 or 5 times a week, because you exercised just the LITTLE bit of discipline it took to cancel your satellite TV subscription so you could afford the gym membership. Maybe you reward yourself on your workout “rest” day with a half-day Netflix marathon instead?
Or, maybe you incentivize yourself with something new, or something different. “If I complete the workout plan I set for myself this week… or if I stick to the diet I have set for myself this week… then I’ll treat myself by going out to try a new restaurant I’ve never been to.” Oh, and don’t forget to take your other half with you, if that’s a thing!
Coming up with a way to “reward” yourself may sound elementary, but it works – give it time and you will see. If you don’t remember anything else, just remember these three words – Decide, Incentivize, Accomplish. Bookmark this article and share with your friends; see what they have to say about it and what has worked for them!
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