3 Essential Traits for Achieving your Fitness Related Goals (and many other goals you might have)

Week in Review: January 10, 2020
January 10, 2020
Week in Review: January 17, 2020
January 17, 2020

I’ve recently been going back through my copy of The Next Millionaire Next door by Dr. Sarah Stanley Fallaw and her late father Dr. Thomas J. Stanley. It's a great reference tool for anyone looking to build wealth and financial independence. I highly recommend it.

As great as the financial advice is, there's an underpinning of psychology as well. Dr. Fallaw and Dr. Stanley highlight personality traits like discipline, perseverance and resiliency that differentiate high achievers from those who struggle. While these traits do not guarantee success, you're much more likely to find them in successful entrepreneurs and those who've climbed the corporate ladder.

We can relate these same traits to exercise and nutrition, because those who most commonly reach their goals take a disciplined approach to their exercise program or diet. They take the long view with respect to achieving their goals and they don't let setbacks or challenges deter them along the way.

Goals, Resolutions and Outcomes

It's no secret that the New Year often brings with it a desire to reflect and improve. For many, health and fitness related resolutions top the list. However, just 9% of people actually achieve their resolutions. If we can increase that percentage, even just a little bit, we'd have a host of healthier, happier people out there. And, with health care costs rising, finding ways to reduce the need and demand for medical services would benefit public health in a major way.

I've long believed that time is our most valuable asset. And good health is the vehicle through which we maximize the quality of our time. In order to move the needle in that direction, we must establish and strengthen the skills of discipline, perseverance and resilience.

Here's what those three traits look like when applied to health and fitness:

1. Discipline: Prioritize and Execute

In their book, Drs. Fallaw and Stanley note that "more than 9 out of 10 of the top 5% of wealth holders in America reported that being well disciplined was very important in explaining their socioeconomic success".

Related to exercise, I immediately think of time management.  For many people who struggle, their exercise program falls down the list of priorities.  They set a high bar, but do not structure their time accordingly.

This usually manifests in one of two ways:

A. They do not schedule their workout time or stick to the schedule they create

B. They overcommit to the available time they have to work out and wind up creating a negative habit

In the first example, the workout comes second to other items on a person's agenda. In fact, I've seen people move their workout for relatively inconsequential things, like going out to happy hour with friends. I'm not knocking anyone's social calendar, but if the goal or resolution is important, then skipping out at the first opportunity is quite counterproductive (and unhealthy if you just punted your workout for 15-cent wings and $2 beers).

I've also noticed that people tend to overpromise when it comes to goal setting. I'm all for lofty goals, but if you just don't have 5 hours in a week to workout, don't commit to it. In these scenarios, this well-intentioned person will kill themselves to work out for 5 hours the first week, 4 hours the second week and slowly scale back until they're not working out anymore. Instead, honestly assess what's reasonable for you, then stick to it. If you have 2 available hours, schedule them and get after it – you can always add more once you've established a rock-solid habit.

When it comes to scheduling, I encourage everyone to plan their workout like they would an important meeting or event. Put it on your calendar and don't skip it. You'll find that your adherence and consistency go way up when it's written down and committed to in advance.

Lastly, the "best" time to work out is the time that you will most easily adhere to. For some it's the morning, others lunchtime and others the evening. Just know that the longer you wait, the more things can pile up in your day that threaten to derail you. Regardless of what time you choose, stay disciplined and execute your plan.

2. Perseverance: Stay on the Path

A healthier lifestyle doesn't come in a can and it's not one-size-fits-all. Change requires hard, sometimes painstaking work and effort.

Overwhelmingly, I find that people who take the long view with respect to their fitness goals do better than those who look for a quick fix. It starts with taking the time to form a sound, habit-based foundation that is slowly and steadily built upon. It continues by approaching each day with the mindset of getting 1% better. Over time, those daily improvements really add up. I should also add that this approach emphasizes moderation over strict adherence to rules. The moderate approach to health and fitness change is much more sustainable over the long-haul than those that promote fad diets or a specific, unwavering workout strategy.

I also find that people stick with their programs longer if they utilize performance goals rather than aesthetic goals. Day to day aesthetic changes are hard to recognize. In fact, it may take weeks or months to feel like you're making progress if you rely on the mirror alone. However, performance can be tracked workout to workout or even day to day. Whether its strength, speed, power, movement quality or even pain reduction, each small improvement is a nudge in the direction to continue on. Celebrate those victories and keep marching forward.

Ultimately, there will always be days where you don't feel like working out or making the healthy choice. Stick with it! Even if the plan isn't perfect, you'll find that something is always better than nothing. Most importantly, you'll continue to strengthen that habit-based foundation rather than weaken it.

3. Resilience: Crush Barriers

Things pop up. How will you handle them? Will you creatively figure out a resolution to a problem that threatens to derail you?

A sound, habit-based process makes it easier to power through distractions and barriers that inevitably occur. For example, as a parent I know that on a random morning I could wake up to a sick child. Under this scenario, it's highly unlikely that I'll get to the gym for a workout. However, I can keep my habit in place by performing a bodyweight workout at home. While it's not perfect, it's something. By successfully working around a potential barrier, I've increased both my resilience and my problem solving ability. Each successive barrier will be easier to overcome and I will continue on the path toward achieving my fitness goals.

Pay attention to the influences around you. As the book notes, people tend to take on the spending habits of their friends and neighbors. Without meaning to, co-workers and friends can sometimes derail well-intentioned people. For example, your co-workers might insist that you go to lunch with them when you've brought your healthy lunch from home. To stay the course, you have two options: decline the lunch invite or commit to a healthy option at the restaurant before you arrive. Either works – just maintain the discipline to make the best choice for you, despite what others might be doing.

Finally, sometimes missing a workout or indulging a bit is an unavoidable part of the process. Don't fret about it. Don't feel guilty about it. Don't punish yourself for it. Own it. Then get back on track at the first opportunity.

What's Important to You?

We all have responsibilities and priorities that create a demand on our time and attention. Ultimately, if achieving a health-related goal is important, then it must be relentlessly pursued it with discipline, perseverance and resilience. The likelihood that you will meet or exceed your goals and keep your resolution will increase dramatically.

Lastly, if you're looking to get 2020 started off on the right foot and would like a bit of direction, then check out our 12-week ReBUILD program. We offer programs for both men and women. It's perfect for someone with some knowledge, skill and experience who'd like to reengage with strength training! If you have questions or would like to learn more about Vitalifit's programs please contact us today.