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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Willpower: is it in you?

Willpower: the strength to act, or forbear from acting, in the pursuit of a goal. Do you have it?

I hear many of my clients and friends say that they do not have willpower when it comes to their fitness and health goals, and, particularly, when it comes to dieting. Usually they start off fine but by the end of the third day (if not the end of the first day), they "just can't do it anymore." Let's look at that.

Each day we  get out of bed, go through our morning routine, settle into our day, wind down our evening and go back to bed. Each of these activities is a manifestation of what we want or need to do. It is a function of our desire or our will. Therefore, we all have willpower. The act of doing something - achieving our goal, be it to go work, take the kids to school, or volunteer - is all an exercise of our willpower. So how come that doesn't translate to our goals for diet, health and fitness? How is it we "have no will power?" There are a few reasons...

1. Our goals are not our goals. New Year's resolutions are a good example of this. Each year our culture hits the reset button and everyone starts a new routine. You've done it and so have your friends and family. "This year I'm going to...lose 10 pounds, start running, cut out carbs, eat smaller meals, run a marathon, go to the gym 3 times a week..." Blah blah blah. But many people, maybe even you, set these goals because everyone else has a New Year's resolution. You're not setting a goal that means something to you.

2. Our goals are too big. Often we look at the big picture and not the small pixels that make it up. Each day is a day to make a change. Each hour is an opportunity to affect change. Take the big goal of losing 20 pounds. If you measure the success of reaching your goal by how much work you're going to have to do to achieve it, you'll give up before you start. If you break that 20 pounds down into 2 pounds every 2 weeks for 20 weeks, the work becomes smaller and the goal becomes easier to achieve.

3. We are afraid of change. Change is a scary concept for a lot of us. If your daily routine has to change to accommodate exercise, it can be scary. You may have to skip happy hour with your friends and explain why. You may have to go buy some clothes to workout in. You may have to find a gym and face a sea of unfamiliar faces. You may have to learn how to cook. Change can be uncomfortable. But doing the same thing you do now every day and expecting a change - like losing 20 pounds - is insanity. You must do something different to make a change.

4. We really don't want to achieve our goal. Face reality. Just because your pant size is bigger than last year, your weight is higher than last year, you get out of breath when you walk up the stairs, or you know you shouldn't eat the entire bag of M&Ms, doesn't mean you really care. To achieve your goals you HAVE TO CARE. Your goals need to be your goals. They can't be mine. I want you to be fit and healthy. I want you to have strength to play with your kids. I want you to feel good when you put on that great new outfit. But just because I care, doesn't mean you do. If you really want to achieve your health and fitness goals, YOU HAVE TO CARE ABOUT YOUR GOALS. They must mean something to YOU.

There are many reasons we do not achieve our diet and fitness goals, but lack of willpower is not one of them. It is not an excuse.

Get moving!

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