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Three Mindset Shifts You Need To Reach Your Fitness Goals

January 1, 2023 is quickly approaching as I write this. In just a few short days, people are going to be committing themselves to new resolutions, new behaviors, and the hope that comes with a new year.

Yet, according to Inc.com, of the 41% of Americans that set New Year’s resolutions, 91% of them will fail by next January.

A significant number of people don’t make it very long, either. Strava will likely name January 13, 2023 “Quitter’s Day,” as about 80% of their new users quit by the second Friday of the New Year.

There are a myriad of reasons why people might give up on their resolutions, ranging from poor planning, being too vague, being overly ambitious, or struggling to find support.

After working with hundreds of people over the last decade, I believe the problem is not necessarily the goals that people set or how they set them. In my experience as a coach, it often came down to having a few specific perspectives.

1. Focus on Who, Not What

Most goals are based on achieving a particular objective, like losing 20 pounds or exercising 3 days a week. From there, a person might write out the actions they would take to achieve this objective, such as starting a diet or joining a gym. This person might then make a plan for actually acting on these things by meal prepping or scheduling their workouts.

While this makes your goals more concrete, it doesn’t change who you are.

These goals are still focused on an outcome, not an identity.

Let me explain.

There are three levels where change may occur. The result looks a bit like a cross-section of the globe: core, mantle, and crust.

Basically, the things you do and the outcomes you see from those actions are always going to be subject to what you believe about yourself.

  • If you believe you can change and follow it up with actions that prove it, you will change your outcomes.
  • If you believe you can’t change (or don’t truly want to), you will always end up with same outcomes, no matter how perfect your goal or processes.

To put it another way, if a person tells themselves (and anyone else that will listen) that they hate exercise and will never enjoy it, that won’t change simply because they set a goal to exercise more.

Their identity is at odds with their goal. They will fail. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

In order to change your outcomes, you must align your goals with your identity.

So ask yourself, who do you want to be? What defines that person? What do they care about? Where do they spend their time? What do they do that defines them?

Once you know who you want to be, acting on that identity becomes easier. From there, determine what matters to you.

2. Focus On Now, Not Later

Imagine Adam and Beth, two people making strides to improve their health and fitness. Which person is more likely to see results?

A: Adam takes a salad every day for lunch, begrudgingly passes on dessert, and counts every calorie. He goes to the gym… and hates every minute of it. He constantly feels hungry and tired. Adam eats to reduce his risk of diabetes and heart disease (and to get his doctor off his back). His interest in fitness and nutrition is focused on weight loss and healthy aging. Adam hasn’t considered himself an athlete since high school.

Or,

B: Beth eats to feel her best during her workouts and activities. She exercises regularly because her routine makes her weekend hikes and paddleboard outings easier and more enjoyable. Beth has noticed her mood feels more stable during the day and sleeps better at night. She is interested in fitness and nutrition because she feels and performs her best when she moves regularly and when she eats a certain way. Though she has never played sports, she refers to herself as an athlete.

It should be obvious, right?

Of these two, Beth is likely to stay more consistent and to stick with her resolutions. On the other hand, Adam probably struggles to get to the gym more than once or twice a week and feels like he’s spinning his wheels on nutrition.

The difference is not just in how they identify with their goals, but how quickly they see the benefit.

To find a meaning that matters to you, start by focusing on things you can experience immediately or on a daily basis, rather than worrying about how it affects your future health. We tend to think about our future self as a completely different person. By keeping the focus on short-term benefits, you’re much more likely to follow-through.

The core concept is straightforward:

  • If it matters to you, you will do it.
  • If it doesn’t matter to you, you won’t do it.
  • Future you is an entirely different person. That person doesn’t count.

Work on crafting your own meaning for exercise and nutrition. You might end up with something simple, like this: “Eat well today to feel good today.”

Or it could be more complex: “I exercise four days a week because I’m a better, more present husband and father when I exercise consistently. I love the feeling I get from being more engaged with my family.”

Refer back to the first point about assuming an identity. For example, if your goals require a certain amount of fitness to enjoy, congrats, you’re an athlete! By referring to yourself by a certain label, you can more easily make decisions that reflect that associated identity.

3. Focus On Progress, Not Perfection

Avoid falling into the “all-or-nothing” mindset. When something doesn’t go the way you planned, you don’t have to continue down that path.

As gym owners, we often met people who had a bad day for their movement or nutrition, which then turned into a missed week, which became an off year, which eventually snowballed into a bad decade.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Instead, work on shifting your perspective so that things aren’t black and white, good or bad. Foster a mindset where you are allowed to eat things you like, where you focus on the things you can control and let go of the things you can’t.

Adopting this mindset can help you stop pressing pause on your goals when things get tough.

With that in mind, I want you to start thinking of movement and nutrition as things you can dial up or dial down as necessary. Instead of things being all-or-nothing, you can shift towards an “always something” or  an “everything counts” mindset.

Think of it as dialing your actions up or down based on what you can handle that day or that week.
“1” would be something that you could always fall back on and requires very little effort, but still counts for something.
“5” would be something you could do most of the time with a little effort.
“9” would be the absolute most you could do if everything were perfect.

It might end up looking something like this:

Even if some of these actions are not perfect, it’s still something. The beauty of this approach is that it allows you to learn as you go. Instead of things being seen as a “pass” or “fail,” you can learn to adjust dynamically with the events in your life.

Just remember: an all-or-nothing mindset rarely gets you “all.” In fact, you’ll usually just end up with “nothing.” Instead, focus on the small, incremental changes you can make right where you are, with what you already have.

Need some help making changes?
Don’t know where to start?

That’s where we can help. With Trained For Adventure online coaching, we can help you develop an identity and strategy to reach your fitness goals.

Fitness should empower you to the things that excite you. It about so much more than the reflection in the mirror.

You deserve a program that helps you feel confident, strong, and capable in the outdoors (and in life).

That’s exactly where we can help.

Until next time,
Coach Trey

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