We’re into the tail end of February now, which means that a great number of people may be struggling to stick to their New Year’s resolutions, or have perhaps already given up on them entirely. In the latest edition of his newsletter, bodybuilder and movie star turned life coach Arnold Schwarzenegger shares his thoughts on the best ways to approach making resolutions and building new habits, both in terms of personal fitness and in other areas of our lives, as we head out of winter and towards spring.
“Every year in January, the gyms are packed,” he wrote. “By February 1st, the average person has moved on. Approximately 23 percent of people give up after just a week! Only 19 percent stick with their resolution long-term. How can we change that? If you gave up, or if you’re thinking about giving up, I want to talk to you.”
“You are not a failure; you’re just going over some speed bumps right now,” he continued. You are not a failure unless you completely give up. And I know you don’t want to give up. Change is hard. Your body wants to live this life you’ve been living. Your mind is used to the habits you had last year. January 1st wasn’t some magical day that erased all of your routines and your muscle memory. You’re fighting against all of that to conquer your resolution, whether it was to go to the gym, eat less sugar, stop smoking, stop drinking, meditate more, lose weight, read more books, or work on your relationship.”
“You made a resolution because you wanted to change something. You wanted to change something for a reason. So as you hit the wall and think about giving up, think back to the reason you wanted to change. Think about why you might be struggling.”
Schwarzenegger then uses the writings of Marcus Aurelius to illustrate his point, remarking on how where we’re coming from mentally will affect the physical outcome.
“Are you trying to use negative motivation? Are you telling yourself, ‘I want to do this because I hate how I am now?’ Stop it. Negative motivation will run out fast because change takes time.. Instead, reframe how you think about your motivation for change… Think about how you want to change because you love yourself… If you are trying to change because you appreciate yourself, I think you’ll have plenty of long-term motivation.”
He also points out that doing too much too soon when building new habits, whether it’s overtraining in the gym or trying to take on too many new projects or hobbies, can be overwhelming and lead to you dropping them all. “”The most lasting change happens incrementally,” he says. “Do a little more today than you did yesterday, celebrate yourself, and then do a little more tomorrow and celebrate again. That’s how you stick to a resolution.”
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