Setting goals is easy. Sticking to them is hard. I’m sure you can think of a half dozen off the top of your head that fell by the wayside in the past few months.
It’s for this very reason that my husband and I kicked off the new year with our #JanuaryJolt challenge (the social media friendly name for our annual self-imposed kick in the pants). I’ll be honest with you: I originally intended to publish this article at the end of January to tell you about my successful month (because it was successful!).
But the more interesting question to me was: What happens in February when everyone’s New Year’s resolution drive gets kicked down a notch?
And is it possible to not just develop a new habit, but incorporate it into your life so that it’s no longer a New Year’s Resolution and instead just a part of your routine? As you may’ve guessed based on the fact this article exists, the answer is yes. The concept of a month-long jolt can be applied to any month!
In past years, I’ve tackled eating healthier, going vegan, and unplugging more . And after a four-year success streak, I decided to take on one that I really wasn’t excited about: exercising.
Despite the fact my apartment building has a gym, I’ve never been “a gym person.” (You can also put me down as someone who hates exercising for the sake of exercising.) But I also sit all day and because of that, I knew I needed to be more active on a regular basis. So against many loud inner voices, my 2017 #JanuaryJolt was to go the the gym every single day. 31 days, no exceptions. The end goal being that I’d successfully worked “exercise” into my weekly routine.
I’ll start with the exciting part — the results: In one month I lost over 10 pounds and went from not being able to even try a plank, to holding it for well over a minute. I improved how long I could run (and how ridiculously I overheat and pant when attempting to do so).
And 28 days later, I’m still going strong. Now that January’s a month behind me, I’ve been able to recalibrate my goals. Now I only go to the gym only three times a week (bonus: “only three times a week” was not a phrase I thought I’d ever say). And as I was hoping, this daily kick in the pants taught me some valuable lessons that I incorporated into my routine.
But more than the (very satisfying) outcome, I also learned some key tricks about how to set tough goals for yourself that you aren’t necessarily excited about.
1. Know Your Limiting Factor
To actually make this goal a reality, you need to know what your limiting factor is. What will stop you from doing it? I realized that for me, the actual exercise wasn’t the hardest part, physically getting myself to the gym was the problem.
As a result, the biggest thing I needed to accomplish was removing the very real mental barrier of finding time to to fit in exercise with my crazy busy entrepreneur’s schedule, and then after I did that, physically leaving my apartment and going down to the gym. By choosing my goal and structuring my routine around that self-knowledge, I was able to turn an aspiration into a habit.
2. Pick Something That You Can Do for 31 Days (Not Want, Can)
Testing out a new routine twice a week isn’t sufficient, you need to feel the lifestyle change.
Every. Single. Day.
In the past I’d tried easing into working out — and that ended up with me regularly making excuses, convincing myself that tomorrow was the day I’d go to the gym. Removing the daily decision (and the option to procrastinate) makes doing it every day a no-brainer.
3. Be Clear With Yourself as to What Success Looks Like
This is key in making sure you don’t cheat or get discouraged. Be realistic and come up with daily mini-goals you can hit. Remember, you want to hold yourself accountable, while still keeping it achievable.
In this case, I asked myself: How long do I have to go to the gym for it to count? I decided to make the minimum threshold per day be 15 minutes on a machine with a timer, like an elliptical, stationary bike, or treadmill. I didn’t care how fast I went as long as I lasted for 15 minutes.
Home at 11 PM and exhausted? I can literally walk for 15 minutes while reading my book or watching TV — and it counts. Nothing stopped me from staying longer while I was there or adding in some crunches (ha) if I wanted to stay longer.
Feeling inspired? You should be — I never thought I’d be someone who exercised a few times a week! Whatever your goal is, or whatever the habit it is that you want to adopt, you should.
Trying a #HabitJolt of your own? Let me know on twitter @acav.
Originally published at www.themuse.com on March 1, 2017.