With their robust sound systems, bright paint and can-do slogans, fitness centers brim with the hope of delivering a new you. But the desire to improve health and wellness has a lot more to do with what happens each moment and day, long after the ink dries on your iron-clad contract.
Whatever commitment you intend to make, here are three ways to increase your chances of success:
1. Be specific.
At the time of this writing, Jawbone’s website features typical goals -- Get more sleep, drink more water and get more exercise. Such vagueness is a recipe for failure. Your brain can’t handle abstract goals. You’ll be more effective by replacing the above statements with small, actionable goals, such as the following:
Bring only items to bed that will improve my sleep (no electronics).
Replace my commute-time coffee with water.
Go for a walk during my lunch break once a week.
These turn your goals into specific actions that eventually translate into habits. Unlike resolutions, habits are hard to break. When they’re good ones, that’s a good thing.
2. Get your mind right.
After staying in her room for months at a time, Byron Katie reached 200 pounds and slept on the floor. She had come to regard herself as unworthy of the bed. She knew something needed to change. Many of us start each new year not unlike Byron, identifying something we believe will make the coming year better than the last.
Byron found that the answer to lasting change wasn’t in making a resolution at the beginning of a process, but in challenging her way of thinking day in and day out. Byron’s life changed so drastically that people started asking her for help. She’s now an accomplished author who has appeared on Oprah, sharing how questioning her stressful thoughts freed up her mind. When we want to wake up from a nightmare, we question it until we can identify that it’s not reality. Katie says that whatever she believes herself to be is what she becomes.
If you feel a goal is too far outside your comfort zone or that you can’t achieve it, you are right. But if the story in your head tells you that you can, then you are right as well. Get your mind right and your goals will follow.
Related: 3 Ways to Overcome Fear Immediately
3. Seek out coaching and accountability.
Planet Fitness boasts 900 locations and 6 million members, which breaks down to almost 7,000 people per gym. According to NPR though, most facilities accommodate only about 300. Their business model counts on members not showing up. If that’s the kind of gym you want, you can have your pick. Many dot the landscape of every American city and suburb.
What’s rare is a place like Precision Athlete, where a longtime member says, “There are no mirrors, there is no disco music playing, there are no slogans on the wall. It’s a very sincere place.” In place of the bells and whistles, you get accountability, and results. At this gym, you’ll either work out or you’ll get kicked out, says the owner, Annie Vo.
You’ll get a refund, too, which you can take around the corner to the gym that doesn’t expect (or want) you to show up. At an average of $800 a month, you'll pay more at Precision Athlete. A lot more. But it’s totally worth it for its smaller pool of members who get the results they’re looking for.
Diane Bondareff, who has been working out at Precision since March 2013, says she doesn’t love any of the workouts. Enjoyment isn’t enough to get her to the gym. What she does love is how she looks and feels.
Built-in accountability turns those with good intentions into athletes. This is true for your life goals, too. I have five coaches I pay to hold me accountable to becoming the professional “athlete” I want to be. They work with me on finessing my public speaking, seeing my business more objectively and, yes, working out. Whether you hire coaches or ask your bosses and peers for feedback, build accountability into your plan.
It takes 28 days to form a desirable habit and only a moment to break it. Goal making is one thing, but to become the Tim Howard of goal keeping, be specific, be disciplined in your thinking and seek accountability. Rather than relying on willpower alone, set up checks and balances to keep yourself going to the “gym” even when it’s against your will.