What makes someone change and someone else stay stuck? In the first 5 years of teaching fitness, I had been searching for the answer to this day after day. I'd see people join a gym - all with the best of intentions, motivated and ready to take action. Some would take hold of the program I had written and excel week after week making progress towards their intended goals. Others would start and stop, cancel appointments, and find reasons why they didn't have time to follow through with there goals. Many, with the best of intentions would quit after just a few months.
At first it appeared to me to be their attitude and commitment level. I'd try to get them to think positively, sign a contract of commitment, and hold them accountable for there progress. This worked for some, but mostly not.
I began to develop a feel for clients who would either excel or quit, and I could see this in the first 10 minutes of our first session. I would ask them - Why are you here? Those that could make change happen always had a big Why. Why they must change now! They where certain that this was the right time. They must and will make changes, often with or without me. Sometimes the Why is so personal, that I don't find out about the real motivating event until months into our training, but the conviction is always the same.
When I heard things like "because I want to feel better", "I think I need to be more healthy", "I should lose a few pounds", etc. I knew that their Why wasn't big enough.
When I heard "I'm recovering from X and I need to be healthy." "I've got to lose this weight and I'll do what ever it takes", "I have a lot of pain and can't continue this way", etc. I knew their Why was big enough.
There is a level of certainty in these goals. They where clear in where they wanted to be and what they must achieve. And they where seeking support to make this happen. Most of these people who achieve this, don't question my abilities, they know I can help them.
But what really has changed. How did they get so committed?
All of us are motivated by both avoiding pain and receiving pleasure. Often times we put up with some pain, because the idea of change sounds uncomfortable, like a lot of work, or a lot of energy. Therefor we think to change is more painful then staying the same. And this is where we stay stuck. Sometimes we'll try an exercise program to relieve pain even though we hate going to the gym, can't fit in the time, and cant stand the exercise program. When we feel a little better the motivation wears off and we're at home with our feet up again.
Those that seek real change don't ride this wave. They have reached a point at which they know they must change. To continue on this path is not an option and have decided to do something about it. They must change.
They have reached the tipping point.
Initially for these people, there was lots of pleasure associated with eating unhealthy or staying inactive, but at some point the side effects began to cause discomfort, then occasional pain, then constant suffering(either mental or emotional). These unhealthy behaviors went from being associated with with lots of pleasure to being the root of there pain, and to avoid pain these unhealthy actions must cease. In order to receive the pleasure of a healthy body, they must take action to change. When the tipping point of pain is reached, there is often the thought - "I must change this". This is where motivation, certainty and action come from.
When this point is reached, it's simple to commit and follow through, and change occurs - both mentally and physically.
When the threshold is not reached (the situation is not painful enough or they are still receiving lots of pleasure for the opposite behaviors), they may take some action but motivation and commitment don't follow.
The good news is you don't have to get sick or be extremely overweight or in pain to get to your threshold. You can use your thoughts to change the way you view a situation, behavior or belief, so that you create the tipping point for change.
As a personal trainer, gaining 5-10 pounds is totally unacceptable. The pain of feeling like a poor example, a fraud, or inadequate is enough for me to exercise daily and choose my meals thoughtfully. The pleasure I get out of feeling healthy keeps me exploring new exercises, new recipes and sharing what I learn.
Have you ever seen a picture of a black lung, a really bad car accident, or a really sick person. These visuals can change the way you think about smoking, wearing your seat belt or what you eat - forever.
How can you create a tipping point in your life that moves you forward in some of the goals, or aspirations you think about reaching for, but never seem to have the inspiration to follow through on? Ask yourself the following questions:
What is it I'd like to change?
Who would I be in 10 years from now if I never achieved this goal?
How would that feel?
What does that look like?
What kind of impact could that have on my life and the people around me?
Who will I be if I achieve this goal?
How will that feel?
How will my life improve?
Why must I change this now?
When you get clear about why what your doing is unacceptable and you must change, your goal is no longer acheiving a certain state in x number of days. Because that almost always means you have no intention of really changing who you are and what you do. That short term commitment wears thin and success is never achieved with an end date in mind. Forget 28 days, 8 week challenges, or PX90 for long lasting change to your real life. These short term goals cause a cycle of trials and failures, over and over and over. If you're someone who is drawn to the quick fix end it now. The only time a time oriented goal works is when it's a kick start to a long term intention. Look beyond the next few months and consider your whole life.
Who would you be if you didn't obsess every day about your weight?
Who would you be if you lived in a healthy fit body?
When exercise can create the tipping point:
I've noticed in my sessions and classes that people are often willing to work harder when pushed by others rather than when they are on there own. I see people reaching there physical threshold on a daily basis - holding a yoga pose, trying to do one more chin up, holding plank a few more seconds. I love seeing that moment when someone pushes themselves to do something out of there comfort zone. In that moment, that last few seconds, threshold was met, and conquered. No longer are they weak, incapable, afraid, or stuck. They carry a sense of accomplishment, strength and personal power that carries them forward. When I see this, I know they are on there way to achieving there goals. It's like they got a taste of how sweet it is to break through a fear, or limiting belief about themselves and that fuels them to do it again, and again, and again. This is how exercise builds self confidence and personal growth.
Once you have your Big Why, make sure you find the resources/situations/support to hold you accountable. Coaches are great at encouraging you to get clear about your intentions, push you to your tipping point, and help you celebrate your success.
The recipe for success (at anything)...
1. Get clear about what you want to achieve and why.
2. Get clear about why you must change this.
3. Be willing to endure getting out of your comfort zone (reaching the tipping point)
4. Have support to keep you focused on your intended goal
5. Take motivated action - Just do it.
6. Reap the rewards of achieving a goal you once thought too big/difficult to accomplish!
7. Do it again!