Goals are best when defined

This is the time of year that people typically try to change something about their lifestyle that they don’t like. Many times they go on a healthier diet, or start a workout program or try to cut back on the dysfunctional and unhealthy habits that they have formed such as drinking too much or smoking.

Although many people are sincerely trying to get healthier, what happens to their motivation after a few weeks? Why do some go on and why do others slide back? Let’s talk a little about motivation, what it is and how you can keep your motivation high and achieve those meaningful goals for you, your family and others that you care about.

The word “motivation” comes from an old Latin word meaning “to move.” How’s that for a coincidence? This idea of motivation makes sense as we strive to move towards a goal, and keep going at it until we achieve it. Motivation has been described as an inner force, a personal trait, a behavioral response to a stimulus, as well as a set of beliefs.

For our purposes, we will think about motivation as the process that begins and sustains a goal directed activity. So, it is a process that we can observe the effects of, but not see directly. The goals that motivate us must be important and meaningful in order for us to carry on. They need to be well-defined.

The goal “someday I think I’d like to cut back on smoking” is not a strong or well-defined goal. However, stating “by March 30 of this year, I am going to be down to five cigarettes a day,” or “by March 30 of this year, I am going to be bench-pressing 200 pounds” are examples of precise and time-framed goals.

You maybe have heard the phrase “smart goals.” These are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-framed. When you get serious about setting yourself up to win, you create motivation within yourself to achieve success.

Motivation requires physical or mental activity and this activity must be sustained. Things that can affect your motivation level, either positively or negatively, are your emotions, your expectations and your attributions. Keeping your emotions high and on target can be challenging sometimes, but what I tell my clients is to keep their “eyes on da prize.”

Think about where you want to be and not on the challenges in getting there. Visualize how great you will feel being healthy, lean and strong. Don’t have unrealistic expectations. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and changing long-term habits is not going to happen overnight, either. This is about effort over time. That is how to become successful in just about anything — “effort over time.” Then there is the attribution aspect. If something is your fault, take responsibility for it, do not blame others or circumstances or events. If, on the other hand, something is clearly out of your control, then don’t be frustrated at whatever outcome happened, just try a different approach.

With most important goals in life, the way is not always easy but it is always worth it.

A wise person that I know has repeatedly said to me, “It is not that we never get knocked down, we all do, but what makes the difference between those who achieve and those who don’t, is how you get up and what you bring with you when you do.”

Bring your experience and bring your humor, your tenacity and your good will, along with you each time your stumble, and soon you will notice that the hard parts in life are where you learned the most and made a breakthrough.

Motivation is a personal, inside thing. We here on the outside can provide you incentives and rewards and congratulations, but you are the master of your own destiny and you must provide the motivation to succeed. Whatever your health and fitness goals are this year, I know you can do it! You simply let nothing stand in your way!

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Jane Riley, M.S., B.A., C.P.T., Certified Nutritional Adviser, can be reached at janerileyfitness@gmail.com, 212-1451 or www.janerileyfitness.com.

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