Motivation levels are at that their highest this time of the year. Gyms are never busier, exercise classes are fully booked and diet clubs are oversubscribed. If only this motivation carried on throughout the year though. In fact many struggle to carry that motivation on into February and some even quit in their first week. Why is this? Nobody plans on giving up. In fact I’m sure that most people believe 100% that this year is going to be different from all the others and they are actually going to stick with their new exercise programme and diet plan, and finally achieve that perfect body they have been longing for all these years. So what goes wrong? Well, one of the reasons we hire coaches and personal trainers to help us with our personal development is that we are confident that they have the methods and the knowledge to get us to where we want to be and that is true with most of them. Also, something even a bad personal trainer can offer their client is accountability. Knowing you’re not just doing it for you now but you’re also doing it for your trainer, can deter you from quitting quite so easily. However, I think there are there are actually three more important factors that determine your success and are relatively simple techniques that good coaches, teachers and instructors have been using for years to help keep their clients on the path to success. That’s goal setting, assessment/evaluation and rewards. If you’re not already using these then I suggest you start ASAP! Goal Setting Now many of you will have started this process already. You know what you want to achieve so that’s your goal right there. Well, sort of…………. that’s a very good start but you’re missing something. Let’s say your long term goal is to lose 2 stone then you might have decided that in order to do this you need to address some of your bad habits. Great, you’re on the right lines but unfortunately I think this is where some of you go wrong. For example, the person who wants to lose 2 stone might write down what they plan to do about all their bad habits so their New Year plan might look something like this: 1) Cut out chocolate 2) Cut out crisps 3) No more cake 4) No sugar in tea or coffee anymore 5) No booze 6) Go running everyday 7) Join the gym 8) Drink more water 9) Eat more vegetables 10) No fizzy drinks 11) Eat smaller portions 12) Eat a healthy breakfast 13) Take a healthy packed lunch to work 14) Go to bed earlier 15) No takeaways 16) Cycle to work 17) No more biscuits 18) No more chips 19) Bin the deep fat fryer 20) Do Davina’s exercise DVD every day Ok, some of you might not be attempting quite so many behaviour changes at once but to be perfectly honest, if you’re attempting more than two to three at once then your chances of success drop quite significantly. If you attempt so many changes at once then frankly you are putting way too much pressure on yourselves as your trying achieve too much too quickly. If you are learning to play a new musical instrument, a new sport or to speak a new language then your teacher or coach would not send you away after each session with a huge list of areas that you need to work on. This would be unreasonable and unrealistic. Coaches, teachers and instructors all understand that we as individuals only have so much attention and focus, the more areas we try to develop at once the quicker our focus and attention runs out. So with that in mind coaches, teachers and instructors prioritise their client’s needs. They will compile a list of what needs to be worked on and will focus on just the first two to three areas on the list first before tackling everything else. For example, if your tennis coach has agreed with you that in order for you to develop a more consistent serve, you need to practice tossing the ball in a straight line, then that might be one of the areas they ask you to focus on. If you return the following week and your ball toss is now perfect then your coach would replace the ball toss for the next priority on the list. However, if it still needed further work then you would continue to focus on that before anything else is added to your plan. By all means look at the areas of your lifestyle that need development in order for you to achieve your long term goal but remember to prioritise them and just pick two or three two focus on that week and do not work on anything else until your old habit has been replaced with the new one. Assessment/evaluation Coaches and personal trainers would have no idea as to whether their clients were moving closer towards their long term goals if they didn’t carry out some form of assessment. Now this could be something as simple as an observation of ones performance at a given task/skill i.e the number of serves that land in compared to the number of attempts. Or it could be a physical measurement i.e body fat percentage, or waist and hip circumference. What assessment method they choose must obviously be relevant to the client’s goal. The results of these assessments will determine what areas need the most work and will strengthen motivation if the assessment shows an improvement. I strongly encourage you to regularly assess your progress towards your long term goal and furthermore write down your results. Weekly weigh ins, waist measurements, 5K time trials, choose something that will give you an indication that you are getting closer towards achieving your long term goal. Rewards It’s important to have recognition for our achievements in life. Children respond brilliantly to praise and seek constant confirmation from their parents, teachers and friends that they are doing something well. I don’t think we ever really grow out of that. How many of us have complained that our boss at work didn’t give us the recognition we felt we deserved for a job well done. Well, good coaches, teachers and instructors will draw attention to the fact that their client has achieved a goal and praise them for this. Intrinsic motivation is very powerful and is essential to keep us working towards our goals but if you don’t recognise each time you achieve something and just focus on how far away you are from your ultimate goal then you’re missing out on a regular dose of intrinsic motivation. Here are some steps you can follow to help make this year the year you actually stay on track and finally achieve your long term goal. 1) Decide what your long term goal is and write it down 2) Assess yourself as to where you are now in relation to that goal 3) List the main behaviours you need to eliminate and the ones you need to adopt in order to achieve your goal 4) Prioritise them 5) Pick the top two or three and make them an achievable and realistic target for that week 6) Once you have successfully eliminated an old behaviour or adopted one of the new ones you set out to achieve congratulate yourself and write it down somewhere under the title ‘my successes’. 7) Choose the next priority on the list 8) Repeat steps 2 to 7 Don’t be fooled though. It’s still not going to be an easy ride. If it was everyone would be walking around looking like a fitness model! If you think you might benefit further from the added support of a personal trainer then get yourself one. It could be the best investment you ever make. Good luck and remember Rome wasn’t built in a day and it doesn’t matter how far the journey is they all start with one single step. I know, that’s cheesy as hell but you know I’m right!!!