Whether you're an athlete or just want to get in shape, it's right about now that many of us lose our motivation. It may seem counter-intuitive, but even as we say goodbye to winter, the early spring can be a tricky time to get up and out the door. The weather can be cold and damp, and with few holidays or breaks, work routines tend to take over.
As a sports psychologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, I'm always hearing from athletes who need to get back in touch with their goals. To help them out, I developed four tips, conveniently tagged to the acronym P.A.S.T. As part of a motivational reboot, they can help you get your goals back on track.
P – Plan. No matter the target, or how far off you've gone from it, you have to plan to get what you want. Planning clarifies your goal and the specific steps you'll need to take to get there. In addition to a long-term path, create a daily plan to boost your chances of moving forward and avoiding distractions. If you're trying to get in shape, know exactly which exercise class you are going to and when, or how many minutes you’re going to walk today – take the thought out of the process. Instead, when you wake up, see the task for the day and do it.
A – Arrange your environment. When you're looking for something, clutter just gets in the way. That's as true for your mind as it is for your home. To hit your target, eliminate decisions that aren't critical, choices that will just get in the way. You can also arrange your environment in a way that increases your likelihood of success. Want to wake up earlier? Put the alarm on the other side of the room. Trouble working out? Sleep in your gym clothes. Having trouble choosing between a healthy snack and a guilty pleasure? You know what to do. Small alterations in your environment can lead to big outcomes.
S – Stick to one thing. Anyone attempting to eat better, start exercising and quit smoking all at once might as well kiss their little goals goodbye. You want success? Make your goal singular. Pick one thing. Master it. Then move on to the next one. You'll feel your progress, and see it, and not get overwhelmed or derailed. You have a long life ahead of you to knock out all your goals, especially once you get some positive momentum.
T – Too easy to fail. Too often, our wants are bigger than our abilities. Don’t expect to run five miles on your first day out, especially if the furthest you’ve ever run is once around the track. Get up and walk for five minutes, instead. Start simple, with goals that are pretty much impossible to fail. Making things too easy to fail will increase the likelihood of mini-successes, which increases confidence and sustained behavior. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was a six pack. Be patient and start slow and easy.
Don't wait until guilt gets you going in May, get started on that beach body now! If you put your goals in the P.A.S.T. as well as the present, you'll recommit to your targets and start seeing results.