December is a fun time of year, but it can also massively set you back on your goals if you go about it the wrong way.
It’s too easy to turn "I’ll start on Monday" into "I’ll start Jan. 1" and become completely unravelled.
So let’s fast-forward, shall we?
It’s Jan. 15 and the holidays are over. You sheepishly step on the scale to see the damage you did, and realize you’ve put on five pounds. Gulp.
It’s going to take a monstrous effort to reverse the damage. But what if, instead of being dejected and upset in January, you had simply enjoyed some holiday food while staying mostly on track?
And instead of gaining five pounds, you lost five pounds or at worst broke even.
What will your friends think when you show up at New Year’s Eve in that perfect outfit that fits just right?
What will their reaction be when you tell them you don’t have any special "off-limit" foods and you aren’t on keto? (They’ll probably ask that question after you go for a second helping of dessert.)
You’ll be proud of what you’ve accomplished. You’re going to look at that scale and smile.
Frankly, it’s OK if you start your fitness goals in January. That’s your prerogative and it’s cool either way. There’s no judgment here.
But there’s a real risk in putting things off for another day at any time of the year. More than you may realize. I first came across the concept of diminishing intent from author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn some years ago and was reminded of it recently in a conversation with a prospective client.
He told me how badly he wants to change, how much the weight is costing him in his day-to-day life, and how he knows it may cost him his life if he doesn’t do something. But then he ended the conversation with "I think I’ll wait for January."
This is the trigger for the law of diminishing intent. The law basically states that there is an optimal and critical moment of readiness to take action.
As time passes from that critical moment, your motivation diminishes and you move further away from your goal.
Let’s say you currently have 20 pounds to lose. And let’s assume you do everything right, and it takes you three months to lose those pounds.
Now, let’s say you delay starting until the new year and gain an extra five pounds over the holidays — you now have more pounds to lose. You’ve now increased both the time and difficulty of your weight-loss journey.
Let’s imagine another scenario. You start making changes now because the best way to be the person you want to become is to act like that person would act today.
Ask yourself: "How does the ideal version of myself behave through the holidays?"
Don’t let December set you back — make it the setup for an amazing 2020. Imagine what life will look like on Jan. 1 if you are already headed in the right direction. You lose five of those 20 pounds, and by the new year, when everyone else is dreading looking in the mirror and procrastinating on getting started, you’re well on your way.
I’ll tell you a story about something that most people gloss over when it comes to accomplishing goals.
I just dumped another five figures into my mindset and business coach for another year. Seems like a lot on paper, but don’t you think I’ll implement and work extra hard again, just like I did last year?
When you pay, you pay attention. It creates urgency to take action and not procrastinate.
I had to ask myself: "If I didn’t have a coach these past 12 months, would I have worked with the same urgency and created the same impact?" No.
"Would I have gotten up early on Saturday (like now) to write this message?" Not likely.
"Would I have helped 150 people lose 15-plus pounds this year alone?" No chance.
That investment led to speaking gigs, more than 175 clients (a goal I set because of him) and generated a healthy return in knowledge and opportunities that were priceless.
I likely wouldn’t have gotten my message in front of you to help you change your life. So, you need to ask yourself where you would be on your own. If you could do it on your own, you would’ve done it by now.
You can continue to talk about doing it someday, but often someday never comes without an investment in accountability. I learned this lesson the hard way.
If I don’t weigh less than 200 pounds by Jan. 1, 2020, I’m not going to watch another Winnipeg Jets game the rest of the year.
I love the Jets, which is why I’ll reach my goal. The threat of not watching another game this season motivates me to act.
We all need accountability, but it should be tied to either a reward or consequence, especially this time of year.
So I’m putting something on the line to help me stay the course. If you find yourself stopping programs early, cheating on your diet when convenient or losing the same few pounds only to gain them back, odds are you’re missing these key ingredients.
There really is nothing like having someone else keeping you accountable for what you say you want to do and putting something on the line.
Maybe you’re motivated by rewards and booking a massage at the end of the month when you log your 10th workout will do the trick.
Or maybe you’re motivated more by the threat of losing something. This could be a financial consequence (where you have to donate money to a political party you don’t support if you fail to meet your targets) or something like my Jets example above.
Make sure there’s someone involved to hold you to that commitment or it’s unlikely you’ll follow through.
Here’s the process again if you want to get a head start on your 2020 goals this month:
1) Set a hard deadline for one fitness goal you want to accomplish in December. Maybe it’s process-based like completing 10 workouts or maybe it’s more outcome-based such as losing five pounds (the former is more within your control). Track your progress on a calendar or app.
2) Set up a reward or consequence for yourself. For example, once you complete your 10th workout, schedule a massage or go out for a nice dinner.
3) Enlist some accountability to follow through and hold you to it (publicly share it with friends and family or join a program).
Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based weight loss coach for men and women like his former self. Obese in his 20s, he now helps clients find their spark and lose weight the right way and keep it off for life. To inquire about coaching or grab a free diet-secrets cheat sheet, visit mitchcalvert.com.