“If you can overcome others you are strong, if you can overcome yourself you have strength.” This powerful quote is one of my favorites, not only because it can relate to how we choose to deal with setbacks mentally, but also how our minds play such an important role in making new habits stick for the long term.
It can be challenging to eat in a way that’s always in line with your health goals, especially around the holidays, when you’re bombarded with family events, work parties and tempting sweet treats. Many of us tend to fall into the category of “black and white” thinkers, meaning that if we choose to overindulge and enjoy maybe one too many desserts than we perceive we should have, tomorrow we will restrict ourselves to make up for the “slip-up”. This type of negative thinking not only sabotages our progress, but also creates an all-or-nothing mentality where we believe if we are not 100% dedicated to our goals every minute of every day, then we have “failed”. It’s easy to fall into this mental trap and tell ourselves that if only we were always perfect, and never ate that extra cookie or skipped that few days of working out, we would finally be able to achieve our goals.
The truth is, consistency over time is the key to long-term success. It determines our ability to make progress in the gym and our outlook on setting and achieving goals. One or two or even three days of “falling off of the diet or workout plan” isn’t going negatively impact your health. In order to make lifestyle habits stick, try to set realistic goals for yourself and create small actionable steps in order to achieve them. This way you’re setting yourself up for success and avoiding feeling deprived and restricted. To shift from the all-or-nothing (black or white) mindset, build in “gray areas” or minimums into your goals. For example, if your goal is to workout 5 days per week, instead of only giving yourself “credit” if you complete the 5 days, include a minimum goal of maybe 2 or 3 days per week. This way you’re able to celebrate all progress as you strive toward your end goal. Because progress IS progress.
Recall the quote mentioned earlier in this article, particularly “if you can overcome yourself you have strength.” Learning to replace those negative thoughts surrounding black and white thinking with positive, rational, and kind words toward yourself, will not only motivate you to keep working toward your health goals but will reduce any unnecessary anxiety. Having the strength to persevere when thoughts of doubt arise in your mind and being able to then convert those thoughts into continued motivation, will help you to overcome yourself and make healthy habits that stick for life.
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