January brings about renewed commitment to eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise, but creating and sustaining habits takes effort. The good news is, once a habit is established, the rewards are well worth it.

Here are some tips from RVH’s Sports Psychologist, Nic Allen, on goal setting and building habits.

The biggest mistake people make is trying to do too much all at once rather than aiming for sustainable change. A key principle in sport psychology is goal setting and planning- you need a plan to help you achieve what you are striving for! Running is a great analogy. If you suddenly decide you are going to run a marathon and just start running every day, it’s highly unlikely that you are going to be successful. You need to build rest into your program, you need to think about cross training, you need a plan to build mileage, and you need a strategy for nutrition. Help from a visit to a sports psychologist or online therapy can go a long way to helping you reach your goals.

If you don’t have a clear plan of attack, when you hit a rough spot you’re more likely to get overwhelmed or discouraged, and just give up because it suddenly seems too big a mountain to climb. If you set a plan in the first place and have the right support, then you know what you are getting into and are more likely to enjoy the process and celebrate the small victories.

With our clients, whether they are athletes or not, we talk about the difference between *process goals* and *outcome goals*. Outcome goals are the end results, the numbers and stats of victory; process goals are how we achieve the result. Outcome goals are never certain, so they can create a lot of anxiety. Process goals give us more control and help build confidence along the way.

We like to win just as much as the next person, so it’s not realistic to ignore the importance of the result. What you have to do is balance your expectations for the outcome along with the process for getting there. This is the best formula for success.

Despite the rewards that come with consistent positive behaviors, we can still falter and it can be a struggle to recommit to good habits. We tend to overwhelm ourselves. In the case of strict New Years diet or exercise resolutions, made in the wake of the typical post-holiday health binge, we trip ourselves up before
we’ve even started by setting goals that are unrealistic.

What about special occasions? What about that holiday to Mexico? If your goal is to completely avoid certain foods and any deviation is a failure, you’re fairly likely to give up altogether. It’s great to commit to a stringent workout plan- but is your program right for you? Does it fit your goals, your lifestyle, your ability level, and your schedule? A plan needs to account for the realities of life.