Mental Strength

Sport Psychologist Explains How To Make A Pledge & Stick To It

To help you get back on track following the summer this year, we’re encouraging everyone to set a pledge to prioritise their health and fitness. Whether that be to simply drink more water, prioritise recovery, or build mass. Every pledge, big or small, is progress. 

Building pledges into long-lasting habits can be difficult. How do you make something, that at first seems difficult, into a habit that you eventually do without even thinking? We got a Sport Psychologist to give their top tips on habit-building, to get us in the right mindset for reaching our goals and sticking to our pledges. 

So, here’s what Sport Psychologist and Personal Trainer Nerissa Shea had to say, starting with understanding your “why”.

Know your “why”

I got asked a while back by someone – ‘How long do you reckon it would take me to get a 6 pack? 

My response – ‘Well, why do you want one?’ 

Not the response you would expect from a Personal Trainer but stay with me here… 

There’s so much talk around the importance of goal setting and all the different types of goals – short term, long term, outcome, process, SMART. All of which are SO important. But something that’s often overlooked when people are setting goals is they don’t associate the goals with the all-important “WHY”?   

Sticking to a goal takes time, effort and dedication. Everyone has days where motivation is low, but the difference between someone overcoming that and someone giving up is simply their grip on the “why”. 

Think of the difference simply between someone saying: ‘I want to lose 4kg’ vs ‘I want to be in better shape so I can play with my kids’, the WHY is tied to a greater emotion in the second example. There is nothing wrong with wanting to lose fat, but tie it to something that means something to you.  

Now that you’re clear on why you’ve chosen your pledge, let’s get into actually sticking to it. 

 

1. Set quantifiable goals with tangible targets

Try SMART goals…

  • Specific – get very particular with your goals, set out exactly what it is you want to achieve 
  • Measurable – decide how you’ll measure your progress, I.e., a diary keeping track of your weights progress 
  • Achievable – analyse whether you can achieve your goals within your timeframe and with your current resources 
  • Realistic – be realistic, as much as we love big dreams, don’t set yourself up for failure with unrealistic goals 
  • Time-based – set yourself ambitious goals within a realistic time-frame; weekly, monthly, yearly goals 

Setting these SMART goals will be so valuable to keeping on track with your pledge. But it’s important to remember that life happens, so plan for it. If your goal is to get more protein in but you end up missing your macros one lunchtime, plan ahead by having a protein bar ready in your bag.  

 

2. Pro-active self-compassion and delayed gratification. 

Not just #SelfCareSunday, start practicing delayed gratification. 

Delayed gratification means resisting the temptation of an immediate reward, in anticipation that there will be a greater reward later. It’s a powerful tool for learning to live your life with purpose. 

Delayed gratification is found after working towards a goal for weeks or months and beginning to see progress. That gratification is incredibly valuable as it’s proof of your dedication, hard-work and self-love paying off, and it will spur you on to keep going. 

The opposite of this is instant gratification and humans, by nature, will tend to sway towards this as it’s the path of least resistance. 

Examples of instant gratification are: snoozing an alarm, choosing a take-away over nutrient dense food, scrolling endlessly on social media – all sound great, but too much can harm you in the long-run. 

 

3. Imperfect action & consistency over perfection

Ultimately, doing something is better than nothing, so don’t get caught up with trying to be perfect all the time. Action breeds motivation and motivation breeds action so just getting started with something will motivate you to do something else, and the chain continues. 

You know when you’ve got loads of housework to do but you can’t seem to pull yourself away from the sofa? Getting up and unloading your dishwasher will start that chain of action. Soon enough you’ll have hoovered the whole house and changed the sheets. 

Even if you don’t get all of your tasks done, just ticking off a few is progress. This avoids the harmful “all or nothing” mentality. Putting too much pressure on yourself, going from zero to 100 overnight will only leave you feeling inadequate when you inevitably hit a bump in the road. Start with small steps towards your goal, and build it up gradually. 

Allow yourself to make mistakes without judgement. 

I mainly work with clients who wish to drop body fat so something I always advise is: 

Whether it is your calorie target or your step count goal, don’t tie yourself to thinking of it just on a daily basis, because life happens. It gets in the way and you shouldn’t let a bad day turn into a bad week which turns into a bad month. 

 

4. Morning routine & sleep hygiene

This is one of my top tips with regards to achieving any goal: do at least one thing every morning that reaffirms your goals. 

For example, if your goal is fat loss, do five push ups every morning, or five squats while the kettle boils, just do one thing every morning that sets you up for the day. 

Subconsciously, throughout the day, you’ll be more inclined to carry out behaviours that align with those goals. i.e., better food choices, maybe you park a bit further from work so you get some extra steps or you take the stairs. 

Sleep is also one of the most overlooked facets when it comes to behaviour change.  

If you’re not getting adequate sleep, you’re more inclined to struggle with everything the following day opening you up to making decisions that perhaps don’t align with your goals. 

Paying attention to sleep hygiene is one of the most straightforward ways that you can set yourself up for better sleep. My top tip here is to get into the habit of night time routines. For example, try a few minutes of meditation before bed, or try reading instead of scrolling on your phone before sleep. This kind of routine will help you on your way to feeling refreshed in the morning.

Want some help building your night routine? Read this next:

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5. Use failure to your advantage

Don’t be afraid to fail and try to do one thing every week that pushes you out of your comfort zone.  

I often say to my clients that we learn more from the weeks we see as “bad weeks” than we do from the weeks where everything goes to plan. 

I could write a book on the fear of failure and perfectionism but the moral of the story will always be, don’t give up if you fail. Life happens and things don’t go to plan but you have to learn how to navigate these situations without throwing in the towel. Learn from where you fell down last time, and put things into place to help you cope better next time.  

In the same vein as failure, don’t let others’ successes portrayed on social media dishearten you. It’s important to recognise that what you see online isn’t real life. Be happy for those succeeding, take inspiration from your role-models, and focus on your own journey. 

 

Take home message

When it comes to any goal in life, you can have the best coach in the world with the most expensive plan and top-notch equipment, but you need to realise no one is going to do it for you but by implementing all of the tips above you are definitely on the right path to succeeding at any goal you wish to achieve. 

So, you’ve got your pledge, and you’ve got an action plan to get on the road to achieving it. Join us in making a pledge to prioritise your health.



Monica Green

Monica Green

Writer and expert

Originally from South London, Monica graduated from the University of Leeds with a degree in Philosophy. After discovering a love for the gym whilst studying, Monica was drawn to weight training which helped her hugely through stressful times as a student. From writing for a popular student site, Monica developed her skills as an author, writing trending feature pieces regularly. She is thrilled to be able to combine her love for writing with her passion for the gym. In her spare time Monica loves to cook, try out new restaurants with friends and explore new walking trails.


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