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From Accountability to Purposeful Living - how to change your life in simple steps

Gavin & Stacy, a sitcom that has etched itself into the fabric of our popular culture, has given rise to many memorable quotes. One that resonates with me, courtesy of the character Doris, goes like this: "I haven't done it, I'm not doing it, end of." The follow-up question, "Why?" is met with a nonchalant response: "Because I CBA" (for the uninitiated, ask a teenager).

The idea of creating a TikTok video featuring these words, perhaps accompanied by a dramatic toss of gym equipment to the floor, has crossed my mind. It's a whimsical thought, but let's face the reality. How often do we recognize the importance of exercise, only to be deterred by a powerful case of CBA?

For me, delving into the realm of psychology came from my own frustrations encountered in personal training. The paradox of individuals investing time and money in training sessions only to remain inactive in between drove me mad but it fueled my pursuit of a Sport & Exercise Science degree. Now, 15 years later, the quest for uncovering the motivational secrets to exercise continues. What I've discovered is that if you have a reason to want to leave, you will find a way. Sometimes the frustration of being fed up is a motivated, but here are also ways to encourage motivation to change, when frankly, that motivation has taken a hike. It is a shift toward accountability and as a potent catalyst for your own health and fitness change.

Accountability begins with a declaration—an acknowledgment that change is necessary.

Whether you choose to privately commit to a flexible weekly plan or publicly announce your intentions to friends, the act of declaring your commitment creates a level of responsibility. It is much harder to escape the commitment when others are looking at you to watch you do it. Things like entering a race, or joining a group, or a diet club, all of these "visible" cues mean your accountability strengthens. But, work with what is good for you - if this is a demotivating issues, think about a reward system where you give yourself something at the end of your goal. Understanding yourself is key. Be accountable. Be visible in your commitment.

Here are my top five tips, to kickstart your journey into accountability and transformative health (based on a famous song called "50 ways to leave your lover!!) :

1. Make a New Plan, Stan:

Setting a plan clears your head and will help you to prioritise things

a. Be practical. Draw up a list all your weekly commitments, regardless of their size.

b. Identify your favorite TV shows and any other plans for the week.

c. Pinpoint the days with the least commitments.

d. Determine your favorite days.

e. Envision your perfect world and list your dreams and fantasies.

f. Create a playlist of your favorite songs.

This "mapping" of your life triggers your mental commitment to "seeing" a lifestyle change that is both positive and do-able. Make it like a story board, or find images and words that motivate you. Time spent doing this task will be worthwhile and very motivating.

Additional Insight: Prioritise your commitments to create space for health and fitness activities. Consider incorporating micro-goals for each day to maintain focus and momentum. Revisit when you find something that works for you and keep adding to the "big picture".

2. No Need to Be Coy, Roy:

a. Set specific goals for the week, such as walking 10,000 steps three times.

b. Create separate goals for exercise, nutrition, and mental health.

Setting out a realistic goal is a great idea, and like Mrs Hinch, doing a tick list for things your have already completed, and then tick them off is also motivating. You can make the goals anything you like - even things such as walk for 5mins - which seems easy but the psycological win of doing it, feeling the sense of achievement, will motivate you to do it again.

Additional Insight: Experiment with goal-setting strategies, such as SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) - not in a boring way, but in a way that makes it possible for you to succeed and not over stretch yourself with high expectations. Periodically reassess and adjust your goals based on your evolving fitness journey - this can be both up or down depending on circumstances.

3. Tidy Up:

a. Designate a neat workout space and ensure it's visible daily.

b. Incorporate quick 5-10 minute exercises whenever you can.

c. Keep your workout gear together for easy access.

Additional Insight: Personalise your workout space to make it inviting and reflective of your fitness journey - and be you. Your "special place" will then become somewhere you want to spend more time in. It will make you look forward to exercise, and it removes the barrier that happens when doing a workout becomes a chore to set up. Also consider the positive impact of integrating a more mindful practices into your workout routine - that whole "being in the moment" has great value to your enjoyment of the session, adherance to exercise as well as to enhance mental well-being.

4. Own It - "Just get yourself free":

a. Try to encourage positive thoughts and actions.

b. Boost your self confidence with uplifting statements that stop the negative narrative going on in your head about yourself.

c. Speak to yourself as if you're selling something, again focus on the positive outcomes, such as, well if you do this then guess what? you will feel great - think of adverts that have made you buy something and what words resonated with you.

d. Document your progress with photos - we sometimes don't see small changes, look for a change in posture, shiny hair, better skin as well as the more common ones of more definition etc.

Additional Insight: Cultivate a "growth mindset" - that is to say, this is a journey and not a destination, and you will always continue to grow - and therefore, always winning and feeling betters. Think also about viewing challenges you face as opportunities for learning and improvement - darn it, will do it better next time. I often do this - either in a temper, or sometimes laughing at myself. Know who you are and what conditions make you grow in confidence - nuture them. You can think about sharing your journey on social media or with a supportive community to increase your positive reinforcement. Not only will this make you feel encouraged, but you will be surprised at how many other people you inspire.

5. Hop on the Bus, Gus:

a. Take it one week at a time.

b. Adjust your plan weekly.

c. Reflect on days where you didn't meet your plan—identify reasons and solutions.

d. Embrace flexibility and remember that doing something is better than nothing.

e. Start each day by revisiting your plan and envisioning your ideal life.

f. Don't wait for the perfect moment or motivation—do at least 5 minutes of activity when tempted to do nothing.

Additional Insight: Experiment with different forms of exercise to keep your routine engaging and dynamic. Celebrate both small and significant milestones to reinforce positive habits.

"The answer is easy if you take it logically"

A "sense of purpose" is a powerful force—a driving force, a guiding light, a motivation, a sense of belonging, and a source of making a difference. It's an energy that influences our health and often determines how we cope with challenging situations, such as facing illness or major health events like heart attacks, strokes, or cancer.

1. Cultivate:

Like growing anything, invest time and create optimal conditions.

Shift your focus from what you lack to sowing seeds for the life you want.

Read books on self-esteem, engage in group discussions, and set the groundwork for change.

2. Grow:

After envisioning your ideal life and discussing your thoughts and feelings, initiate small changes.

Exercise, get outside, eat well, and engage with groups that share similar interests.

Gain perspective by viewing your world from a metaphorical helicopter, not just from the confines of your immediate problems.

3. Damage Limitation:

You don't have to be a superhero; apply damage limitation to challenging situations.

Take a hot bath, get a massage, or engage in an activity that provides a reprieve before tackling challenges.

4. Look Up and Around:

Looking up positively affects mental health—holding your head high is more than just pride; it's about confidence and self-esteem.

Counteract negative moods by lifting your head, scanning the horizon, and embracing a positive perspective.

Disconnect from your phone and appreciate the sky, trees, or the sound of waves.

5. Invest in You:

If you invest more time, money, and effort in maintaining your surroundings than yourself, reconsider your budget.

Investing in yourself brings unparalleled joy. Prioritize your mental and physical well-being as you would everyday chores or material possessions.

In the immortal words of Paul Simon, "Just drop off the key, Lee, and get yourself free." Be accountable, honest, true, steady, real—own it, live it, love it. Now armed with these insights and additional tips, let's embark on a holistic journey toward transformative health and fitness.

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