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I was speaking to a personal trainer in my gym the other day and asked him why it was that some people at the gym were more successful than others at getting in shape and staying that way. He laughed and said it was a great question. He then asked me to visualise two ladies he recently dealt with; both of whom wanted to lose weight and get in shape.

Amanda is unhappy with her weight and wants to do something about it. She isn’t quite sure what; but thinks the first step would be to join the local gym; which she does. She starts quite well. Some weeks, she is in up to four times a week; other weeks are more difficult. Amanda has no real plan but has good intentions and has good weeks and bad and kind of bumbles along; not really sure what she wants apart from to “get in shape”. Halfway through the year, she looks at herself and realises that it’s not working.  6 months of training and no tangible results! Depressing! She more or less gives up; trying other methods like new fad diets; starving herself, bingeing, getting depressed about the whole thing and only turning up to the gym sporadically. At the end of the year, she weighs slightly more than the year before, and decides that her new year’s resolution for next year must be to get in shape.

Caroline wants to get in shape. She is determined to meet her goal and has decided that she needs help. She therefore engages a personal trainer who helps her establish a plan.  They decide jointly that her goal should be to reduce the amount of extra body fat she is carrying. Instead of simply trying to lose weight, she will try to cut her body fat level from 30% to 20% by the end of the year. This would take a combination of a high protein diet with fewer carbs, no sugar and a combination of cardio and weights four times a week; regularly measuring her body fat level. She is warned of a rocky road ahead, with disappointing days and some poor results but asked to focus on her long term goal. She breaks her plan down into a daily routine with rewards at the end of each successful day. Because Caroline has paid for her sessions with her personal trainer, it focuses her mind. The sessions are gruelling to start with but as she gets fitter, they become easier until she starts enjoys her training.

As you would guess, Caroline smashes her target, wows her friends and family, goes on to become an inspiration to others and lives happily ever after. Admittedly, Caroline got the results she wanted because she worked a lot harder than Amanda. More importantly however, there was a critical difference between the two approaches. Caroline had a plan. Her plan was SMART – you may have come across this acronym before.

S – specific, significant, stretching

M – measurable, meaningful, motivational

A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented

R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented

T – time-based, timely, tangible, trackable

For me however, the most important detail was that she broke it down into a daily routine, and rewarded herself for each day that was successful.

We often set ourselves daunting long-term goals such as “I’d like to enough money to retire at 55.” That is a huge and daunting task. With the help of a financial adviser, you could break the goal down into a monthly amount you’d need to save. Much less daunting, more doable and more motivational. You succeed or fail one small step at a time.


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