I love the beginning of a new year. It's a time when many of us think about instituting positive changes in our lives. It's not as if we can't decide to start all over in July and then reinvent ourselves again in November or any other month of the year, but January seems to be the time when most of us decide to make those necessary shifts.
I used to notice that the gym was always packed on January 2, filled with people who suddenly decided it was time to get fit. But by the end of the month, that was no longer the case. Maybe it's because we sometimes view the process of improving ourselves as a chore. If we make things drudgery, will we stick with them? No. They've got to be fun.
I don't know about you, but if I'm not having fun with something, I'm the type of person who won't do it much longer. I'm not saying I won't do it for another year—if something isn't fun, I won't do it for another day. Fortunately, I've learned two simple steps for making things fun:
- Find mentors for the area in which you want to improve.
- Find people who want to play with you.
None of us would be where we are today, in terms of our happiness or success, if it weren't for role models and examples who have guided us and shown us the way. We can't learn everything through firsthand experience—it takes too long, and the pain and sacrifice to learn every lesson would be too great. A wise person learns from other people's experiences. We call those people mentors.
For the most part, mentors are people who've achieved a bit of success in their own lives, physical, financial, or otherwise. They've usually had to overcome certain obstacles or hardships, and it's because of those hardships—and the fact that they overcame them—that they have something to share and that we want to listen.
I've been inspired by many mentors throughout my life. Last year my good friend Michael Galvin made the commitment to lose 50 pounds. He started exercising daily and following a healthy eating plan. Six months later, he had burned over a million calories, lowered his high blood pressure, lost 42 pounds, and reduced his body fat to 17 percent.
Mary Burlingame, a friend whose job had her traveling three to four weeks a month, noticed that her airplane seat and seatbelt were getting tighter all the time. She lost an incredible 129 pounds over the course of a year by changing her lifestyle. Among the changes: she stopped eating after 7 p.m., started drinking lots of water, and selected a "focus word" to live by. Her word was "discipline," and she posted it everywhere as a constant reminder to take full responsibility for her life and make better choices.
These two people have inspired me enormously. They lift my spirits and give me hope: If they can overcome those challenges, what's my excuse for not taking care of my health, exercising, or going to the gym?
The second step in making things fun is to find people who want to "play" with us in the area in which we're trying to improve. Having partners and friends who also want to improve themselves in the same area helps us stay focused and motivated, and makes the process fun.
How? Well, find one or two people who want to exercise with you—the more the merrier—and turn gym time into social time as well. On those days when one of you is not motivated to go, the other person will drag you along.
I remember once after an exercise-recruiting session among my co-workers ("Wanna go? Wanna go?"), three of them said yes, so off we went. A few of us were off in a corner lifting weights, while our other companion, a 60-year-old woman who bought a new pink leotard in honor of the event, planted herself right in the middle of the workout room and unself-consciously began doing pushups, just to make us laugh and make our workout more fun. While the fitness instructors whispered to each other, "What's with that big pink woman over there?" the three of us were laughing hysterically with our friend. What happened? We had a great workout, and it was fun.
As you're looking to make positive changes in your life this year, just remember those two simple rules: Find mentors to keep you on track, and find people who want to play with you. You'll be surprised at how much fun it is to keep your resolutions as you head down the path toward the next happy new year!