We all know the “before and after” pictures and the giddy stories of people making absolutely wild changes in “six week transformation” plans. And it can be genuinely inspiring!
Reading about the focus and energy put forth to achieve these transformations – you really can’t take anything away from the effort and sacrifices the people made to make it happen. If you take that positive and it helps you, then that’s the best thing.
But pretty soon a question pops up in the back of my mind.
“What happened to them six weeks after that?”
And six months down the line? The reality is that many people fall back out of the demands they placed on themselves. The truth is, sustaining that 100 percent effort over an extended period of several months, let alone the rest of your life is ridiculously difficult.
The idea of these programs serving as a “reboot” that helps you get started again seems sound, but if you enter these programs without a clear, long-term plan of action for when the six weeks are up – a plan that truly resonates with your personal goals and lifestyle – then that “restart” doesn’t really lead to anything meaningful.
We’ll explore why these programs rarely deliver lasting results and introduce our “reset” approach as a more effective alternative. Real change, the kind that lasts, requires a fully different mindset and strategy than a “transformation” program. If you are already convinced and want to get to the bones of what to do instead, you can click over right to it!
Appearance vs Essence: What Do You Really Want?
The so named transformation programs often prioritize goals that are quite appealing: weight loss, muscle building, becoming faster, stronger, and so on. These targets are not “wrong” and can definitely lead to better health and function, but they are often just the outward manifestations of your deeper, more personal objectives.
They’re tangible, measurable, and they offer a clear endpoint. But here’s the catch: a goal, no matter how well-intentioned, is only as good as its alignment with your true inner aspirations.
It’s a common trope: “You need to know where you’re going if you want to get there.” This makes sense on the surface. However, it can become a trap. When you become hyper-focused on just the number on the scale or the measurements on the tape, you risk losing sight of the bigger picture. Consider goals centered around weight loss or physique improvements, or even performance objectives like getting stronger or faster. There’s nothing inherently bad with these goals, except they can become frustratingly elusive. Progress is rarely linear; it waxes and wanes, leading to inevitable bumps along the road.
British economist Charles Goodhart once said, “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.” This is the problem with such narrowly defined goals, people are inherently antsy and impatient. Especially so if the amount of effort doesn’t seem to be matching the results.
What about the goal of “consistency”? When we vow to exercise 5 days a week for two months. This is a step in the right direction, especially if you adopt a flexible approach to what constitutes “exercise”.
And yes, 15 minutes is absolutely better than zero minutes.
But again, the challenge remains in deriving meaningful value from what you are doing. It’s far easier to set a goal like losing 15 pounds or running a half marathon. They’re straightforward, they make immediate sense, and they do, in some ways, relate to what you really want – better health, improved performance, and efficient use of your body.
However, the most successful individuals who reach – and maintain – these goals do so not because of the goals themselves. Their success is largely due to the actions, habits, and meaningful practices they integrate into their lives. It’s the lifestyle and mindset that surround these goals that make the real difference.
Finding Your True North: Personally Meaningful Goals Create True Changes
For goals that will genuinely enrich your life, it’s crucial to honestly introspect and consider what you really want when you think you “should lose weight” or “add some muscle”.
What does that really mean?
I believe that at the core of it is we want to feel better in our bodies, to have the sense that we can move and do things without feeling so stressed and limited. It seems simple and obvious to say, yet we often forget about that when we get caught up in looking a certain way or hitting specific numbers.
Think about what “moving better” means for your daily life and activities. Whether it’s bending down without a twinge of pain, playing with your kids without feeling winded, or simply going through your day with ease and agility, these are the goals that will transform your life far more profoundly than any number on a weight scale.
Physical discomforts like pain and stiffness don’t just affect you physically; they take a toll on our mental wellbeing. When you set goals aimed at improving how you feel and move, you’re also investing in your mental health. A life where your body feels more like a friend than an adversary and where stiffness and aches don’t dictate your choices.
Beyond The Six Weeks: Can You Create Lasting Change?
When we think of physical change, there’s often an intense focus on immediate, goal-oriented results – lose this much weight, gain that much muscle. But this approach frequently fizzles out quickly: what happens after you’ve hit that initial target? Say you’ve lost the weight; the questions are then – are you moving on to losing more, or maintaining it, what’s next?
And if maintenance is the objective, does that mean simply doing more of the same to sustain your new status quo? This eventually gets more and more difficult, progress in the first few weeks is invariably the fastest it’s going to be. So then maybe we start to think, “well I’ll just chop it down to smaller more achievable goals”.
And this is very logical, why not just keep creating smaller and smaller goals? Just keep slicing it down into tinier and tinier segments.
Yet to me this brings to mind Zeno’s Dichotomy Paradox; Zeno argued that a runner will never reach the stationary goal line on a straight racetrack. Because the runner must first reach half the distance to the goal, but when there he must still cross half the remaining distance to the goal, he never gets there because there is always another half to go.
So you halve a goal but then it gets tougher to reach so you halve it again, and so on and like Zeno’s runner, you never quite reach the end. Of course, this isn’t literally true. If it was we would never get anywhere at all. But it metaphorically points to the problem of always trying to break down goals without ever truly moving forward.
Taking smaller steps in the wrong direction doesn’t bring you any closer to where you need to be. You need the right steps in the right direction.
Then there’s the well-meaning advice to “enjoy the process.” It sounds great on paper, but it takes a lot more than just saying it. Forcing yourself to enjoy the process is an oxymoron.
You need a starting point, a clear path that aligns with your overarching lifestyle and aspirations, or you risk never truly beginning. The absence of this long-term plan, this broader vision, is where many transformation programs fail, leaving people in a cycle of uncertainty about how to maintain or advance their achievements.
Breaking The Cycle: Stop Endless Rebooting And Make Real Changes
One of the most alluring aspects of transformation programs is their promise to help you achieve those elusive fitness goals that have remained just out of reach. This appeal is potent – after all, if you had already achieved these goals, you wouldn’t be in the market for a new program, right?
However, this is where the subtle trap lies. Many of these programs ensnare you in a repetitive cycle, making them less about transformation and more about retreading familiar ground. It’s the classic story of yo-yo diets and the repetitive start-stop routine with familiar exercises – be it cardio, weights, or battle ropes – each time packaged with the hopeful mantra
“But this time, it will really work!”
Upon closer inspection, what is often marketed as a shiny, brand-new plan is, in reality, a repackaging of the same methods you’ve tried before. It’s the same regimen, the same approach, just in a new wrapping.
And this cycle isn’t just unproductive; it’s counterproductive. It’s not just that they fail to work; they can actually set you back, especially considering the simple fact that we are all, inevitably, getting older. Unfortunately this plays a significant role in the effectiveness of fitness routines. As we age, we respond differently and have to be more aware of what’s happening. What worked in our twenties might not yield the same results in our thirties, forties, and beyond.
It’s not that we should relegate ourselves to “brisk walks and light weights”, it’s not that at all.
It’s simply the reality that we can’t do the exact same things the exact same way as we did before. Clinging to the same recycled methods, leads to increasing frustration and ever decreasing returns on our efforts.
Programs are great, (we provide a lot of great ones!) but they work best when you’ve laid your foundation of your true motivations and mindset. If you’ve been in a cycle of stops and starts, you probably don’t need yet another program, you need to experience consistent training that is personally meaningful and that will set you up for the years ahead.
A Better Strategy: Building Momentum
It’s time to acknowledge a hard truth: fully changing your approach to fitness is scary and challenging. But if the methods you’ve been told to follow (and the ones you’ve convinced yourself to believe in) aren’t yielding the results you desire, what do you have to lose by trying something different? I will bet you a dozen donuts that it wasn’t about the effort you’ve put in; it’s about the strategy you’ve employed.
Effort wasn’t the problem; the strategy was. Here’s a better one.
Here’s 4 concrete things you can do right now to set yourself up for success.
1. Honestly Figure Out What You Want
Start by asking yourself what you really want. Write it down. Then, ask yourself if this is really true five more times. Yes, really do it.
It might remain the same, but more often than not, it will evolve into something clearer and more authentic. You’ll recognize it when you read your answer and go “Huh. Yeah that’s exactly it.”
Don’t rush this part, just this one thing could make a world of difference, it’s that important.
2. Make Today The Day
Start today, even if it’s just a five minute commitment. The key is to initiate the process and create momentum. It’s not about the duration; it’s taking that crucial first step.
Forget about how difficult or how easy it is, just do something immediately. If you’ve already been doing a program, pick one exercise from it that you really enjoy. And see how it feels for a few minutes and think about how you’ll feel when you’re able to do it really well whenever you want.
Think of it as laying down the first brick of a path you’ll continue to build and expand upon.
Momentum, once initiated, has a way of building upon itself. A five-minute walk today can lead to ten minutes in a couple days, and perhaps a light jog the next week. Inertia can keep us stagnant. Or it can keep us moving.
The key is showing up for those five minutes every day, and is so much more impactful than a sporadic hour once in a while. Each day that you commit to your small action, you reinforce the habit, making it easier to maintain and build upon. This gradual approach also helps prevent the feelings of overwhelm or burnout that can accompany more drastic, sudden changes. So, start today – commit to just five minutes. It’s a small step, but it’s a step in the right direction.
3. Do Less Than You Can
In your enthusiasm to change, there’s a temptation to go all out. In fact, that’s basically the heart of all “six week transformations”.
And as this article is all about, that’s not a good choice.
Instead, do less than you think you can.
By dialing back, you give yourself the space to grow steadily with less risk of burnout. This approach isn’t about underachieving; it’s to give yourself time for things to sink in, time to adjust and really make the practice your own. You won’t be able to do this well if all your effort is towards just making it through six weeks.
Think of it as nurturing a plant; overwhelming it with water and sunlight all at once won’t make it grow any faster and might even hinder its growth.
Over time, the time accumulates into significant progress. This is how lasting transformation takes root – not through a flurry of intense activity, but through a steady, nurturing progression.
4. Unwind And Reflect
Just as in the first step, keep that self-honesty going and ask yourself, “Did this help me get better at what I really want?”
This simple yet profound question is a compass, helping you to keep navigating towards your true goals. Each time you complete a workout or a training session, take a moment to reflect.
Get away from making exercise a task on your to-do list. Always assess whether your efforts are genuinely contributing to your larger objectives.
Are you getting closer to feeling better in your body? Are you improving in the activities you love or the daily tasks you want to excel in?
This practice of reflection also helps in fine-tuning your approach. If you find that your current method isn’t quite getting you where you want to be, it’s a sign to adjust your strategy. Maybe it means altering the intensity, switching up your routine, or even redefining some of your goals.
Each session then becomes an opportunity for learning and growth, ensuring that your efforts are not just about physical exertion but about meaningful progress. This way this all becomes a thoughtful, intentional pursuit. That is key to going from a transient transformation to real lasting change.
Get On The Right Track Not Just For Weeks But For The Rest Of Your Life
Instead of running full-speed into the same challenges again and again, start 2024 off right by addressing the weaknesses that have held you back in the past.
🗓 5 Weeks: January 21st – February 23rd
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