I often sit and wonder how to crack a person's code. Why are they constantly engaging in detrimental behavior (lack of exercise, poor eating habits) and how do I motivate them to change. It's an area of science that scientists are well, stumped about. Why do people lose a ton of weight and then put it back on? Why does a pro athlete go through their workout sessions but end up so tempted by fried food and alcohol that they don't lose the weight they need to drop to perform at their best. SMART goals be damned, you have to first have some sort of intrinsic motivation to change or an actual push over the edge (and everyone's edge is different) to make a change and stay on course.
So where do you get this motivation? You work on your head first and foremost. And, it's my firm belief that everything you say to yourself and your goals should be deep entrenched with positivity versus negative, beating yourself up behavior (oh and try to avoid people who constantly nag you about your smoking, drinking, eating etc. because that does nothing for your self esteem; though I do think sometimes there is a place for Dr. Phil moments). The majority of people I've seen that spend long periods of time flip flopping back and forth trying to change haven't completely made up their mind that what they want (say weight loss) is actually better than the alternative (eating whatever, whenever, not exercising) and they also go about their goals with very restrictive, unrealistic expectations and then see just about anything as a setback that totally derails them.
So for instance, here's a few switches I commonly help people incorporate into their thinking pattern:
1) Instead of: I have to eat X calories per day or cut out carbohydrates to lose weight.
Try: Adding what you want to eat to your diet. Focus on all of the good food you want to incorporate into your daily nutrition
plan, and recipes you'd like to try. There are a ton of foods that are delicious and nutritious (oh and by eating more of these,
you'll displace some of those less than healthy foods).
2) Instead of: I'm injured, I'll never lose weight now, I can't walk or do aerobics.
Try: Focus on your physical therapy, getting better and a chance to get stronger.
3) Instead of: I ate a piece of cake, I went way over my calories for today, now I'll never lose weight.
Try: Wow, that tasted great! (let it go, enjoy it for what it is and eat a reasonable portion). Get used to eating enough to
satisfy that craving but not consuming the entire cup, bowl, plate or basket of food.
4) Instead of: I never stick to anything, logging my food just isn't for me.
Try: Logging my food intake is not for me, I'm going to try another approach.
Think of any goal as a road trip. If you are on your way from FL to NY I can just about guarantee you'll have to change lanes multiple times, stop for gas a few times, you may have to take a detour and you'll probably get stuck in traffic when you hit my hometown (the Washington DC area). But, never once will you question the fact that you actually will indeed make it to NY. Now, take this thinking and incorporate it into your daily life. Your road trip may not be perfect and it may include points where your speeds slows or stops but if you keep traveling, you will reach your goal.