Sticking To It

Fitness routines are notoriously hard to keep to. What can we do about that?

I work as a coach, using various techniques from NLP and Transactional Analysis. Both disciplines can help at those times when we suddenly find ourselves not having gone out for that run we promised ourselves faithfully that we would do.

I have developed a process called ‘Parts Dialogue’, whereby we sit quietly, then treat our hands as participants in a debate. One hand takes one position, the other hand its opposite. People who haven’t done personal development work find this odd – but usually get into it quickly once they feel it working. Choose a hand to represent that part of you that made the resolve to exercise regularly. Hold it out in front of you and imagine it speaking on the subject. If you are already backsliding on your fitness regime project, the chances are that it will probably sound all bossy. “Why can’t you stick to things?”

Once it’s had its say, let the other hand respond. The chances are that if your fitness-enthusiast hand has been bossy, this one will become surly. “I just don’t want to do this, OK?” Or maybe it will be accusatory back. “You’re always getting at me…”

Having allowed these two to let off steam, you can consciously create a middle way between them. The ‘bossy’ hand will probably insist on some kind of programme continuing, but at a less ambitious level. The ‘surly’ hand will find itself agreeing to do something. The outcome of this negotiation should be that you find yourself keeping to the agreement. The ‘surly’ hand has agreed to it, and that part of your character for which it was speaking will stop trying to sabotage your better intentions.

What should happen after a while is that your routine just becomes a habit. It is often said that habit-forming takes 21 days. In reality this figure can vary from person to person (and from task to task: going for a long run will take longer to establish as a habit than having a cup of tea in the morning). But there is a clear process whereby this happens – if it takes longer, don’t worry.

The reason that people don’t keep to fitness routines is inner conflict, at levels they are often not conscious of. Odd as it may seem at first, this technique is a way of managing and resolving such conflict. One of the things I like about NLP is its practical approach: if something works, use it. Try this; it works!

Robbie Steinhouse is the founder of NLP School and author of various books, including How to Coach with NLP. He regularly runs courses on How to Coach with NLP, TA and Mindfulness – for details of the next one, please go to the NLP School site.

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