By: Bruce Burke

Why do so many people struggle to exercise regularly? My 30+ years in the fitness industry have taught me that many people struggle because they don’t have a long-term focus. Short-term objectives can motivate you to start an exercise program or cross specific hurdles, but to make healthy living a permanent part of your lifestyle, you need to focus on the long-term goal of health.

Looking past the short term.

Another problem with using only short-term motivation is that slow progress may feel discouraging. If you are not losing weight as quickly as you had hoped, you might lose your motivation and stop trying altogether. Relying solely on short-term motivation can’t work forever.

The answer to these issues is to develop a long-term mindset consistent with what is truly important to you. Specifically, we recommend focusing on the long-term health benefits of exercise. This focus is not only healthy and motivating, it also makes it easier to achieve your short-term goals along the way.

Here are just a few of the reasons we recommend focusing on the long-term goal of health:

  • It has no endpoint. Proactively managing your health is an ongoing process. You will enjoy results along the way as a positive consequence of this process, but you are never “done” being healthy.
  • It is hard to fail. Although you are never done, it is difficult to fail at being healthy. When you are focused on the process (rather than the outcome), issues such as not losing weight quickly enough disappear. Small setbacks are simply that: small setbacks in a much larger process.
  • It is motivating! For most of us, healthy long-term objectives like staying fit and being good role models for those we love has more staying power than short-term objectives. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight for your high school reunion or to fit into a pair of old jeans, but those motivations pale in comparison to the lifelong health benefits offered by staying fit, active, and healthy.

As you develop a long-term, health-centered approach to exercise, remember that short-term goals are not bad. In fact, they’re important tools to help us overcome boredom, challenge ourselves, and introduce new practices. We are simply suggesting that your main objective should be the most important and have the most staying power. Re-focusing on your most significant objectives will put the short-term goals in perspective. If you are healthy, most of them will take care of themselves over time.

This week, ask yourself the question “Why do I exercise?” Make sure that your answer lines up with reasonable, healthy, long-term goals, and then use your short-term goals as tools to help you succeed. If you find you are having difficulty disciplining yourself to make the right “in the moment” decisions, check out The Prize Club. It will give you the tools and accountability needed to achieve your long-term objectives.