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Reach Any Goal: How to Strengthen Your Willpower

How to Stick to Your Goals

Make exercise automatic.

"Debating whether or not to workout takes a lot of mental energy," says Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. "But when it happens routinely, like taking a Spinning class every Tuesday and Thursday, and you don't have to think about it, it's not so taxing."

To start a new exercise habit, pick a time when you'll be able to workout consistently, like first thing in the morning. "Studies show that people who exercise regularly do it at the same hour every time," Duhigg says.

Also, build get-moving prompts into your day. If you go for a run right after waking up, "put your workout clothes near your bed, where you'll see them first thing," Duhigg suggests. Finally, give yourself a little reward every time you finish a workout. "Make sure it's something you genuinely enjoy," Duhigg says. That will trick your brain into associating the rush of pleasure that comes from a treat, like a coffee after your morning run, with exercise.

Stress less.

Nothing weakens your resolve or zaps your initiative like stress. "Researchers are just learning how stress is tied to self-control," Baumeister says. "Our best guess is that both things require the same amount of mental energy." So once you become stressed, your willpower goes right out the window.

To calm down and replenish your energy, go for a walk. "When stress hits, removing yourself from the situation even briefly helps," says Suzanne Steinbaum, an attending cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and the author of Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum's Heart Book. "By changing your environment, you help change your perception and recharge your batteries." If possible, go outside, she advises. Fresh air will help you relax and get back on track for success.

Follow your friends.

News flash: You're still susceptible to peer pressure. "We have evolved to unconsciously imitate those around us," says James Fowler, PhD, a professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California, San Diego, and a coauthor of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives.

Research found that if the person sitting next to us eats a lot, we're more likely to overindulge as well. Even pals who live hundreds of miles away can affect our habits. "Friends share information about behavior on Facebook and Twitter," Fowler notes. Similarly, our buds can get us excited about exercise. "If your friend takes up running and says, 'Hey! I've got more energy,' it may encourage you to start, too," Fowler says.

Schedule workouts and healthy meals with your fit pals on a regular basis. Making the commitment to get and stay in shape together will help build your willpower and keep you motivated to reach the finish line.



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