‘How long will it take me before I can do that?’ asked a new participant at an exercise class I was attending.

Understandably, starting a new exercise class as part of a New Year resolution, we want to know how long before we notice a change.

This got me thinking. In this phase of my life, I’ve been a regular at the gym for the past five years. I’ve no idea how long it will take before someone starting afresh will achieve a certain goal. However, what had the past five years taught me about succeeding at the gym?

My reflections took me to an idea that, below conscious awareness, I had been working with for some time (a philosophy or theory of) ‘three rules for succeeding at the gym’:

  1. Just show up. If your plan is three times a week then show up three times a week. Even better if you can specify what days and what times each week. Harness the power of habit
  2. Do better than last time. No matter how tiny, somehow in some way, come up with a way of doing a bit better than last time, a slightly deeper squat, a slightly higher jump, even if only once. Known as incrementalism this is a way of focusing on the here and now and letting tomorrow take care of itself.
  3. At the end of the gym session/exercise class, congratulate yourself on achieving Rule 2. And if you can’t congratulate yourself on this, then congratulate yourself on achieving Rule 1. Celebrating success helps us feel better: improved mood leads to greater satisfaction with life

Sometimes we just can’t know how long it will take us to get to certain goal. Even so we can still do all we can to move us in the direction we want to go. And feel good about our endeavour: Show up. Do better. Celebrate success. Enjoy seeing what success we can achieve!