Having the tenacity to stick to your goals requires that you clearly know and are deeply passionate about what you want—to lose thirty pounds…to lower your blood pressure…to fit into size 8 jeans…or whatever your goal is. When you have this level of intensity, excuses for veering off track vanish.

Peter came to me after years of yo­yo dieting. He lost weight, but he could never seem to keep it off. During one of our early sessions together, I commented that it must be expensive to have to keep buying clothes in different sizes. “I don’t do that,” he said, “I keep my fat clothes because I know my pattern is to regain the weight.”

Keeping larger clothes was Peter’s way of maintaining an escape route. He agreed to let me come to his apartment and help him clean his closet of clothes that were too big. Escape route extinguished! Mission accomplished!! Now Peter only keeps and wears clothes that fit—and the happy news is that they are smaller sizes than before.

Other common escape patterns come from what we say to ourselves. For example, “If I don’t do my exercise at noon, I can do it tonight” or “I’ll get back on track tomorrow; I’m going to eat the ice cream now.” These are classic escape patterns—better known as procrastination. Anything that delays your goal or lowers your standards can take you so far off course, you’ll never get back on track. Close those side doors and focus only on the path that leads to success.

Excessive choices are another opportunity to veer off track. We are blessed in this society to have literally hundreds of food choices, but when you’re trying to lose weight, too many options can backfire. When you need salad dressing at the store, you find rows and rows of products—what should you choose? Going out to eat? Will it be Chinese, Thai, Indian, Mexican, Argentinian, American, fusion, family style, Italian, or your neighborhood diner?

Variety may be the spice of life, but it can also be overwhelming. Making decisions depletes willpower. Researchers from Swarthmore College have found that too many choices add stress and drain willpower, making it more likely that you’ll make a snap decision to have a less healthy meal because you aren’t thinking clearly. Having at least one planned meal per day can help you make healthy eating automatic. Eliminating excessive choices is about making a shift from zoning out to zoning in.

On the other hand, you can’t always be in control—and you need to be able to handle yourself at those times too. I call this “yielding to traffic.” Learning to yield to traffic means having grace under pressure, going with the flow, and making on-the­spot adjustments. You do this by accepting that there are times in life when things won’t work out exactly as you had planned—and making sure you enjoy the process anyhow.

When trying to lose weight, you carefully plan your meals, and have your healthy dinner all prepared, when your husband (or wife) announces that he (or she) is taking you out to dinner. You know you should feel thrilled, but instead you panic. Then you remember to yield to traffic—and you accept that you can go with the flow. You smile and grab your jacket, and when you get to the restaurant, you stay true to yourself by choosing healthy options from the menu. Yielding means knowing you can gracefully merge with the traffic and enjoy yourself in the process. You’ll still get to your destination.

Check out Joel Harper’s website, or click here to buy his book, Mind Your Body: 4 Weeks to a Leaner, Healthier Life.

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