“I’ll be happy once I lose these last 5-10 lbs.” Or “I’ll be happy once I get the next promotion”. Or “Once I can wear a size 4, I’ll love my body.” With New Year’s Resolutions and goal planning in full swing, focusing on achieving goals to achieve happiness is typical. But what if we have it all wrong? What if, instead of thinking success guarantees happiness, it was the exact opposite? What if, instead of waiting for success or achievement to bring you happiness, your happiness actually propelled you towards achieving your goals.

If you train yourself to be happy and optimistic, success and achievement of goals will follow, including health and fitness goals. You have the ability to retrain your brain just as you train any muscle to do exactly this, although it takes specific actions and consistency. Happiness and gratitude prevent falling down the black hole of negativity and self-defeat, which so commonly sabotage weight loss and fitness goals. How many times have you set out to lose weight, get leaner, or become stronger and more fit, only to fail because you lacked believing in your ability to complete the action steps required to achieve the goal.

Here are three simple habits to implement to bring you greater happiness and consequently greater success in any area of your life, including health and fitness.

  1. Write down 3 good things that happen every day.

    No matter how small or seemingly insignificant by focusing on the good, rather than dwelling on the bad you practice realistic optimism, gratitude, and happiness. This helps you develop and strengthen self-efficacy, or your belief in yourself to be able to accomplish something.

  2. Take smaller bites (and I’m not talking about your nutrition, although this doesn’t hurt!).

    Instead of starting with too lofty of a goal, focus on smaller short-term and intermediate goals that will put you on the path to your ultimate long-term goal. For example, instead of telling yourself you want to lose 35 lbs in 3 months, focus on 5 lbs at a time. By simplifying your goals, your mind’s belief in achieving that goal becomes stronger and takes more steps towards the goal rather than becoming overwhelmed by even the mere thought of it. This doesn’t mean that you don’t set out with big goals in mind, you just change the focus to be more manageable.

  3. When you write down your goals or to-do list, include things you’ve already accomplished, or tasks already completed.

    I thought this was crazy at first (what’s the point of writing something down if I check it off at the same time?) but I recently started doing this with my daily to-do list, and it works! I’m going to try it with my 2019 Goals because when your brain sees goals or tasks already completed and physically written down next to unfinished tasks and goals, it feels motivated to keep going and tackle the rest of the to-do list. I challenge you try this! For example, if you want to train for your first Spartan Race or Marathon, write it down along with races (no matter what the length) you’ve finished. If your goal is to workout “X” number of times per week, write down everything you’ve done to prepare to workout. Maybe you’ve purchased exercise equipment and workout clothes and made a motivating playlist. Write these things down AND check them off.

Instead of getting caught up in the extremes that come along with New Year’s Resolutions like overly restrictive diets or extreme workout plans, and preventing yourself from being the happiest, healthiest version of yourself, shift your focus to the ultimate determining factor that is most often overlooked: your mindset.