Getting a routine that works

Don't let your inner parent and child sabotage your exercise routine

This time of year, many people are probably looking back with a sense of embarrassment at their ‘New Year Resolutions’, which now seem as much a part of ancient history as old Christmas cards or that plastic Santa Claus that fell down the back of the sofa on December 29th and has only just turned up. How does one actually stick to a new routine?

One of the biggest mistakes people make is to be too ambitious. Running five days a week may just not be possible. There are plenty of ‘experts’ out there insisting that anything less is not worth it, but these people tend to be fitness fanatics, who probably would consider themselves pathetic wimps if they don’t run miles every day. For the rest of us, we have to set a target that is realistic for us, not for someone else.

Being too hard on ourselves when we start backsliding can be counterproductive, too. After that first missed run, a kind of inner drama can spring into being, whereby part of us starts lecturing the other for being lazy, feckless, just like your Uncle Fred (and so on), while the other sticks up two fingers and says it’s all a waste of bloody [or something worse] time, anyway.

In my work as a coach I use [amongst other things] Eric Berne’s Parent / Adult / Child model. This reminds us that even as adults we still have parental ‘tapes’ running in our heads and childish mental states that we can still revert to.

When these two start getting at one another, it is time for the adult to quietly take over and work out a new solution. I actually get clients sitting down and getting one hand to represent the parent, the other the child. It sounds odd, and for people not used to personal development work, it feels odd—to start with. But once you get used to it, these two warring parts can soon calm down and allow a new solution to be negotiated.

There’s nearly always a compromise that will get the exercise routine back in action again. It might take on a slightly different form, but that’s fine. That Wednesday run just doesn’t work, and that’s an end to it. Your inner parent may regard any deviation from your initial Plan A as a slippery slope into decadence [and your inner child may respond ‘so what?’], but if your adult self has listened to these voices and then made a new decision, the voices will probably end up going along with it. The inner parent may even end up approving, and the inner child finding the runs quite fun.

Robbie Steinhouse is the founder of NLP School and author of various books, including How to Coach with NLP. He regularly runs courses on How to Coach with NLP, TA and Mindfulness—for details of the next one, please go to the NLP School site.

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