Raise your hand if you've ever started a health or fitness goal and then given up on it. Everyone? Great.
Let's guess: You started out strong, psyched to tackle a new diet or workout program or to hit a weight-loss goal. Then you hit a wall. Maybe that wall was an all-inclusive vaca with unlimited buffet access. Maybe work got really crazy, and your post-office gym sessions went out the window. Maybe it was just burnout, simple as that. So you put up your hands in defeat and went back to your pre-goal life.
You've officially fallen into the "implementation dip," as fitness expert Shaun T likes to call it. (You know him from his many fitness ventures, including Insanity, Focus T25, his new book T Is for Transformation, and his latest 40-Day Birthday Challenge.)
"When people start a goal, there's this surge of excitement from starting a new journey," he says. "You're in this mindset of really pushing through, being the best you can be, impressing yourself, really sticking to it. Then you realize that continuously functioning at this level is actually really difficult, so you hit an implementation dip—there's a slight decline in performance, because you realize just how much work it takes to stay at this level of 'greatness.'"
Pretty much everyone experiences this dip, whether it's at a new job, in a nutrition or fitness journey, or in a marriage, says Shaun. You think: "Wow, that was a lot to take on," and you second-guess your decision to do it in the first place.
"I want people to know that everyone in the WORLD has that decline," says Shaun. "Even with our new twin babies. The first six weeks, my husband Scott and I were like, 'We're into this!!!' And then, we were like, 'Holy shit, we're not sleeping.' We started fighting because we were trying to stay at this level that we weren't prepared for."
It might feel like failure, but it's not; it's an almost inevitable part of tackling a goal of any kind, and you can totally get past it, says Shaun. (It is called an implementation dip, not an implementation cliff, after all.)
Think of biking down a hilly road: You push yourself to the max to get up a big hill, coast a little bit, and then, suddenly, you're at the bottom of another even bigger one. Instead of thinking, "Well, I just used all my energy to get up that last hill," calling it quits and getting off your bike, you need to use the momentum from the first hill to propel you forward and up the next. Yeah, you'll still need to pedal (and it's still going to be hard), but that dip will help you build up speed to tackle the next challenge. (See: Your Ultimate Guide to Conquering Any and Every Goal)
"It's humbling to say, 'all right, this is a lot,' but if you stick to that journey you committed to in the first place, you'll realize that you're going to rise back up to a much higher level than where you started," says Shaun. "With struggle comes strength."
And even if you meet your goal, know that there's no real finish line: "It's important to remember that perfection is temporary and change is constant," says Shaun. Even if you've been committed to a health or fitness goal for a while, there's no point at which you're truly done. Everyone needs to reset their foundation every once in a while. Even as a lifelong fitness pro, Shaun's doing exactly that. He's launching a 40-day challenge leading up to his 40th birthday (May 2, mark your cals) that's all about resetting baseline health and fitness habits as well as that goal-crushing mindset. (FYI, fitness challenges can actually be the secret to your fitness success.)
"You just have to build up your confidence meter, so that these obstacles don't make you pump the brakes," says Shaun. "Don't give up. The only way you really fail is by giving up. To be successful is to put one foot in front of the other." (Love this Shaun T #realtalk? Here are more tips for crushing your New Year's resolution straight from him.)