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Another new year, another set of resolutions. No doubt many of you plan to shed excess pounds gained during the holidays, eat healthier, and commit to a new workout routine. And if you manage to stick to it as rigidly as you intend at the beginning of the year, great!

But if you fall off the proverbial wagon, as it were, avoid the self-flagellation, as this can just add insult to injury.

Why? As it turns out, what you believe about your fitness level has a great impact on your actual fitness.

Mortality Risk and Activity Level Beliefs

According to this fascinating study gathered from CDC questionnaire data of over 60,000 individuals from a wide demographic array, those individuals who believed themselves to be less active than their peers were at a 71% higher risk of death form all causes than those who believed themselves to be more active than their peers. This was true even when the actual activity level between the two groups was the same, and remained true even controlling for a wide variety of other risk factors.

Health Indicators and Activity Level Beliefs

But this is not only true of all cause mortality. This study follows a group of women with the same relative activity level at work. The women were separated into two groups: one group was told that their job was very active and met fitness requirements, while the other received admonitions that they were sedentary and needed to engage in more leisure exercise activity.

Compared to the second group, women in the first group lost weight in only four weeks, without changing anything about their actual activity levels.

The Upshot: Your Mind Matters

I wrote here on the concept of the Illusory Truth Effect: the idea that you are more likely to believe an oft-repeated statement than one you hear only once or twice. The concept offers a scientific explanation for the concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy.

So I’d challenge you this New Year’s to include some affirmations on your list of resolutions. Describe yourself as fit, strong, healthy. Able to resist temptation.

Affirm not just who you currently are, but who you want to become.