If you’re a regular gym attendee, then you’ve undoubtedly been a firsthand witness to the New Year’s Resolution Rush. This rush begins in the first few days of January and almost always subsides completely by the middle of February. About half of us will set fitness or weight goals this New Year’s, but according to Forbes Magazine, only eight percent of us will actually achieve them. Why do we so often break our resolutions and what steps can you take to ensure that 2019 is different?
The first thing that is important to point out is something that is found in the word itself. Resolutions are…well, resolute. Their concrete nature can actually impede our success. This is because when we say that we will do something, for example, five times a week beginning in the new year, we automatically fail the very first week we do not do that thing five times. To get started on a goal you can keep, ditch the “black and white” property of a resolution.
Here is an example: Let’s say you currently eat a lot of sugar and resolve to completely cut it out of your diet in 2019. In America, being the home of the free and the land of processed foods, this is no easy task for anyone. If you abruptly quit sugar consumption on January 1st, your body is going to crave it–a lot. Maybe you are one of the few who is strong enough to get over those initial few weeks of extreme cravings without giving in, but for the majority of people, the cold turkey method almost never ends in success. When we go this route, we end up feeling defeated by our inability to sustain our resolution 100% and we usually give up within just a few weeks. A more effective way to set goals for ourselves is to aim for progress, not perfection.
The progress method allows us to make mistakes and to figure out an appropriate speed to progress at as we go. You may be thinking…aren’t goals supposed to be firm and concrete so that we know what we’re shooting for? The answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean that we have to be successful at them from the start. With our sugar example, a surefire way to reach your desire to cut out all sugar might look something like this:
Rather than deciding to cut out sugar starting on New Year’s day, decide to cut out sugar by the end of the year. Do some research before 2019 even begins. Find out about different kinds of sugars, categories of foods with high and low sugar content, etc.. A little bit of Googling can be a big help here. Then, use your research to estimate the amount of sugar you typically ate in 2018. Finally, break out your calendar and write down weekly goals for the first few weeks of the New Year. Perhaps those weekly goals are a target number of grams of sugar for each week.
Start small–cutting out just a little bit of sugar compared to your typical 2018 intake. But don’t go crazy with the calendar planning yet. Don’t write down your weekly goals from January-December. Just start with January. Then, see how those first few weeks go. As you near the end of January, revisit the calendar. Ask yourself how closely you met your goals. If you did not meet your goals, try to make February’s goals a bit more manageable. Choose an amount of sugar that is lower than January’s actual intake, but is a goal you think you will be able to meet based on the progress you made in January. If you exceeded your January goals, make February’s goals a bit more ambitious. Don’t be afraid to readjust and readjust again at the beginning or even midway through each month as you revisit your calendar.
More likely than not, you will be more successful with this method over setting a high goal that you will fail at quickly. Slow progress is the best way for sustained growth and success.
So this New Year, do yourself a favor. Instead of setting an inflexible and lofty resolution, determine one area of your life you would most like to improve upon, and allow yourself to make mistakes in your slow and steady realization of your goal. Be flexible in your plan, forgive yourself, and accept and move on from setbacks. If you are able to do these things, then long-term success of your resolution is within your grasp. Don’t forget that even baby steps can be challenging! Every baby step forward is a step in the right direction and something to be proud of this year.