Are You One of the Many Making New Years Resolutions?
It’s that time again: the beginning of a new year. At this point, many of us are approaching our goals and New Years resolutions with new vigor and determination. Perhaps you are one of the many who are looking at 2018 as the year that you finally get started on a healthier lifestyle and lose that weight—or perhaps you want to find a new job or improve the one that you already have, or get out of debt and clean up your finances, or spend more time with loved ones. Perhaps you’re not embarking on just one of these goals, but all of them.
People Initially Are Highly Motivated
Unfortunately, most of us fail to stick to our New Years resolutions, despite our best intentions. According to a 2013 Forbes article, just 8% of Americans succeed in achieving their initial resolution. Similar research shows that 41% abandoned their goals within three months and
54% of New Years resolutions are abandoned by July. But, the problem starts even earlier than that. Research has shown that regardless of the goal, people initially are highly motivated, but by the 4-6th week mark, motivation is at its lowest, and it is at this time that most people begin to lose interest and drop-out of their exercise program.
I’m going to be honest: you will not always be motivated to achieve your goal—this I can 100% guarantee. There will be bad days where you will want to comfort yourself with a personal cheesecake; There will be bad weeks, when getting out of bed and going to the gym has never seemed more impossible. This happens to everyone—some people can overcome this drop in motivation. And others cannot–and yet another New Years resolution will bite the dust…until next year.
What Separates Successful Achievers From Drop Outs?
I can also guarantee that you can be the minority—the person who reaches their goal, and who changes their life for the better. So, what separates the successful achievers from the ones who drop out? In most cases, it’s the ability to anticipate rough patches and stumbling blocks that will determine whether or not we reach our goals.
In the fitness industry, an acronym that we use commonly for goal-setting and which has been found to be highly effective is S.M.A.R.T.
Let’s delve deeper into how you can use S.M.A.R.T. To optimize your goals and make success inevitable!
1) Specific – determine, exactly, what you want to achieve.
Perhaps you have set the goal of ‘hitting the gym at least three times a week’. This is a lofty goal, and you are feeling incredibly inspired. So, you go to the gym…and you don’t know what to do. The weight room is full of complicated-looking machines designed to injure you—or, at the very least, cause you a lot of embarrassment; you wander about, feeling helpless, and then after maybe jogging on the treadmill for fifteen minutes, you pack up and go home. Sound familiar? I used to be that person.
What you lack is strategy; before embarking on your goal, ask yourself these questions:
- What, exactly, do I want to achieve? Be as detailed as possible.
- How will I achieve my goal? What resources and knowledge do I have at my disposal? What resources and knowledge will I need to attain? For example, if you want to go to the gym three times a week, but are unfamiliar with the gym and gym equipment, book a session with a certified personal trainer who can show you the equipment (many gyms offer this service for free).
- What are my limitations? For example, if you want to get in shape, but you need to study for school most evenings during the week, plan your workouts for when you’re not in school and when you know you will be the most energized and motivated, such as in the morning or on the weekend. Consider this list below and ask which obstruction is most relevant to you and your life. What strategy can you adopt to overcome your limitations?
M: Measurable. How will you track this goal?
It’s important that you set a goal that you can measure; a goal that is too vague or undefined will often lead to failure.
- What will it look like to achieve this goal? Rather than say “I want to lose weight”, you may want to say, “I want to lose five inches from around my waist”, etc.
- How will I feel? This will also help to make your goal more emotionally-significant and tangible; imagine running the Grouse Grind and not wanting to lie down and die. If your resolution is to save more money, imagine being able to enjoy a vacation without worrying about your credit card debt.
It’s important to dream big. That being said, try not to set goals that are physically impossible to achieve, such as wanting to be an astronaut at 57 years old, or gain fifty pounds of muscle in twelve months. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and I’m sorry if I’m raining on your parade—but avoid setting yourself up for disappointment.
Weigh your goal against all of your other values and priorities—will spending three hours every day at the gym impede your desire to spend more time with your family?
- What will this goal cost me? And I don’t refer only to monetary cost; what can you afford, energy and time-wise, to dedicate to your goal?
- Is this goal worth the sacrifice I may have to make in other areas of my life?
- Do I have the appropriate skills, knowledge, and resources to make this goal a reality?
This value can demand some soul-searching. Perhaps you feel like you should stop eating gluten because your partner is celiac and you want to support them, and you’ve heard gluten is bad, etc. Never mind that your favourite food is avocado toast, and your doctor has given you a clean bill of health, and that your digestive system operates like a well-oiled machine.
I’m not saying that going gluten-free (or dairy-free, or meat-free, or sugar-free, etc) isn’t the right decision…but is it right for you? If a goal lacks relevance, it’ll be that much harder to stick to it.
- Why should I work towards this goal?
- What are my values?
- Is my resolution in line with my values?
- Will my resolution improve my life?
- Honestly, do I care enough to follow through with my goal?
Give yourself a deadline! Oftentimes, a looming expiration date can act as a fire under our butts, and get us moving that much more efficiently towards resolution success. That being said, make sure to set a deadline that is realistic and achievable to avoid disappointment and premature quitting. And don’t let a deadline prevent you from enjoyment of the journey towards your goal. If your goal is to write a novel, for example, don’t let the anticipation of the final product impede your enjoyment of actually writing the novel. The same goes for fitness goals: your goal of looking good on the beach in Jamaica shouldn’t obstruct your enjoyment of spin class or kick-boxing, etc.
Another helpful time strategy is to set smaller deadlines within a larger goal; for example, if your goal is to lose 20 pounds of fat in twelve months, set an initial goal of five pounds by March, another five by June, etc.
Some questions you can ask yourself might be:
- What is a realistic deadline for my goal?
- Will this deadline stress me out, and thus have the counterproductive effect of making me less likely to achieve my goal?
- What are some smaller deadlines I can use to help me stick to my goal?
And don’t be afraid to ask for help! If your New Years resolution is fitness-related, I would highly-recommend hiring an elite personal trainer. They, unlike any other resource or person, will work alongside you in creating your S.M.A.R.T. Goal, and give you the resources and skills necessary for incredible success!
And perhaps most significantly, I would also urge you enjoy pursuing your goal! No matter the resolution and its significance, any lifestyle change will be impossible to maintain without deriving sincere satisfaction and enjoyment from it. We can force ourselves to do something we hate for only a very limited amount of time—and since our time on this earth is limited, why not spend it doing something that we love?
Wishing you the best on your journey to optimum health!
Theresa Faulder, writer, personal trainer, INFOFIT graduate