Well, it’s that time of year again. Post-Thanksgiving food comas have worn off and Christmas music is turned up to 11 everywhere you turn. As you scramble around town (and Amazon) looking for last-minute gift ideas, you realize that 2016 is almost over. Reflecting on the year’s events, it becomes apparent that you need to make some changes in your life. As you lay on the couch stuffed from your Christmas eve dinner, it’s easy to rationalize your December indulgence with a promise for change in January.
Besides, what better time than at the start of the new year?
The term “New Year’s Resolution,” commonly coupled with lines like “New Year, New Me” or “Time for a fresh start,” takes commitment issues to a whole new level.
Ask yourself, when was the last time your “resolution” at the start of the year lasted more than a month?
Or even a week?
Exactly. For the majority of the US population the term New Year’s resolution is nothing more than an enthusiastic moniker for a lifestyle change that will most likely be abandoned by the end of the month.
I know, this sounds like an utterly pessimistic view on what most consider the happiest time of the year, an abundance of data gives proof to just how few of us actually follow through with our personal commitments. While somewhere between 40-50% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, a study conducted by the University of Scranton shows that only 8% follow through to completion. Even more concerning is the turnover rate, which when researched by Norcross showed only 25% of resolution-ers sticking to it for less than a week!
While these numbers only scratch the surface of Americans and their aversion to commitment, it paints a picture of why we are so challenged with, not setting goals, but achieving them. The initial enthusiasm towards personal change fades as quickly (if not faster) than the glimmer of the new year itself, and it’s back to square one. Personal health and fitness are especially prevalent in this void of commitment, just visit any local gym in early January, then compare its population to that of mid-June. Given that weight loss is the most frequently picked resolution, it’s no wonder the majority of the US is overweight.
So how do we overcome this issue of premature goal abandonment? Let’s take a look from the perspective of a weight-loss resolution-er.
1. Set Specific but Realistic Goals
“I’m going to lose weight in 2017” is not going to work. Conversely, telling yourself you’re going to drop 80lbs and look like like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson won’t get you very far either. Many people fill a list with drastic lifestyle changes and huge goals for their new year, but get overwhelmed when other responsibilities take priority. Hence the one week abandonment statistics.
The key is to start small and chose a tool that you can faithfully utilize. That means starting with a weekly spin class, rather than trying to squeeze in gym time five days a week.
Then as your body begins to adapt, incrementally increase those goals. After weekly spin classes all throughout January, add a weekly weightlifting class to the mix in February.
This way you avoid overwhelming day to day responsibilities with your commitment to your resolution, simplifying the process of adapting it to your every day life.
2. Hold Yourself Accountable
While self-accountability seems like a no-brainer for many, you’d be surprised at how many irrelevant factors of your life you use to excuse doing new and uncomfortable tasks. For some, it’s as simple as setting a daily or weekly reminder on their phone, others need to write it down day after day, but that doesn’t always work.
Making your resolution(s) heard by your friends, family, and colleagues will provide an outside source of motivation, and help to keep you from straying off the path of success. You don’t want to be known as the office flake, do you?
Maybe your resolution’s content is a little too personal for the social accountability route, in which case you need a third-party source of motivation. Thankfully, there are programs out there like Off Day Trainer that can keep you on your grind via text messages. Motivation, nutrition tips, and exercises can be delivered via text to you as many times per week as you want, giving you the accountability push you need in the privacy and convenience of your messages app.
3. Set Tangible Milestones
Coming into the new year telling yourself “I’m going to drop 80 pounds by the end of this year” is an end goal with no executable plan. As referenced in the first section, you must start small and work your way up as your body adapts to the additional stress. Once you start to get into your routine, set incremental goals that will keep you pushing to the next level.
This may sound like a “carrot and stick” situation, but that’s exactly what we’re going for here. Staying focused on dropping 80 pounds throughout a year is much more of a challenge than dropping 5 pounds in a month. Smaller but short term goals seem less daunting, and create less inherent anxiety. Then, increase that short-term goal incrementally each month as you adapt, challenging yourself more and more until you’ve shot past your goal of 80lbs.
Think of it as a video game, seriously! Each level gets harder and harder, until you beat the game (lose the goal weight), and you find yourself sad that it’s already over. The benefit here being that there are unlimited levels in the game of fitness, so you never have to stop playing!
If you’re having issues sticking to even your short term goals, try implementing daily challenges in your life to help build self-discipline. Simple tasks like finishing your emails before turning on the TV, doing the dishes before bed, even refraining from eating out except once a week will help you build trust with yourself. Self-discipline is like a muscle, the more frequently you challenge it, the stronger it will become.
4. Stay Optimistic
Pessimism is a dirty habit that seemingly spreads more and more each day. It’s also one of the main reasons New Year’s resolutions are so often abandoned! Stemming from the insecurities already withheld as human beings, the viscous cycle creates the illusion that there are no positives to a situation, and therefore not worth it.
While this may sound like something your hippie neighbor would say, focus on the positives. Pessimism is not genetic, it’s not a disease, or even a disorder. It’s a habit of only looking at the negative factors of a situation, in turn clouding any potential positive outcomes. Like any habit, it can be broken using the tips provided in the previous section; small, incremental milestones.
Replacing pessimism with optimism (or at least a balance of the two) is absolutely crucial to seeing your goal through to the end product. Staying focused on the negative outcomes of an already challenging lifestyle change will drop your motivation exponentially and make completion near impossible. The reverse of that however not only makes you a more pleasant person to be around, but enhances your motivational drive and makes attaining your goals fun!
Make this New Year Different
To take advantage of this upcoming new year and actually complete a New Year’s resolution for once, begin small and work your way up to your main goal incrementally each month. If you have a hard time following through with your short term goals, or are making too many excuses, enlist the help of your friends, family, co-workers, or an accountability and motivation tool like Off Day Trainer to keep you pointed in the right direction. Most of all, stay positive. Pessimism prevents productivity, and with a lifestyle change for the better, you’ll need more productivity than ever before.
Post your resolutions in the comments below!