By some estimates, nine out of ten people who make New Year’s Resolutions fail to keep them. Most don’t even make it one month (which is, coincidentally, the approximate time it takes to turn an action into a habit). Most revert back to their previous habits, only to try again and again in an endlessly and repetitious cycle.
But why? It’s not for a lack of support. We have nearly instant access to classes, books, programs, new products and coaches showing us how to reach our goals.
It sounds so easy: use this program, buy this gear, eat these pre-packaged meals, and BAM we’ve achieved our goals. So why do so many of us fail?
Maybe we need to take a closer look at our resolutions, and what it takes to be successful.
Something about the turning of the calendar encourages us to launch into tremendous changes that are, unfortunately, often unrealistic and sometimes downright unpleasant. If I resolve to lift weights for an hour every day when I haven’t been to the gym in the past 3 years, I’m going to be in so much pain by the end of the week that I’ll probably eat an entire pizza while soaking in the bathtub and never go to the gym again. It’s just not realistic or sustainable to go from zero to intense overnight. Yet, those are the kinds of resolutions we often make over our champagne toast at midnight.
To be fair, we’ve been conditioned to expect immediacy. How many change-your-life plans, fad diets, fitness gadgets and intensive exercise programs have you seen this past year? Lots!! But you’re more likely to find lasting success through a series of smaller lifestyle changes that ultimately lead you to your goal.
Instead of the latest crash diet or fad exercise plan, try to move in a steady, sustainable progression towards your goal rather than taking a giant, painful leap. Small changes add up to big results! It’s also important to know that when you can make these manageable changes for about 4 weeks, that is about when they start to be habit instead of forced processes.
Here are a few tips for setting sustainable goals in 2019:
There are so many programs, so much information, and so many knowledgeable experts to follow. But ultimately you have to evaluate them realistically. An intensive 2x daily exercise program might have worked miracles for the celebrity spokesperson but they also might have a full staff at home to handle all the responsibilities and jobs that you do single-handedly every day. Don’t set goals before analyzing the time and resources you have available. It might be helpful to first consider your day and determine how much time you can carve out and allocate to a new regime. Similarly, it’s important to check the bank account and see how much money you can allocate to new vitamins, pre-packed meals, cleanses shots or personal trainers. In analyzing my life, I know is that I have 30 minutes a day that I can dedicate to exercise and I don’t want to spend much, if anything, to get more fit. I know that I can create results with that because it’s 30 minutes more exercise each day than I’ve done for years. So… I’m buying a yoga matt, some rubber tubing, for resistance training and I’m going outside to run some stairs in my neighbourhood every second day. This combo suits my time and pocketbook which increases my chances for success. If it’s going to work, it has to be about you.
Break your goal up into bite-sized increments. You’re not going to achieve your big goals overnight. So, unless you win the lottery, you’re going to need to put some time and effort in. Your end goal may be big. For example: lose 50 lbs, change to a plant-based diet, or save 10% of your income. Breaking those end goals down into smaller, sustainable goals will make it manageable.
A bite-sized goal like walking 1000 steps more than yesterday, cook one plant-based meal every second day or set up an automatic savings contribution at your bank for an amount that you won’t find crippling. These things are achievable without taking drastic measures and you’ll also feel a sense of accomplishment immediately. Then once you’re comfortable with that first step, take it up a notch. It took you years to get to today; give yourself time to grow into the next version of yourself.
Do you find yourself resolving to give up bad habits or quit eating certain foods you enjoy? Instead of framing your goals in terms of what you are doing wrong, turn it around and think about adding good habits. For example, plan to add carrots or apples to your lunch instead of forbidding sweets. The fiber will make you feel fuller, you’ll benefit from the nutrients, and the natural sugars may just take care of your craving for sweets. You can add a smaller sweet treat at the end, perhaps a bite or two so you don’t feel so deprived. It feels better to give yourself something than to take something away and you benefit in so many ways when you focus on the positive. Are you trying to trick your own brain? Well, yes. But it works.
What can you do for yourself or give to yourself today to bring you closer to your goal?
You’ll make mistakes along the way to your goals. Nobody’s perfect. Falling off the wagon is a certainty, but make sure that you get back on. Don’t beat yourself up, just make sure that you are good at hopping back on your wagon! Splurging when you wanted to save, skipping the gym, and even eating that entire pizza are all momentary lapses. Learn from it, acknowledge it to yourself, let it go, and go back to your new process the next day. If you start to beat yourself up, ask yourself if you would treat a friend the way you’re berating yourself? You deserve the same kindness that you’d extend to others. A mistake doesn’t equate to a failure, yet mistakes are often what lead nine out of ten people give up on their goals.
This year resolve to be the one who succeeds.