4 Tips for New Year’s Resolutions that Stick
Every New Year brings its own personal goals and challenges, but there are few as ubiquitous (or is it pervasive?) or that carry as much weight (pun absolutely intended!) as getting in shape. According to Neilsen.com, “stay fit and healthy” and “lose weight” top the list of most popular New Year’s resolutions in 2015, appearing on 37% and 32%, respectively, of respondents lists.
Now that we’ve polished off the last of the pumpkin pie, how can we keep our promise to better ourselves this year? Statistically, Americans are not the most reliable when it comes to sticking to our goals. Despite the explosion of the health and wellness market, 1 in 3 American adults are clinically obese.
Making resolutions (and breaking resolutions) is nothing new. The Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year to pay their debts and return borrowed objects. We don’t have statistics on how good the Babylonians were at keeping these promises, but according to Health.com, less than half (46%) of Americans that make resolutions are still on target six months later.
To change that, here are 4 easy tips that can help you stay on track to keep those New Year’s Resolutions in 2016 and beyond.
Accomplishing a task is easier when you set goals.
Now, setting goals is infinitely easier when they motivate you – meaning that you see the value in a achieving them. Millions of people fall short of their goals because they feel that they are goals that they should achieve, not necessarily something that they want or feel particularly compelled to achieve.
Why is this goal important to you? Think about that, but first…
If you’re new to goal settings, the easiest place to start is SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-specific – goals. For example, rather than saying, “I want to get fit,” a SMART goal would be “I want to start going to the gym for 30 minutes twice a week.” See how that checks all the boxes?
Having an objective number to chase on a daily or weekly basis can make your diet and exercise regimen like a game, only you’re competing against yourself. Challenge yourself to do a little better each day, or see how many days you can run a streak of good behavior.
Once a goal becomes too easy, evaluate your goals and make adjustments as needed to keep improving.
For many, the first bump in the road can cause a total derailment (10 car pileup, no survivors) of their goal. Why?
Because there is no room for error in their method. If you’re not flexible about your methods, you’re going to give up. Perfection is unattainable. Everyone hits this wall sooner or later. The people who figure out a new route are the ones who fulfill their dreams.
That’s why goals phrased in absolutes, like “No carbs,” or “_____ everyday” fail most often. The “all or nothing” mindset leaves no room for error.
One of the benefits of tracking your food and exercise is that it puts everything in perspective. If your goal is weight loss and you’re tracking your food and calories, you can see that one night’s cheesecake doesn’t cause irreparable damage. Nothing that a few days of taking the stairs can’t compensate for, right?
To sum up, be stubborn about completing your goal (don’t give up!) but flexible about your methods (have a plan B, C, D…).
Self-control is it is a rational desire, which means it lives in the section of the brain that’s most recently evolved and most vulnerable to being overruled by survival instincts. Pleasure resides in the brain’s most primitive part, which has spent millions of years learning to reward us with a deeply satisfying jolt of dopamine when we give in to these kinds of urges.
Fortunately, your brain can be rewired to attach the promise of reward to almost anything. A lot of small rewards, used for meeting smaller goals, are more effective for maintaining your motivation than relying solely on the bigger rewards that require more work and more time.
Willpower is a muscle, and like any muscle, it gets stronger the more you use it. Also like a muscle, you only have a limited amount of it before that part of your brain that kept the human race alive all these millennia kicks in and overrides the rational part. Since your supply of self-control is finite, make resolutions that require small acts of will, not weeks of vigilance. Choose some benchmarks and reward levels. You can also reward yourself for levels of consistency.
Unhealthy behaviors develop over the course of time. Thus, replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones requires time. I once read that it takes 28 days to form a habit. That’s 28 days of no-ifs-ands-or-buts consistency to change the way you do something. For example, I spent six months focusing on going to the gym every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday before it became a habit.
Don’t worry about starting small. Big goals can be intimidating, but everything you do to prepare yourself to meet that goal can add up – and quick! If you’re serious about building a new habit, then start with something small. Start with something you can stick with for good. Then, once you’ve repeated it enough times, you can worry about increasing the intensity.
Remember when I asked you why this goal is important to you? Do you have an answer? You probably should.
Depending on where you get your numbers, somewhere between 81 percent and 92 percent of New Year’s Resolutions fail. Resolutions don’t guarantee results. “Getting fit” is not an outcome. It is a lifestyle. It is a process. It’s a culmination of all your daily decisions and rituals. And are you really going to stick with a new ritual that isn’t important to you?
Tech to the Rescue
It’s easy to say you want to improve your health, but it’s a lot more difficult to actually do something about it. Tracking your health helps you stay motivated and accountable to yourself for your health and fitness goals, but understanding why you want something helps you to understand and commit fully to achieving your goals.
The problem is that weight, while the most visible adversary, doesn’t give a full picture of your health. Your weight can fluctuate by several pounds each day based on many factors. Looking at other processes, such as you your HDL (good) and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood glucose to get a better understanding of your health over time.
Now, I can hear a few of you out there, “Did we just add 4 more things to track? That could get pretty confusing…”
Fortunately, there are literally thousands of health and fitness apps out there that can help you get started. Check out Activ Doctors Online’s Personal Health Record, with health tracker included, free for 30 days >> Technology is revolutionizing personal health and fitness, giving us insight that wouldn’t be possible with plain ol’ pen and paper tracking.