3 Steps to help you Succeed with Your New Years Resolutions
Change the Approach to Change the Outcome
It's that time of year again, where everyone uses the flip of the calendar to create or in many cases retry a goal to improve themselves. And while we've all heard the statistics on the high failure rate of resolutions, or we've watched a packed gym in early January turn into the regulars by end of January, this year can be different with a few relatively easy tweaks. I take a keen interest in talking with people about their resolutions because it reflects what occupies a large chunk of their thought process throughout the year.
I myself like to use the new year as a reset point, and I've tried and tweaked many different approaches to this goal setting process. I've had some resolutions met, and others failed and to my surprise I've come to learn that the success rate is not at all predicated on the difficulty of the goal, but rather on the approach I've adopted through trial and error that really makes the difference. And I've shared these tips with others and watched them have success as well so I thought it was time to share these tactics more broadly.
Start Now (Late December) With Lienency
Because so many resolutions involve some combination of eating healthier, working out more, or doing something less (drinking, smoking, caffeine, etc), the number one way you can sabotage this goal is to take the 'last hurrah' approach in the last few days or weeks leading up to the new year. During this period, we know we are about to deny ourselves in the near future so we tend to eat like wild animals, we're extra lazy, or whatever we know we need to quit we do in excess to try and get it out of our system or enjoy it while we can. This is catastrophic for the success of the resolution and the reason is physiological. Our bodies and our minds are wonderfully adaptable machines. Humans have always shown a capacity to physically and mentally adapt to surroundings; storing fat for the winter, shrinking stomaches during food shortages, even our skin pigmentation adapts to new climates we're in for long periods....the list goes on and on. When we go on a gorge fest leading up to an abrupt changing of behavior or restriction substance, we have a physiological conflict with that. Our body gets used to what we do in late December and comes to expect that. When we start denying it on January 1, we go through heavy withdrawal symptoms. We have a physical and mental strain amplified because of what we did in late December.
Approach: A better approach to the last hurrah is to actually taper into the goal the last few days in December. Start eating healthier with some leniency and then cut out the leniency on Jan 1. That is infinitely easier than shocking the system with an entirely new diet that the body is not used to. Work out for 15-20 minutes a day knowing on January 1st, that goes to a half hour or an hour. You'll speed up recovery time and won't be nearly as sore once 2014 hits and you start pushing your body. Whatever your goal, make sure you take steps in December to ensure you aren't shocking your mind or body on January 1. The goal alone will be challenging enough, you don't need to start by putting yourself at a greater disadvantadge before you begin.
Set the Goal, But Focus on the Checkpoint
This has been the most impactful learning and seems to have the greatest impact on success, even though it seems very basic. Let's say, for example, someone sets the goal is to lose 20lbs by April of 2014. The problem with this is there is an overwhelming amount of time between now and April. While someone might be completely committed to that goal on Jan 1st, subconsciously (and historically) you know that a lot can happen to sabotage you from now until April.
Approach: Pick a 5-6 week checkpoint and once the new year hits, completely focus on that date, and only that date, every day. Valentine's day is a perfect checkpoint for most goals. Visualize where you want to be 6 weeks from now, and what your daily routine is on February 14th. Focus on what you will do on that day to measure your progress...step on the scale, or perform a fitness test for example. But make sure that is a validating activity that measures your progress to date.
You need to visualize a checkpoint that is tangible, and you need the small win to reenergize because it will be at that point that you will likely be burned out a little, even if you are succeeding. Once you hit that smaller goal, you'll have the confidence and momentum to carry forward on the full goal. If you need to set a second checkpoint, do so - the key is to just focus entirely on that instead of the bigger goal. This approach works remarkably in many other facets of life as well.
Share It Publicly
You have to tell people about your resolutions, because it creates accountability. I have seen many more resolutions succeed (including my own) when we are vocal about them. Nobody likes to fail in front of others, and we're much less likely to quit if we have to face the wrath of judgment from others.
Approach: Tackk is a great platform to post your 2014 Resolutions because it's a page that anyone can access anytime (especially if you make it with a custom URL) and this is better than say a post on Facebook that gets lost in the January Feed (and thus you lose the accountability effect). But ultimately do this wherever you want. I prefer a social network vs friends/family/coworkers that you see every day because once they see you fail on your resolution just once, they will probably assume it's over and not help you with any type of accountability. But broadcasting it on a social network means people you might not see regularly know your goal, and you have accountability spread out with people you'll see on an unpredictable schedule. In otherwords you always have people you might run into throughout the year that know your goal(s). This might sound a little scary but this can be a very powerful motivator, especially as you start to get fatigued on your goal.
Give it a shot, create a Resolution Tackk and tag it with #2014 Resolutions so it goes on that Tackkboard. Make it public and share it out wherever you have a presence. You'll be glad you did once you need that extra motivation in 2014.