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It’s a new year. For many of us a time to checkpoint our lives, evaluate the previous year and, you guessed it, make the all popular New Year’s resolutions. It is estimated that about 45% of us usually make them but research shows that only 8% of us are actually successful in achieving our resolution(s). That’s right, 92% of us fail!
Here are the top five resolutions for 2014:
- Lose Weight
- Getting Organized
- Spend Less, Save More
- Enjoy Life to the Fullest
- Stay Fit and Healthy
No surprises, right? Interesting that two are directly related to fitness and health, #1 and #5, and I would argue these are both keys to #4!
Why are we humans so consistent at being inconsistent when it comes to permanently changing our lives for the better? What good is it to make these resolutions year after year when the overwhelming majority of us never achieve success? Should we even waste our time, effort, and resources on this silly tradition when, for the most part, we all will fail?
My opinion is a resounding yes!
I have met some amazing people who, for many different reasons, made the decision to change and, more importantly, have successfully followed through with their decision!
In the context of health and fitness, some desire change because of the doctor’s warnings, some wake up in the morning and don’t recognize the stranger they see in the mirror, some endure the lose of a dear friend or relative and realize they could be next, some get tired of watching their children climb into the seat of amusement park ride, crying inside because are forced to watch from afar, unable to participate. The catalyst doesn’t really matter–what’s important is that people who achieve these amazing life changes all have one thing in common: they each make the decision and commitment to change their lives.
So the first step in achieving life changes is to simply make the decision and commitment to change for yourself and for no one else. Seems like this is no different from making the annual January 1st resolution, right? It appears making the decision part is easy since nearly half of us successfully accomplish this each year through our resolutions. But what makes 92 out of 100 of us fail on these decisions, in my opinion, is the other critical part, commitment. I see this every year at my local YMCA where I work out. During the first few weeks of January there is a huge increase in folks packing the gym, eagerly sweating–they’ve undoubtedly made the decision, through their New Year’s resolution, to change. You know the story…by mid-February the vast majority of them are gone until next January. My theory is that their decision lacked the necessary commitment to go along with it!
Commitment to these decisions/resolutions is critical because life changes, like losing weight and becoming fit and healthy, can be very difficult. I don’t have to tell you that getting up at 4:30am to get your workout in three times a week isn’t easy–it takes commitment! Skipping the drive-thru and cooking and eating real food isn’t easy–it takes commitment! Skipping that 90 minutes of American Idol and The Real Housewives of Blah Blah and getting off the couch and walking instead watching TV isn’t easy–it takes commitment! I think you catch my drift.
I also think resolutions are often times poorly defined and that can make attainment difficult. It’s pretty easy at 2am on January 1, with your head buzzing with booze, to declare, “This year I resolve to lose weight and get fit and healthy!” Those seem to me to be fairly general goals. How much weight? What exactly does “fit and healthy” really mean? I believe these types of nebulous goals can be terribly overwhelming, especially if a person needs to make significant progress.
What has been effect for me when setting goals is to steal from the business world and employ a technique called setting S.M.A.R.T. goals. If you are unfamiliar with this concept, a S.M.A.R.T. goal is defined as:
- Specific: the goal should include the What, Why, and How and in some cases Who and Where as well.
- Measurable: the goal needs to include metrics or measurements for success.
- Achievable: the goal should be challenging but also attainable.
- Relevant: the goal needs to consistent with an overall mission or effort.
- Time-bound: the goal must have a reasonable deadline.
This is how I would attempt to rewrite our half-drunk New Year’s resolution, “This year I resolve to lose weight and get fit and healthy!” into a S.M.A.R.T goal:
By my annual Memorial Day beach trip I will be able to confidently wear my red bikini on the beach by eliminating sugar, grains, and processed food from my diet and implementing the Starting Strength weight training program on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and walking two miles every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday in order to reduce my risk of disease and increase my happiness and self-esteem.
- Specific? Did I answer the What, Why, and How questions?
- What: “confidently wear my red bikini on the beach”
- Why: “to reduce my risk of disease and increase my happiness and self esteem”
- How: “by eliminating sugar, grains, and processed food from my diet and implementing the Starting Strength weight training program on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and walking two miles every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday”
- Measurable? Is the goal measurable?
- By the beach weekend I either will or won’t be able to “confidently wear my red bikini on the beach,” so, I believe the goal is measurable.
- Achievable? Is the goal realistic?
- Okay, this example makes the assumption that I’ve worn my red bikini before confidently and, through some hard work, I can get my body back to that state.
- Relevant? Is the goal consistent with the overall effort?
- Transforming my body through better nutrition and exercise will ultimately reduce my risk of health problems, make me happier, and boost my self-esteem, so, this goal is relevant.
- Time-bound? I have to get this done by the end of May!
I find writing S.M.A.R.T goals can sometimes require a bit of effort, but that extra effort gives me a better chance for success.
I also think many of the folks who charge into the gym the first week in January and pound the weights without following a program or take off running long distances without easing into it will most likely wake up so sore they can barely walk and this can lead to frustration and ultimately failure. Ditto with radical changes to one’s diet. Quitting sugar and processed carbs “cold turkey” is a sure fire way to fail. Enthusiasm is great, but working toward goals at a reasonable, sustainable pace will help with consistency which is the key to permanent lifestyle changes. The old cliche, “It’s a marathon not a sprint” is applicable in my humble opinion!
Another important factor in achieving life changing goals for me is getting educated and using the right techniques and tools that work. Everyone is different and unique and what might be highly effective for me may not work at all for someone else. I know this from years of self-experimentation with my diet and exercise routines. The point is, I have and will always be learning, testing and adjusting in my search for optimal health with the goal to be fit, active, and thriving for the next 50 years.
I would love to get comments on your New Year’s resolutions and goals for 2015 and, as always…
Be smart in the kitchen and a beast in the gym!