If you’re like an estimated two-thirds of Americans, with February just around the corner, you’re likely to have already given up on those noble resolutions you set at the beginning of the year. (If you are in the determined one-third, congrats! Keep up the great work!) For those of you who have fallen off the resolution wagon, perhaps your goals were too absolute. “Never again will I… Every single day I will…” These kinds of goals just set you up for failure. Now is a great time to reset the clock and reset your goals to be more manageable in the post-New-Year real world.
Instead of Absolutes, Commit to an 80-20 Plan I like to take a little poetic license with the well-known 80-20 rule, and reword it as such: “If you do the right thing 80% of the time, cut yourself some slack on the 20.” Chances are, all those “absolutes” you set up at the beginning of the year are noble goals. Why not re-commit, but make it “At least 80% of the time I will…” instead of “I’ll never again…” (Of course, there are things like smoking and antagonizing wild animals where probably you do want to go totally cold turkey, but for most goals, 80-20 is a fine place to start.)
If You Didn’t Like It, Try Something Else Maybe your resolution was something along the lines of “I will run every morning” or “I will go to hip hop class three times a week” or “I’ll replace all diet soda with green tea,” and then you got a week into it and realized you hate running, you have no rhythm and green tea tastes like dirt to you. Congratulations, you are one option closer to finding the things you will love. In other words, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater- just cross running, hip hop and/or green tea off your list and try Spinning, kickboxing and mineral water (or other options, you get the drift.) Again, it wasn’t the spirit of the resolution, but the specifics that might have gotten you into trouble, so give it another go.
Identify and Ask for the Support You Need If you look back over why your resolve flagged, you can probably identify the point where the wheels started coming off. Was it a matter of timing? Was it a matter of support (or lack thereof)? Peer pressure? Identify people in your life who want to see you succeed, and then ask them for the support that can get you over that hurdle next time. Basically, plant people you trust in your life at those crossroads… a friend who goes to happy hour with you who can support you in your goal to not eat the calamari, a spouse you can ask to be accommodating if you are a few minutes late returning from the gym after work, a coworker who can come by your desk at lunch to ask if you’ve gotten your walk in. A sub-point of this is to be public about your goals. Tweet your commitment, post about your progress on Facebook, blog about it, or just create an email list of people who care about you that you can ask for support and keep updated on your progress.
Find Success in Baby Steps If your goal was something big and relatively vague, like “Get Healthy” or “Lose Weight” or “Firm Up,” you will feel more driven and be able to track your success better if you break those down into baby steps that are concrete. For example, recent research shows people who drink two glasses of water before every meal lost 5 pounds more over 12 weeks than dieters who did not. So, that would be a great, trackable, easy-to-do resolution that will get you closer to your goals. Resolve to “be active” for thirty additional minutes per day, but don’t lock yourself into what or when. Resolve to identify one food that is sabotaging your efforts (calorie-laden latte or juice drinks, a bag of Doritos at lunch, a mid-morning Danish, etc.) and cut out just that one thing for starters. Other ideas: Resolve to eat some lean protein at every meal/snack, or to bring your lunch at least three times a week, or to eat breakfast at home before leaving the house. I bet if you sit down with your “biggie goal” and think about what you need to do to get there, you’ll identify a few things you can commit to right now that will get you closer. In a month, many of those things will be so second nature that you can add a few more baby steps without added stress.
I like to think of New Year’s goals more in terms of what I want December 31 to look like than what I want February 1 to look like. If you envision what where you want to be on December 31, 2011, what steps do you need to take to get there? You have a whole year to make it so!
Heather Hawkins is a certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition coach based in San Francisco, CA, who works with clients over the internet through FitLifeSF Coaching and blogs at FitLifeSF.com. Please send your fitness and nutrition questions to Smurf@FitLifeSF.com for use in future blogs.