By Robyn Edge and Gilbert Magne
With the New Year comes the frequent topic of discussion: “What’s your New Year’s Resolution?” Stats have shown that about 40% of people make resolutions every year. I’ve often heard something like: “I want to lose 20 lbs”, “I want to shed 2 inches, eat healthier or exercise regularly”. Yet, the success rate of completing those resolutions is around 8%! That means the failure rate of these New Year’s resolutions is 92%! Somethings tells me that we are missing something if we have this annual tradition that fails with such flying colours. What can we do about this?
Before even choosing your resolution always start with WHY? Ask yourself why it is you want to do your goal. Once you understand why you are doing something, it helps to remind yourself of the purpose, the deeper meaning to you. Try this: ask Why 3-5 times. Choose a goal and ask yourself why 3-5 times to find out your true motivation.
Example: I want to eat healthier this year. Why? Because I am tired all the time and want more energy. Why? I want to have more energy so that I can play with my kids when I get home from work instead of falling asleep on the couch. Why? Because I feel like I don’t spend enough time with my kids. Why? Because I want to have a good relationship with them and eventually with my future grandchildren.
This helps bring in the original goal into context and allow us to understand our true motivation. Sometimes we discover things about ourselves or our deeper motivation we did not know what's there.
Something to also consider, does this mean we need to change our life, or need to focus on we have already? "what if we made goals that were more about loving what we have rather than chasing what we don't?"1 We can focus on what we are doing well, and expand on it. We don't necessarily need to overhaul everything do!
The next step is choosing a resolution. A better approach is to choose specific goals that are based on doing something easily attainable. We thrive on success, so when we achieve our goals we are more likely to continue working on the next one. What helps with this success is choosing behavior based goals instead of outcome based goals. What does this mean?
Outcome goals are the objectives we want to achieve, or the intended result. The challenge with these goals is that we have no direct control with accomplishing them.
Behavior goals are the steps to take to achieve our desired outcomes. These are the things we have complete control over. They are actions that we do everyday or every week.2
Let’s take an example of: I want to lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks. This is an outcome based goal. This is the picture we have in our head of where we want to be. To change it to a behavior based goal, we focus on things that move us toward that goal one step at a time. What can we do to help us get there? Here are some examples:
Once you’ve achieve one of these goals, you then start working on the next step/goal and piece by piece you work toward getting the results you want. It’s important that you do one of these at a time. We try to do everything at once, then we start missing one or two things and we give up because we are off track. Since we missed the workout, what’s the point of eating well! The downward spiral begins and all the balls we were juggling in the air come crashing down on top of us. It’s crazy how our brains will fight against change.
How do you know if your behaviour based goals will get you where you want to be? If you aren’t sure where to start, that’s where a coach would be helpful in providing guidance in choosing the next goal. You could also work with a structured program to help you move along step by step.
It’s also important to plan for when you fall off the wagon. Life happens: you get sick, the kids get sick, you go away on a trip, don’t have access to a gym... This always happens, and definitely happens to me on a regular basis. Know these will happen at some point and decide ahead of time what you will do. I recommend starting fresh, call it a “Clean Slate”. Each day is a new opportunity to take a step toward our goals!
Say you are faced with a day when you are just tired and don’t want to go to the gym, or you only have 15 minutes instead of the usual 45. Give yourself permission to change the activity that day. Instead of lifting weights like you planned, maybe you walk on the track that day, or take a bike ride around the neighborhood. Or if you do end up missing it altogether, the next day is a fresh start, so you can get to it then!
It’s also important to remove as many barriers as possible to achieve our goals. If I join a gym that’s a 20 minute drive away, I’m more likely to not have enough time to fit a workout into my busy day. If I choose gourmet recipes that call for special ingredients and my grocery store doesn’t stock it, it makes it very difficult to follow the recipe. That said, for some people the challenge actually helps motivate them, because it keeps it challenging and exciting!
So if you are noticing that you are consistently missing one of your goals, try to see if there are patterns or consistent problems. Think of these challenges as opportunities. Maybe that class you signed up for is right after work, and because you often work overtime you end up missing it (and since you missed last week, no you don’t want to go back…).
Make sure you have everything you need, and limit the amount of decisions you need to make. If you plan on working out first thing in the morning, have your workout clothes laid out the night before. That way you can jump right into it when it's time.
If you are trying to fit some healthier smart carbs into your meals, make sure you have them ready in the pantry. And while you're at it get rid of any of the old temptations.
A next piece of the puzzle is strategies to stay on task. Everyone has a different personality and tendencies that motivates them to stick to the plan. Some people irritated by plans, others like a strict schedule, others need something to keep them accountable. An interesting approach to this was brought forward by Gretchen Rubin, who has been researching these ideas to match our tendencies. You can find more info on this here.3
Here are some examples that have worked for others:
If you’re not sure how to choose the best strategy for yourself, use your previous experiences or successes from the past as a good example. When you were consistent with something, what was it that kept you engaged at that time? That can give you some ideas on what works for you.
In the end, as you can see there is no one right way to do things. Each person’s needs will be different from the other. We can watch out for common pitfalls, and change our track when we veer away from our course. Try different options, see what works.
We have several options at Precision Movement & Therapies to assist you if needed. We have exercise classes available to help you get moving. We have physio, chiro and athletic therapy to help you get out of pain. We have a dietitian for questions about nutrition. Or, we have Procoach software for those that want a structured program to improve their health.
How about you? Have you been one of the 8% who achieved a resolution? What did you do that worked well to achieve it? If you didn’t achieve it, what happened to get you off track?