Raise your hand if you came out of the 2017 gate on fire with big dreams, lots of excitement and a resolution list that was going to make you super-f’ing-awesome by March!
Now, raise your hand if you are on track with all those kick ass resolutions.
You had great intentions. We all do. You joined a gym, bought a Fitbit, started meal prepping, etc. But a funny thing happened on the way to being super awesome and kicking 2017 right in the face with your awesomeness. Maybe it was post-holiday goodies everyone brought to work. Buffalo chicken dip overdose at a Super Bowl party. Valentine’s Day dinner to die for. A snowstorm and snowdays made easier by wine, grilled cheese and Reese’s peanut butter cups (been there). Or, those damn kids and their crazy schedules that leave you no time to exercise or prepare a damn meal! You pick. Things, people and life in general have a funny, and frustrating, way of getting in YOUR way to improving your health and wellness.
And, you’re not alone. According to StatisticBrain.com, only 41% of us make resolutions (the number one resolution – lose weight/eat healthier) yet after about a month, roughly 58% of those who made a resolution are still with it. So, if you look at it this way – Out of a group of 10 friends, four of them make a resolution to get in shape starting Jan. 1. By February 1, two (maybe 3) are still on board and working toward that goal. Doesn’t mean they are achieving it or making significant progress, just that they’ve told you they are still working toward it. Not very encouraging.
Why does it all go wrong and what can we do to get ourselves refocused and back on track to make 2017 a healthier, happier year? Let me start by answering the latter part of the question from my perspective. We need to stop making resolutions all together to live healthier and happier by making small, realistic lifestyle choices all year round. More on that later but here’s some thoughts on why we fail – some based on my own experience and some based on research by people much smarter than me on the intrawebs.
Too aggressive. “I’m going to run a marathon by March” despite sitting on the couch most of the time for the last 10 years. This just screams failure because it’s too much too soon and it could lead to not only disappointment but injury.
Too vague. “I’m going to get healthier.” Um. Ok. What does that mean? No more deep fried mozzarella sticks for breakfast? One cigarette a day vs. one pack? No metric, no go for most people.
Too much. “I’m going to eat healthy, start running and stop smoking.” Whoa, hang on cowgirl. I’ve been there – wanted to do it all at once. I’ve overwhelmed myself with too much self-improvement in the past and it usually results in no improvement and lots of frustration.
So, here you are in late February and only two of your friends have stuck with their resolutions (or so they say ;-). What can you do to get back on track, stay motivated and achieve the results you want?
For me, I do a couple of things to reset when I feel like my goals have gotten off track.
Rebound.You fell off the wagon. You’re one of the 80% of people who couldn’t make it to Groundhog day with your resolutions. WAAAAA. So what? Pick yourself back up and start over. Giving up because you failed is like saying, I burnt dinner so I’m never eating dinner again. C’mon. Failure is what makes us stronger and smarter. You likely know what caused you to derail and hopefully, you’ll avoid that moving forward. So…stop crying and say you’ll start over tomorrow.
Review. What are you really trying to accomplish? Be honest. Is it something you want for yourself or is it because you think it’s what you should do, or someone/society expects you to do. I’m not saying that quitting smoking because your kids have been begging you to do so isn’t a good resolution. It definitely is. But, resolving to lose 20 lbs. because your boyfriend said you should is dangerous and not empowering – even if you need to lose 20lbs. You’re doing it for him and not you and that’s not what self-improvement is about. Review your goal and come up with your WHY. Why am I doing this? Why is this important to me? When you have your WHY you will be far more motivated to work hard and achieve that goal.
Reduce. The number of things you are focused on. For god’s sake, you cannot expect to succeed at losing weight, quitting smoking and running a marathon all at once. Yes, maybe you can achieve all of that in one year, but focus on one goal at a time. Lifestyle improvements are changes in behavior and deserve your full attention and time. You need at least 30 days to reset a habit or develop a new one. Give your life and your body the time to do it safely and successfully. More isn’t better. Commitment and completion is better.
Reset. So, you’ve reviewed what you want to accomplish. You’ve narrowed down your list of goals to one per quarter, let’s say. Now, you need to reset the goal itself. Is it a SMART goal – Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound? If it’s not, I revise and make sure it meets all those criteria. So, instead of saying “I’m going to start running.” I would suggest to a client to reframe the goal as “I will run 3x per week for 3 months to train for a 5k in April.” Specific, measurable (3x a week), achievable (assuming they are able to start running), relevant to their overall ‘get healthy’ goal, and time bound to a race in April.
Reach out. I preach accountability, I coach people for accountability. I can’t say it enough. Get someone to be your accountability partner. A big goal is easier to tackle when someone knows what you’re doing and can encourage and support you along the way. When left to our own self-discipline, we’ll be back on the couch and those slick new running shoes will be at the back of the closet. Get accountability!
Reward. Celebrate, gloat a little, do an end-zone dance when you reach that SMART goal. If we don’t reward ourselves (within reason) we will likely revert to old behaviors because we don’t think it’s special or worthy of celebration. That’s where an accountability partner, coach or support network is so important. They love to see you succeed. They want you to kick ass. And, they will be there to celebrate with you. Don’t skimp on the recognition. You reached a goal and now you pat yourself on the back, buy a new pair of yoga pants (yes, that’s my idea of a reward) and figure out what’s next.
To bring this full circle, I’ll leave you with my thoughts on New Year’s resolutions. They’re ridiculous and random. Why? Because I believe we should be in a constant state of self-improvement. It doesn’t start on January 1 and end December 31. Yes, we need to have time bound goals but they can start and end anytime. The pressure we put on ourselves each year to start being awesome on January 1st is self-defeating. You’re already awesome in so many ways and you just want to keep improving on that. But don’t wait for January. Don’t even wait for a Monday. Start doing one little thing today that will put you on the track to feeling better and living a healthy life. Walk 1000 more steps. Drink enough water. That small thing turns into a big one and soon you’ll be even more awesome than you ever thought possible.
Until next time…eat clean, move more and love that face in the mirror.