Learn how to be successful in your resolution planning .
When it comes to New Year’s resolutions 60% fail by the third week of January and 80% fail by the second week in February. That’s a success rate of about 20%. How many times have you set yourself a resolution, and have you ever considered it a success? It’s about more than just willpower.
The reason why many of us fail when it comes to New Years resolutions is three-fold. One; we don’t know exactly what we need to change to achieve our goals long term. Two; we’re putting the bar too high. Three; life.
First thing is you need to notice what you’re doing. A good place to start is to by writing down everything. You want to eat better? Where do you need to improve. When you have to start writing everything down, you’ll be able to see where improvements can be made. Want to save money? Write down every penny you spend. Even the act of writing things down will help you bring awareness to your habits and can even prevent you from eating the thing you know you shouldn’t or spending the money you want to be saving. Just the act of having to take out that notebook (or pull out your phone) isn’t worth the hassle.
You must be able to create and commit a regime for yourself that you will stick to for at least 8 weeks. On average it takes 66 days of repeating a simple health habit until it feels automatic. It took you years to create the habits that you have now and creating new habits won’t happen overnight. If you can get through 8 weeks, you’re well on your way to creating a new habit. If you can’t do something consistently where it eventually just becomes another habit, you aren’t going to change. And the more you do something, the easier it becomes. Remember learning how to ride a bike? You probably don’t even have to think about it now. Break your dream resolution down to smaller, achievable, celebratable goals. Things like drink one more glass of water a day, waking up and do a quick 5 minute work out routine beside the bed, add one single serving of vegetables per day, have half a teaspoon of sugar less in your coffee, 2 minutes of meditation a day, have one more family meal per week, or even 30 minutes less screen time a day. All may seem like small potatoes, but over a week, month, year, these things will add up. Take your coffee habit...say you have one teaspoon of sugar in each cup. You have two cups a day. A few more on the weekend, let's say 15 cups a week. That's 780 cups a year. There are 16 calories of sugar in one teaspoon, so that's 12,480 calories per year, just in your coffee. Talking straight calories, that's about 3.5lbs of weight gain a year (3500 calories per pound of body fat). That's just if you're putting one teaspoon in, and that isn't even considered heavy coffee consumption. Think of how you could wean yourself down, and eventually off that sugar!
You figured out exactly what you need to do to reach your resolution, now what.
We all know that if you never go to the gym now, a resolution of going 5 days a week isn’t going to happen longer than January. However, putting on the dancing game with the kids is something that you can do a few times a week and involves the whole family too! And one thing to note, it’s easier to create a new habit if there are less steps involved (we learn simple behaviors faster than more complex ones), and if you commit to the new habit at the same time every day. Going to the gym when you find some requires multiple steps, whereas turning on the TV and gaming system is significantly less steps to trip you up! If every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7pm you dance in the basement for half an hour, you are more likely to build your actions into a solid habit that you will follow through with (and you’re more likely to stick with something that you find rewarding). It doesn’t mean that going to the gym isn’t a new habit that you can’t master, but if you’re just starting, set yourself up for success. If it isn’t something that you can do consistently, you aren’t going to change and create those new habits!
Use friction to your advantage. If you want to make your desired actions easier, then remove the sources of friction. You want to eat better? Then as soon as you get home from grocery shopping, wash and prep your fruits and veggies so they are ready to grab. It’s easy to grab a bag of chips; the only friction there is getting the bag open. You want it to be the same with your healthy snacks. It’s just as easy to open the fridge and just grab something. And make your surroundings so that it’s easy to achieve your goals. Put those fruits and veggies where you see them. A fruit bowl on the counter. Veggies eye level in the fridge, all ready to go. You can also use negative friction to your advantage. Want to cut down on screen time? How about every time you check social media on your phone, you also have to phone a contact just to say “Hi” and see how they’re doing?
You can also use something called stacking. When you stack a new habit on top of an already established habit, you can be more successful! A study was done where participants who didn’t floss regularly were asked to either floss before they brushed their teeth or after. The ones who were asked to floss before the established habit of brushing often forgot and didn’t remember until after brushing was done. The ones who flossed their teeth after their already successful habit of brushing their teeth were more likely to remember to floss and create a habit attached to flossing. So where can you use an already established habit to stack another one on top?
How do life and wagons and cheating play into your goals?
“We are Gathered here together to get through this thing called life. Electric word life it means forever, and that’s a mighty long time” – Prince
So let’s go crazy.
How many times have you started a 30 Day This, or a 80 Day to That, only to wind up exactly where you were before you started?
You were good for the specified time frame of the program, and then you went back to your same habits. What do these programs teach you? That you can get fit and eat well within a very short (and completely non-representative) time in your life. Because life is stress, a new job, vacation, caring for others, having and raising kids, insert any major life challenge here. These programs don't teach you the skill of getting healthy or staying fit in normal life.
I came across a concept from Precision Nutrition that I thought was amazing. Something is ALWAYS going to be better than nothing. Life does not have a pause button. You aren't always going to be able to be on your A game; sometimes you'll be a superstar, and sometimes you'll just be doing your best. But, the "All or Nothing" mentality usually gets us the "nothing". How can you know where you are if you don't figure that out?
Think of your efforts as a dial. You can dial it up to 10, but you can never shut it off. You'll always be at least a 1. So what is your 1? What is your 10? There are times when you’ll dial it up, and times when I dial down. But never turn your dial off. Being best for a tiny window of time isn't the point. The point is to just keep going, sometimes incompetently, sometimes downright half-assed. But to keep going.
I hate the phrase "falling off the wagon". What is this wagon? Are we playing Oregon Trail? (And I just dated myself). There is no wagon, there is life, and we must learn the skills to be able to continue with the healthier choice more often than not in every situation. What happens when you want to take time off from making those good choices? What will be different when you come back? There is no such thing as cheating on your food. We need to simply understand that there are consequences to our food choices. When you are of the mindset of a “cheat”, you are almost guaranteeing yourself to fail. When you start thinking of food and healthy practices as a choice (will this choice help or hinder my health goals), you’ll learn to take control.
If you’re learning something truly new and complex, it is going to be hard for a long time and you’re going to make mistakes and struggle and even feel like an idiot from time to time. Complex new learning is difficult, and here is where a good teach or coach can come into play. The best teachers do more than just correct technique or correct errors. They can inspire and sustain hope by communicating their belief in you and help point out the small improvements you are making – you often don’t notice these yourself. A good coach will sell you on your potential. When you find someone to keep you accountable (a coach, a friend, a support group), you then use peer pressure to your advantage!
So, when you’re ready to take on a better you, remember that you have to know what you’re trying to improve and the ability to break your large goals down into achievable parts. You need a sustainable, consistent way to make your improvements and you need to be able to roll with life. You need to repeat your action until it becomes automatic. Learn the ways that you can set yourself up for success, and there are lots of people out there than can help you along the way! Some books I recommend are “Good Habits, Bad Habits”, by Wendy Wood and “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy! With the right planning, you will meet your goals all year round, not just in January.
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