The New Year is a time of both reflection for what was accomplished in the past year and what you dream of accomplishing, creating, and doing in the upcoming year. A fresh start means new goals. And, healthier living and weight loss, it should come as no surprise, are two of the top fitness resolutions year after year.
According to a survey of the most popular New Year’s resolutions for 2017, respondents chose to diet or eat healthier (70%), exercise more (65%), and lose weight (54%) as the top 3 goals. In 2016, another survey reported the #1 goal was to “have more fun” and “seize the day” (at 45.7%) followed by “live a healthier lifestyle” (41.1%) and “lose weight” (39.6%). Other common goals include saving more and spending less, spending more time with family and friends, and paying down debt.
Why is it so many of us set the same fitness resolutions year after year? This is the year I’ll finally… (lose those pounds, lift more weight, feel better, cut back on booze or carbs, join a gym, start exercising, etc.)! It can be exhausting—especially if you haven’t gotten the results you so desperately wanted. And many simply forget about their fitness resolutions after a short week or a short month (explaining why gyms are crowded in the first part of January and mostly empty by February), only to go back to the way things were for the reminder of the year.
Until next January…
Am I suggesting we should just give up on setting fitness resolutions? Absolutely not! As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” And that growth often starts with a goal or at least a dream. So, this year, go deep, think hard, and set those goals for a better, healthier future. Yet setting those fitness resolutions isn’t enough. If you want to succeed, you have to implement changes.
Fortunately, these 9 tips can help you keep your New Year’s Fitness Resolutions (or any goal, for that matter!) to make this year a year of progress to build upon once January 1st comes around again:
9 Tips to Keep Your Fitness Resolutions and Succeed This Year!
1. Forget about motivation! If you’re looking for motivation to help you accomplish your goals, I have some bad news. Motivation is fleeting. It doesn’t last long enough to get you to that finish line. Sure, you can pump yourself up, but not for long. What’s more, research has shown that it’s neither desire nor motivation that drives people to action. It’s having a plan for implementation.
2) Replace desire with positive expectation: You’ve likely been told at some point that you “have to want it badly enough,” perhaps by a well-meaning coach, teacher, or parent. Unfortunately, desire can fail you because it can easily be disrupted by other priorities, slow results (or lack of results), or even just monotony. And, when you don’t get what you really want, it can lead to anger, frustration, and depression.
Donald D. Price, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Florida, has discovered that expecting a positive result is significantly more important than desire. Specifically, he was studying pain relief using a placebo. Those who really wanted the pain relief were left disappointed and felt even worse than before “treatment.” Those who expected to have their pain relieved often reported pain relief at the same level as a therapeutic dose of a known pain relief medicine.
3) Create a new identity: No, you don’t need to change your name, move out of your neighborhood, and create a completely new persona to lose the weight. But you do need to think about the type of person you want to be rather than the type of person you have been in the past.
Take a moment to imagine your future self—the person who is leaner, healthier, and happier. Don’t just think of what that person looks like, but go deeper. How does that person think? Eat? Exercise? Spend their leisure time? Now, set small behavioral goals to PROVE to yourself that that’s the kind of person you are.
Let’s say your ultimate goal is to become lean and healthy. What type of people are lean and healthy? Those who move more on a daily basis. Those who follow a portion/calorie-controlled nutrition plan. Those who eat more vegetables or drink more water. So, you can create small wins every day by setting new positive habits to walk every day, for example, or follow a healthy diet plan that’s sustainable long term for you. The secret is to set your goals to behave like the person you are becoming rather than focusing on the long-term performance or physical goals you will obtain.
4) Choose your future now: Research has shown that people who create a plan for when and how they are going to eat healthier are significantly more likely to actually eat more healthfully than those who don’t. The same is true for those who use supplements. Specifically, if they wrote down a plan for when they were going to take their vitamins, they were significantly less likely to miss a day.
According to Heidi Grant Halvorson, a professor at Columbia University, “Deciding in advance when and where you will take specific actions to reach your goal can double or triple your chances for success.”
5)Schedule your success: In light of the above, pick a time and a place for your exercise, and write it down just like any other scheduled appointment. Choose when and where you will take your supplements, meditate, or eat lunch. In one study, 91% people who wrote down their plan of when and where they intended to exercise exercised at least once a week, compared to 38% in the control group and 35% in the group that was given a motivational pamphlet. (Notice the “motivation” group had the lowest success rate, going back to tip #1.)
6) Be smart with your SMART Goals: SMART is an acronym for goal setting that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Yet even with SMART goals, it’s easy to get overwhelmed quickly and just… give up. So, if you do set big smart goals, it’s smart to break them into smaller, easier-to-accomplish goals or steps. Don’t be afraid to start small.
7) Go small for big results: When you hear about the huge transformations or see amazing before and after photos, it seems like people set HUGE goals and change everything all at once—from how they eat to how they exercise to their social interactions and much more. And for some people, this can work amazingly well. For others, unfortunately, it’s a perfect recipe—for failure. With all or nothing thinking, some of us tend to just give up completely if we can’t do it perfectly.
Fortunately, there’s another very effective solution to help us accomplish those same types of amazing results. Maybe not as fast, but they’re also likely to stick for long-lasting change. What’s the solution? Set goals that are so small, we can’t help but accomplish them. How small? How about flossing ONE tooth, doing ONE push up, taking ONE drink of water, walking for ONE minute. As explained by behavioral psychologist BJ Fogg, it’s a 3-step process that starts with a trigger, followed by an action, followed by a reward. Say, for example, you want to get better at taking your supplements. Start with your trigger (something you already do every day): “After I eat breakfast…” and then determine your new behavior, “I will take my multivitamin.” Finally, and this is just as important, celebrate your small step by saying something like, “I’m awesome!” as soon as you finish. This will help set you up for automatic, long-term success.
Now, start by asking yourself how can you make it so easy that you can’t say no. And start there.
8) Create if, then scenarios: Let’s be honest, life will throw you a curveball—if not every single day then at least most days. By creating if, then scenarios, you’ll be better prepared to overcome these obstacles to keep you on track even on “one of those days” when life clobbers you with the unexpected. As much as we’d like to, we can’t always control everything.
Say, for example, your conference call goes long, and you miss your usual lunchtime workout. So, what now? It turns out that if you provide yourself with a solution for how to deal with an obstacle beforehand, you can pretty much overcome the obstacle without much thought or resistance. In the example above, if you have your if, then plan already mentally arranged, you’ll just workout for at least 30 minutes after work (for example). Or get up 30 minutes early the next day. Let’s say you forgot to pack your lunch (or worse, packed it and left it sitting on the dining room table). Have a plan in place to order a large salad with lean meat from [choose your favorite local restaurant that serves healthy meals]. In other words, have a plan B for when your original plans go awry.
9) Focus on improvement: Is exercise something you’ve never done? Do you see yourself as a born couch potato? Are you addicted to your afternoon coffee and bagel? Maybe it’s tough to see yourself succeeding—how can you change that much? After all, you’ve always been this way.
The one thing that is constant is change. You’re changing every single day, cell by cell, whether you see it or not. Maybe you weren’t born a natural athlete, but there is one thing you can be guaranteed: if you put in effort, you will improve. I love the way both meditation and yoga instructors emphasize that it’s about practice. It’s not about being able to contort your body into this shape or keep your mind focused for hours at a time. It’s about showing up and practicing. Focusing on those little, tiny improvements (or sometimes those big leaps that happen after weeks or months of practice). You may not be “good,” but you can always be better. So, give yourself a break and celebrate your improvements. As the saying goes, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress.
Your Fitness Resolutions…Realized
No matter what your fitness resolutions are for the upcoming year, we wish you much success and hope these scientifically based tips help you not just stick to new positive habits but build the happier, healthier, leaner, and stronger life and body you truly deserve!