Every year we make resolutions and the overwhelming majority of them involve diet and exercise. Stay on track this year by following these ideas outlined by Steve Edwards. Original article can be found here.
Most of us make resolutions to somehow change ourselves for the better in the upcoming year. More often than not, these resolutions involve promising ourselves to get into better shape, improve our diet, or quit some habit we think is hurting our health or well-being.
While the practice of making health-related resolutions tends to be great for business at Beachbody (or any health and fitness company), these resolutions really only matter to you if they’re helpful to you. Unfortunately, the statistics show that most of us won’t see our resolutions through to the end of the coming year. Of course, you’re an individual, not a statistic. Whether or not you succeed is entirely up to you.
Our job is to make your path to health and fitness easier. So here are some tips to help you succeed with your New Year’s makeover.
- Feel free to change your resolutions. After all, they’re yours. You made ‘em and you can change ‘em. While New Year’s resolutions are a great idea in theory, we tend to make them so challenging that most are virtually doomed to fail. Research tells us that the majority of people have already cheated on their resolutions or given up on them altogether by the end of the first week of January.The main reason is difficulty. The average resolution aims high—really high. For example, let’s look at the ubiquitous, “I’m going to stop smoking.” It’s pretty easy to mess this one up, and once you’ve cheated at all, it’s very easy to give up completely. In fact, a case could be made that many of us make our resolutions too difficult on purpose, because it makes it so much easier to stop trying. Instead, attempt a more holistic approach. Maybe your resolution is to stop smoking, but throw in “by the end of the year.” Now you’ve got an entire year to work toward your goal.
- Make a plan. This is a big step, because given the scenario above, without a plan it’s unlikely that you’ll change anything in your lifestyle until the following December. Most of us can look at a calendar for the coming year and come up with a decent idea about our schedule and what might work for us if we were, say, going to schedule an event as part of a resolution. Taking a minute to look at the upcoming year can give you a realistic sense of what you want to attempt.Again, using quitting smoking as an example, you might want to schedule some kind of healthy retreat where you can cleanse yourself, get healthy, etc., during the year. You’ll need to know your schedule, or, as we tend to do, you may find your resolution-related goal happens to fall during a month when you’ve got a lot of other obligations. Planning ahead will help stack the odds in your favor. Then you can also plan goals for the months leading up to your retreat.
- Remember the big picture. This one has to do with the fact that most resolutions are about self-improvement (or helping someone or something else improve). Some of the main resolutions we make are to quit a bad habit, change the way we look or feel, or become more educated. All these things require our minds and bodies to change. And while it is possible to do a 100-percent turnaround at the stroke of midnight on December 31st, it’s not very likely. Your chances for success will increase dramatically if you use your brain and make a plan that allows for failure, plays to your strengths, and moves toward your overall goal in a way that makes it harder for you to give up than to keep going.Again using quitting smoking as an example, here’s an idea that’s focused on the big picture. Break the year into 12 months. For January, you might want to start with an exercise program, because you know that the harder your body has to work physically, the less it’ll crave cigarettes. So your entire first month might not actually address your ultimate goal directly. Instead, it can focus on something you know will help you down the line.
- Involve your family. If you’ve got a family, find a way to involve them in your quest. If you can’t get them on your side, you might face some trouble, because you might find they’re pulling you in the opposite direction. If quitting smoking is your goal, chances are your family will be supportive and do anything you ask. So for this example, let’s use a family that consists of a dog, who isn’t about to stop you from doing something you enjoy. Involving your dog is easy, because while he doesn’t care whether or not you smoke, Fido would certainly rather have you out hiking with him. So thinking something like “When I want a cigarette, I’ll take the dog for a walk” could be an effective element in achieving your ultimate goal. And as you well know, Fido will be very supportive on this one.
- Involve your bad habits. We’ve all got some bad habits. If you can embrace yours and somehow involve them in your efforts to stick to your resolutions, you’ll stand a much better chance of achieving success. Let’s say you smoke most often when you’re out drinking socially. Since you know you’re vulnerable and will probably break down no matter what you tell yourself, find a roundabout way of allowing this.For example, in the beginning, you might allow yourself to socially smoke a cigarette if you’ve exercised for an hour that day. This can evolve over the year to be stricter—perhaps increasing the exercise intensity or time required to earn the reward. In this instance, the harder you exercise, the less your body will crave that cigarette. So even though you’ve set up a cigarette as a reward, you’ll be likely to find that you’ll crave it less and less the more you exercise. The possibilities are nearly endless, and you’ll need to get creative, but by involving your bad habits you’ll virtually eliminate your excuses to quit progressing toward your goal.
- Involve your good habits. While this should fall in the “duh” files, it’s surprising how often people try to ignore their own history when they attempt to make themselves over. Get realistic and embrace the things you like to do. Certainly, you must have some things that you love to do that are good for you—going for walks, dancing, a favorite sport. Make sure they’re a part of your plan.And even if something you love isn’t currently good for you, there’s usually a way to change that. For example, if you love watching House, you can make this more positive by vowing to stretch in front of the TV, or exercise during the commercials. An hourlong network TV show has 20 minutes of commercials. You can get a lot done in 20 minutes.
- Find strength in numbers. Even the most independent of us needs support from time to time. Unless your goal is completely off the radar, there’s probably a support group available, which you can prove to yourself by performing a 30-second Internet search. These support groups can be amazingly helpful and can fit any personality type. Even if you’re very shy, just reading through what others say can help to motivate and keep you on track.
- Get involved for a higher purpose. This doesn’t have to mean a religious higher power—although it can be. A higher purpose can be your family, your friends, or any number of causes—essentially anything that helps you make the world around you a better place. We can often wallow in our bad habits due to a sense of helplessness. Getting involved in something beyond yourself can give you the sense that your life matters, because, well, it does. Engagement can be very empowering. Not to mention fun.
- Schedule some alone time. This is important because we tend to allow the outside world to distract us. Often this is done for the most altruistic purposes, putting family, friends, or job above ourselves. But all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and allowing control of your own life to slip away—even for a higher purpose—isn’t the answer. If you’re not healthy, happy, and content, it’s going to be difficult for you to help others to be healthy, happy, and content. Even if it’s just minutes a day, make some time for yourself to be alone where you’re able to gather your thoughts and focus on what you want to happen in your future.
- Use a target goal that’s qualitative, not quantitative. Our society loves numbers. Losing X amount of pounds, running X amount of miles, going X number of days without smoking—these are things we dangle in front of ourselves as if they were some Holy Grail. In fact, these things have very little impact, if any, on what we really want, which is to improve our lives. Numbers can be great motivators. They can be nice as signposts on your road to progress. But they can also mislead you and shouldn’t be a part of your ultimate goal, because you can’t really control them. Shooting for unattainable numbers is one primary way we can sabotage our self-improvement goals. The adage “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game” isn’t just about sports. Live your life well, and in the end, you’ll be content, no matter where the numbers fall.