The Curse of the New Year’s Resolution
Most of us have made them and with the best intentions, so why are New Year’s resolutions so disappointing? Hmmm. Let me think on that for a moment… Oh yeah! Because we’re making a promise to ourselves to accomplish a goal that we have been unable to accomplish for the entire year prior! What makes us believe that if we haven’t been able to follow our own lead for so long that one magical day, albeit the first day of a shiny new year, we will find enough dedication and discipline to make things happen? Maybe it’s optimism, maybe it’s guilt, but whatever the cause, it just isn’t working for us folks…
According to Forbes.com, over 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions and of that 40%, only 8% actually accomplish them. Of course these resolutions come in many shapes and sizes ranging from resolving to finish a book that’s been half read all year to losing 20 pounds. No matter what the magnitude of the resolution, they tend to fail.
I have a few theories on the reasons for the many misfires. First off, a lot of resolutions are out of one’s reach and therefore unobtainable. The resolver is setting themselves up for certain failure. Another reason is the resolution is without merit. It’s a shallow goal and gets lost in the shuffle due to it’s lack of importance. Finally, some of these well intended resolutions are made without consideration to the resolver’s reality. Their schedules, commitments or basic habits do not allow for them to accomplish the goal they have set out for.
Across the board and throughout many studies involving behaviors pertaining to the New Year’s resolution, fitness and weight loss seem to consistently show up on the top 3 most resolved goals. Not coincidentally, these are 2 common goals that human beings have trouble accomplishing all year round! So in the spirit of the season, I’m going to address my 3 theories for why New Year’s resolutions don’t stick apply them to fitness and weight loss specifically. I’m hoping that these revelations will carry over to goals set all year round.
Setting Unobtainable Resolutions
When setting a goal that involves your health and fitness, it seems inspiring to shoot for the moon. Why not strive for the body of the super model or to give up your very favorite high calorie vice? I mean that means results, right? Well, it can but in most cases it leads to disappointment. Setting potentially unobtainable goals is setting yourself up for failure. Instead, start smaller and work up to the biggies. Start by setting tangible goals in which noticeable results are achieved quicker. Seeing positive changes in your body that result from your own work and dedication is an awesome feeling and completely addictive! Instead of striving for the magazine icon, choose a pair of jeans that just don’t fit anymore, close but not quite.The fact that they fit before means they can fit again. Once you’re rocking those again, take it a little further if you choose to and pull out the swimsuit that you weren’t quite comfortable donning and make that your next goal. With regard to giving up that treat that you can’t imagine living without, be careful not to deprive yourself entirely of something that you love. You’ll only end up cranky or overdoing it when you finally do get ahold of it again! I tell my clients this all the time when they say they want to lose weight. I ask them what they eat that they believe is truly counterproductive to losing weight. I recommend that they have it in doses initially. If it’s chocolate, have a square of organic dark chocolate when the craving hits instead of the giant slice of chocolate cake. If it’s wine they feel they can’t live without, nurse a half of glass with dinner and finish the night with tea. You shouldn’t have to suffer and avoid all the simple pleasures to get fit, you just have to learn how to moderate.
Setting Meritless Resolutions
I know we all know what these are and have made them regardless of the time of year. For example, being nice to that obnoxious girl at the office, taking our trash out on time, etc… How do these apply to fitness? Well maybe bench pressing more even though you know you’re at your max. Taking that Zumba class regularly even though you’ve absolutely hated it every time you’ve taken it just because the instructor has a perfect body that you want to have as well. Going vegan for a year, not because you have an issue with harming animals or have digestion issues but just to see if you can do it. Those are examples of meritless goals in my opinion. They’re not goals that you are making to obtain any long term results really, just to see if you can do it. Time is precious, spend it working toward wellness and goals that mean something to you.
Setting Unrealistic Resolutions
Different than unobtainable goals, unrealistic goals are set without consideration to your own daily reality and existence. When you make a fitness plan for yourself, all things should be considered. Your work schedule, home life and responsibilities, sleep patterns, relationships, geographical location, all of it. The bartender that works until 3:30 am 4 nights a week would not be wise to commit to the 8:30 am local boot camp. The stock broker that works market hours shouldn’t buy a package of the 7:00 pm kick boxing class at their gym. The mom of 3 that only has between 8:00 am and 1:30 pm 3 days a week to do absolutely everything she needs to get done probably shouldn’t commit to a 2 hour tennis match 3 days a week. We have to be realistic about what our lives will allow time for so that fitness does not become a burden or inconvenience. We have jobs and domestic responsibilities. Bartender should try and find a gym or class in the afternoon before the bar shift starts. The endorphins produced during the workout will give an extra boost of energy to get through the long tough shift. Stock broker should find a lunch time or late afternoon work out that allows for an early bedtime. And mom of 3 could drop the kiddos at school and head straight to a 1 hour morning Pilates or Yoga class that finishes with enough time to get the rest of it done and still pick up the kiddos at the bus.
Circling back to the topic of New Year’s resolutions and why they don’t work, it’s all about being realistic and honest with ourselves. Fitness and wellness should be priorities in our lives but also an obtainable and tangible part of our regular routines. We should be challenged but also a willing participant. The goals we set should be long term and with the understanding that longevity of life is mostly attributed to taking care of ourselves. When we can’t make time for it or force unpleasant routines upon ourselves, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. Just as making a once a year promise to ourselves to do something we should have done all year long. This New Year’s Eve, toast your friends, family and a world of endless opportunities then spend the entire next 12 months getting it done, just like you did the last 12 months…