It’s that time of year again when we reflect on the year and focus on the things we want to change with the upcoming excuse to start over with a fresh slate. And while we all write up our New Year’s resolutions with good intentions, some of the most recurring themes when it comes to the obstacles we face are feelings of obligation, remaining consistent, and setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves.
TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL RESOLUTIONS
FOCUS ON WHAT’S MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU. I think when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, we tend to overload ourselves with goals we think we should have rather than goals we truly envision for ourselves – that’s when these goals tend to become more of an obligation + chore rather than a useful tool to help drive motivation. So instead of overloading yourself with goals that don’t entirely matter to you, give yourself a manageable list of goals that fit your desires for your life.
BE REALISTIC. To me, this is the most important thing to keep in mind. It is possible to overload yourself with too many goals to keep track of or to set the bar too high, both of which can ultimately make you feel like you set yourself up for failure – in the end, it can make you give up on your goals altogether. Which leads me to my next point:
START SMALL + WORK YOUR WAY UP. Your goals need to have a fine balance between being something that challenges you but not being something that intimidates you. It’s okay to work in terms of checkpoints/milestones instead of looking at the year as a whole – in fact, it will be better for you in the long run. Creating goals in terms of a year gives you something to work towards but tends to result in a lack of urgency. You are NOT limited to only setting goals on January first. Set your first set of goals on the 1st, and when you’ve gotten to a certain point, re-evaluate and add to what you’ve been doing (if you’re ready). Examples of what checkpoints could look like include:
EASING INTO THE IDEA OF FORMING A CERTAIN HABIT – I.E. START BY GOING TO THE GYM ONCE A WEEK FOR 30 MINUTES FOR THE MONTH OF JANUARY, TWICE A WEEK FOR 30 MINUTES DURING THE MONTH OF FEBRUARY, THREE TIMES A WEEK FOR 30 MINUTES EACH FOR THE MONTH OF MARCH, ETC UNTIL YOU’VE BUILT YOURSELF UP TO WHERE YOU WANT TO BE VS. TELLING YOURSELF TO GO TO THE GYM EVERYDAY FOR AN HOUR RIGHT OFF THE BAT.
BREAK THE YEAR UP INTO QUARTERS – I.E. LOSE 10-15 LBS BY THE END OF MARCH, ANOTHER 10-15 LBS BY THE END OF JUNE, ETC VS. SAYING “LOSE 50 LBS THIS YEAR”
REWARD YOURSELF FOR REACHING MILESTONES. One year, I told myself that if I could be consistent about going to the gym 3 times a week for an entire month, I would buy myself a pair of good, wireless headphones. If your goal is to lose 10-15 lbs by the end of March, reward yourself with a new outfit. Incentivizing your goals adds a little extra motivation to get stuff done + gives you something to look forward to.
BE WEARY OF DIETS. There is a difference between diets and simply eating healthy/leading a healthier lifestyle. Diets focus on cutting certain foods/nutrients out, which could possibly have negative effects on 1) the body if the diet cuts out nutrients necessary for proper functioning, and 2) self-esteem if we don’t stay as accountable as we might have hoped. In fact, diets can lead us to possibly have worse dietary habits than before – it’s sort of a vicious cycle between negative self-talk and binging on the foods we swore not to eat. This concept can apply to a lot of strict goals we set for ourselves.
I’m not saying to not diet – in fact, I myself am wanting to try out the keto diet for a couple months, simply to try something new/to see what kind of success I might have. All I’m saying is to be careful – you are not a failure if you slip up. If the diet as a whole feels too challenging/intimidating, take some of the main concepts and incorporate them into your routine gradually.
EDUCATE YOURSELF. There’s lots that you can educate yourself on when it comes to your health, but the one I want to touch on is weight loss since it usually is the most prevalent type of goal being set this time of year. While the number on the scale and your BMI are decent indicators of your health regarding your weight, it is best paired with other measurements of body composition.
BMI only takes into account your height + weight – nothing else. It doesn’t take into consideration lean vs. fat mass in the body, and is therefore should not be used a sole indicator. Weight is certainly a much better measurement, but it can be deceiving. If you’ve been working out (especially if you’ve been working on strength training), odds are that your muscle mass will go up and fat mass will go down. However, muscle has a higher density than fat, which would cause the number on the scale to go up. To those who don’t realize this, it could play a huge role in discouragement and allowing someone to believe their efforts simply aren’t working. I’m not saying avoid the scale, but use it in combination with getting your body composition measured, or by using a measuring tape to take the circumference of your waist, hips, arms, thighs, neck, etc – whatever you see fit to measure. I guarantee it will be much more indicative of your progress.
CREATING YOUR RESOLUTION
ENVISION. One of my favorite classes that I took in college was my Health + Wellness Coaching class – it really taught me the importance of goal setting and how to strengthen them. The first step in setting any goals is to envision your most well self, or painting a picture of what your most well self is. What do you look like? What do you do? How do you feel?
CREATE. This is where you set your SMART goal. I have a whole post over SMART goals here, but in short, these are goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.
EVALUATE. Ask yourself things like why is this goal important to you? It could be for a number of reasons, and no answer is wrong or right – but it might effect just how long you keep up with your goal (i.e. working out because you want to be healthier vs. working out solely to achieve that “spring break/summer bod”).
A technique that will help you evaluate your strengths/resources + weaknesses/obstacles is scaling your confidence on a scale of 1 to 10. Say you rate yourself a 7 on a particular goal – why are you a 7 instead of a 5? or not a 9? This will help you see how attainable/realistic that goal is for you and gives you the knowledge of where you can tweak certain details of your goal.
Also take time to think what does a normal day look like? This will help you best evaluate when you can incorporate your new goals throughout your day. Don’t be afraid to adjust if your original plan doesn’t work out like you initially thought.
KNOW THE RECOMMENDATIONS. If you’re looking to build yourself up to what professionals recommend as far as exercise, here’s what ACSM has to say:
FOR CARDIORESPIRATORY EXERCISE: ADULTS SHOULD GET AT LEAST 150 MINUTES OF MODERATE-INTENSITY EXERCISE PER WEEK. THIS RECOMMENDATION CAN BE MET THROUGH 30-60 MINUTES OF MODERATE-INTENSITY EXERCISE 5 DAYS A WEEK, OR 20-60 MINUTES OF VIGOROUS-INTENSITY EXERCISE 3 DAYS A WEEK.
FOR STRENGTH EXERCISE: ADULTS SHOULD TRAIN EACH MAJOR MUSCLE GROUP 2-3 DAYS EACH WEEK TARGETING EACH MAJOR MUSCLE GROUP. TO READ MORE ON HOW TO DESIGN A STRENGTH WORKOUT, SEE MY POST HOW TO MAKE YOUR STRENGTH WORKOUT LESS INTIMIDATING.
FOR FLEXIBILITY EXERCISE: ADULTS SHOULD PERFORM FLEXIBILITY EXERCISES 2-3 DAYS EACH WEEK TO IMPROVE RANGE OF MOTION; EACH STRETCH SHOULD BE HELD FOR AT LEAST 10-30 SECONDS AT POINT OF TIGHTNESS/SLIGHT DISCOMFORT.
If you’ve made it all the way through this post, I applaud you – I know that this was a lot of potentially overwhelming information to get through. But I hope that it helps you feel more confident in your goals for the upcoming year – we might not need a new year to set goals, but something about it sure does feel good!
What is one of your goals for this year? Let me know in the comments!