I’m not the biggest fan of New Year’s resolutions. When it comes to setting goals, which I find is a better use of energy than setting resolutions, I like to use my birthday rather than the day our yearly calendar resets. I understand that some people see the New Year as a blank slate– like somehow all their lack of healthy eating, lack of exercise, and bad habits from the past year are erased and they can start over.
Sorry to break it to you but your body knows that only a few days ago you were sitting on the couch re-watching all of seasons one and two of Downton Abbey and finishing all of the holiday treats lying around your house. Your body remembers that you haven’t eaten healthy or given it the nourishment it needs and haven’t taken care of it by exercising and getting outside. A sweeping change, like a resolution to go to the gym everyday or eat a salad every meal, will likely fail because your body is going to be freaking out at these sudden changes. You are very likely to burn out quickly if you decide that the New Year is the marker for some drastic change in your life. I’m not trying to belittle everyone who made a resolution, I’m just trying to be realistic:
Drastic changes don’t work for a majority of people – but incremental changes and consistency will.
I’ve talked before about creating habits, and suggested a couple of articles on habit forming. Your physical body and your mind both have memories – have you heard of athletes and musicians having muscle memory? Well both athletes and musicians have spent a lot of time practicing to gain that muscle memory. Practicing is a habit they have formed which then became part of their daily life. Its great if you have planned to run a half marathon this year, but don’t think you’ll suddenly be able to go on 5 to 10 mile training runs when you’ve never managed a 5k before. Start small, with a couple of miles 2 or 3 days a week, or a long run/walk of 3-5 miles on the weekend. Form a plan to reach that goal.
If your resolution is to “be fit” then I’m going to advise you now to choose a different resolution. No one knows exactly what “being fit” is. If your goal is to lose 3% body fat or 10 pounds, then make that your specific goal and take the incremental steps to attain it.
Set goals and plan out the steps to reach those goals.
Let’s say your vague resolution is to “travel more,” well pick a place or places, look at times you can take off from work or school, and figure out how you’re going to save the money to pay for it. Those steps will keep you from getting to December 31st, 2013 wishing you had traveled more during 2013.
What about “eating healthier”- don’t start by restricting everything you’ve been eating your whole adult life. Start adding vegetables to your diet, don’t take anything away at first. Learn to cook one healthy meal a week, then in seven weeks time you’ll know how to cook a healthy meal for every day of the week!
The more specific your goal, and the more you plan out the individual steps to reach that goal, then it is realistic that you will attain that goal.
I keep my list of goals here and I am choosing a few to accomplish this coming year and I have put the steps in place for them already: I am continuing to fuel my life on a plant-based diet, I am signed up and training to complete a half Ironman distance triathlon, I’ll finally be running an official 10k in January (one of those weird instances where I skipped a race distance somehow on my way to running a marathon,) speaking of marathons I’ll be running another marathon in March, I read over 20 books last year and have already read one book this year, plus I am in the works of getting some travel plans organized.
Do you need to turn your New Year’s resolutions into attainable goals? How are you going to take the steps to attain them?