Resolution Monday, that day and time of the year when you’ve had enough of everything that happened last Monday thru Sunday, last month thru this month and of course last year thru this year. January is a hot bed of guilt, self-flagellation and king of goal setting of the most GINORMOUS size. Good intentions are fueled by the ringing in of a New Year, like the birth of a newborn baby. Congratulations on the birth of your new intention, may it bring you many days of joy and lack of sleep.
Let’s talk about New Year Resolutions from a statistical view, since we all know I am essentially a science nerd masquerading as a Fitness and Nutrition Professional. Did you know:
The Top 5 Resolutions are
- Lose Weight (shocking!)
- Get Organized
- Spend less and Save more
- Enjoy Life to the Fullest
- Stay Fit and Healthy
45% of Americans usually make resolutions, 17% occasionally and 38% never. Of the percent that make resolutions, only 8 % are actually successful and 29% always fail. Most of the resolutions made are for some kind of self-improvement (47%) and of course weight loss (38%).
Resolutions are very simply a reflection of our best hope for ourselves. We want to be healthy, we want to be Hollywood thin (I do!), we want to have money in the bank, we want to feel engaged in our life, we want to stop losing our car keys and find our favorite pair of socks in a nice neat sock drawer. It’s not too much to ask…is it? Well…yeah…yeah it is. When a goal (intention/resolution) is too big, it creates an intense amount of anxiety. Ironically the thing we want to change about ourselves is also the thing that makes us the most disappointed in ourselves. Nothing is more motivating that feeling bad about yourself! Some misguided parents would call this reverse psychology, I say something terrible about you and you’ll get so mad at yourself you will change it! Little Johnny…your sister gets all A’s…what’s WRONG with you! Are you STUPID! Twenty years later poor little Johnny is pulling time for robbery because he thought he was too stupid and worthless and dropped out of school. Saying negative things about yourself or another person is not inspiring. Setting a goal that is outside of your limitations is quite simply the road to failure. What we want for ourselves is to feel good about who we are, isn’t that our best hope for ourselves? The good news is you CAN succeed at resolutions and goals when you create them in a manner that ensures your success.
Let me help you with that.
There are a few key points to goal setting, but the single most important ONE is the Power of ONE.
The Power of Less is book written by Leo Babauta, the concepts of this book are designed on the theory that less is more. In our society we have a hard time scaling back our thoughts, desires and actions into more simplistic actions, thoughts or desires. Dream big is what your told. The bigger the dream the better, the bigger the goal the better, Go Big or Go Home they say. What a bunch of hooey. To revisit my science nerd stats…you have an 80% chance of success when you focus on one small goal and as the number of goals increase your chance of success decreases to <20%. The difference is when you pick ONE habit you can focus all your effort on creating that one habit rather than trying to create a basket of habits and dropping them like apples.
The hardest part about the Power of Less, is that it takes time. And time and patience are not the quick fix most people are after. Which is why we have fast food and get impatient at the checkout counter if something takes longer than 2 minutes. We want what we want now. It’s human nature. And because we now live in a world where that’s possible it makes waiting harder. This is why you will never see an infomercial on losing weight with the Power of Less. “Looking for weight loss? Looking to get fit? “ We guarantee results in one year! I doubt the phone would even ring. Yet it is what works in the long run. And it sticks…that’s the best part. January brings with it an onslaught of weight loss products and fitness gadgets, that promises you what? They promise FAST results…why in as little as 5 minute you can lose 5 inches off your waist and have the abs of a 20 year old fitness model. The lure of getting what you want with little effort, it’s created a billion dollar industry that thrives on your desire to be the best you can be. And yet…the obesity rates climb higher and higher, people can’t make it work. They want to be active, they want to lose weight but the mountain is just too high to climb. I suggest we get rid of the mountain and replace it with a molehill!
Let me throw this little challenge out, pick one small habit that will have the biggest impact on your resolution. It could be anything that you feel a chance at mastery over. What are some small habits that are ultimately huge with weight loss? Is it replacing soda with water? You can easily measure replacing soda with water, did you drink 8 glasses of water, and did you eliminate 2 cans of soda? Without the measurement, how do you know if you were successful? This is a habit you should be able to consistently follow through on everyday. Most important be positive and have self-compassion. Try to avoid shaming yourself if you slip, because there is nothing motivating or inspiring about name calling. Nothing.
Let’s discuss the components of a goal. They have acronym for this…SMART. Broken down it means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time based. Cutting out soda and replacing it with water meets all the criteria. It’s specific…No Soda, it’s measurable…2 cans, it’s attainable …water is available, it’s relevant…less soda equals weight loss, and it’s time based…this week I will cut out soda!
Now we have to determine the difference between a goal and a dream. If it’s not written down it’s a dream. Pretty simple.
You must develop a plan of action. Be specific, toning up and losing some weight are vague notions, not goals. Realistic goals need to reflect an accurate understanding of how long this might take. Timeline, you have to set a specific amount of time to a goal, otherwise once again your just wishing. To be inspired a goal must be personally meaningful. You need a deeper value for it to stick. I think this is where some people get hung up, they don’t really know or have a value placed on what losing weight or developing healthy habits means to them on a gut level.
To set a successful goal, you have know who you are. Do you understand your strengths and weaknesses, your passion…your story? This requires a little self evaluation. Sometimes our beliefs about ourselves are slightly above our real abilities. This is your time to be brutally honest. Personally I have pondered many a goal that would/could improve my life. But when I step back and…really look…at who I am in the world…it isn’t gonna happen. Nope…I am not giving up wine or shoes. Losing weight, getting in shape is a form of reinvention. We want to build a better us. But in order for that to happen there must be concordance between what really maters to us and the goals we set. This is basically you do it for you…and you alone.
Okay, nobody wants to be a failure so how can you ensure that this time you won’t fail? . Truth Alert! There is no way to avoid failure there can only be ways to minimize failure. All day long your mind is creating automatic thoughts, some of which might be negative or self defeating. The more real the thought is, the more real the action. So if your thought is “ I am a stress eater, hand me a donut”…and a donut appears? What will your action be? If your thought says “ I am a stress eater, hand me a carrot”…what is your action? We underestimate the power of food. Your brain want’s a reward. It wants some feel good dopamine. It’s not going to let go of that easily…knowing why your brain is so stubborn when it comes to macaroni and cheese can help you direct your efforts and realize you will fail a few times before you succeed. We all expect some kind of happiness from our food, it’s depressing when we remove it. Sometimes this results in negotiations, which can be exhausting. If I do this now, then I can do that later, but only if and then. Willpower has a time limit. Most people make better choices during the day before they get tired and worn out from the daily stress. This is why planning is key. You may have every intention at 7am to “ stop at the grocery and pick up fresh salmon”, but odds are after a long workday that chance diminishes. Then we all have the recurring rationalizations…“ It’s okay this one time” and “ I deserve it” and “ Cheat this time and I’ll be more disciplined the rest of the day” and lastly“ This is too hard”. Be Fully Committed, you can’t have half a toe in the water.
Finally I would like to make a distinction between a Outcome goal and a Behavior goal. One focuses on the result (outcome) and the other on the process (behavior).
Outcome goals are very specific such as losing 10lbs in 10 weeks. I want to lose weight or get healthy is not…that’s a wish. An outcome goal is what you want and a behavior goal is what your going to do to get to the outcome you want. Behavior goals are the steps you take to accomplish your Outcome goal. It’s an action that you choose to do everyday. In order to lose 10lbs in 10 weeks, I am going to cut my calories by 500 everyday, or I am going to add 50grams of protein and remove a starchy carb. Personally I know that using positive actions versus negative actions is beneficial. Declare what you are going to do versus what your not going to do, I am going to eat more green vegetables versus I am not going to eat cookies.
Resolution Monday…with some realistic goal setting that is combined with an action plan this could be your year to succeed. Old habits are hard to break and New habits are hard to make. This week I want you to pick one small habit…just one. Conquer that and you’re on your way to really being the best version of you! A solid house is built one nail, one brick at a time…go build yourself a better house for your spirit.