With the new year finally upon us, I can pretty much guarantee that a good amount of you are trying to get yourselves started off on the right foot. Maybe you resolved to be happier this year, or healthier, or even both! The unfortunate truth, though, is that for many people, resolutions fail over and over and over again. Have you ever wondered why that is? I believe it’s because many people don’t have the tools or the know-how to make sustainable life changes. How do you prevent yourself from being one of those people? Follow some of these steps to increase your chances of making the positive changes you have promised yourself in 2015.
- Make your goal clear: I find that this is the single biggest stumbling block that people have when trying to make any changes, be they New Years resolutions or not. Some people make a habit of setting broad and unclear goals like “look better” or “be happy”. Those are both great aspirations but they’re too vague. “Look better” could mean completely different things to different people. “Happy” is too subjective. In order for your resolutions to have a chance at being successful, they need to be clear. Let’s take the example of someone who has resolved to “look better” in the new year. What does “look better” mean to them? Do they intend to get a new haircut? If so, what cut and when? Alter their weight? How and what method and timeline will they use? Change something about their skin or nails? In what way? Make sure that you are very specific about what your goal means to you. Continue asking yourself questions until you are sure that your goal is clear.
- Break It Down: Now that you know exactly what your end goal is, it could be easy for it to seem impossible to reach. If things seem insurmountable, break that goal down into a series of smaller goal to reach along the way. If you need to, further break those goals down into daily ones. It may seem impossible to make a huge change over a year, but a few small changes one day at a time are much easier to handle.
- Start Slow: Nobody goes from being a couch surfer to a big wave surfer overnight. Nothing magical has happened between 11:59 pm and 12:01 am. It’s important to be honest with yourself about where you are and where you want to go as well as the time it’s going to take to get there. Starting off too drastically usually means the change won’t be sustainable and you will end up giving up because it’s gotten too hard too fast.
Let’s take the example of the person who has chosen to “look better” and assume that they have further narrowed that down to mean lose weight, which is a very common goal. If this person hasn’t been exercising regularly but decides they are going to start working out every day, it’s possible that it might be too much for them to handle. The same holds true for changes in what you eat. A person who is used to eating things like pizza, burgers, pasta, etc. may struggle to suddenly embrace a vegan and carb-free lifestyle. By making the changes slowly, you allow yourself to find a new “normal” before making another change. Adjusting over time helps your mind and body to accept the changes more easily so that they become a more permanent part of your life.
- Curb Your Enthusiasm: This goes hand in hand with my previous point. Not only do people sometimes start off too quickly, they also tend to let their enthusiasm get the best of them and they begin with too much intensity. This intensity makes changes difficult to keep up and, in some cases, can do more harm than good.
Again, let’s look at our example. Imagine this person goes from having no exercise experience to working out at high intensity every day. Lifting weights, intense cardio, etc. are all great workouts, but they need to be added to your regimen slowly or you risk doing some serious damage. A workout related injury can not only prevent you from losing weight, it can actually limit your activity level to below normal, which can actually make you GAIN weight. By adding in new aspects slowly over time, people are more likely to be able to keep up with the changes and also to see benefits as opposed to potential problems.
- Ask for Help: When it comes to making major changes, most people are venturing into territory that they’re not familiar with. To have the best chance at success in your changes, don’t be afraid to ask for help from the experts.
Looking at our example, this person would be best served by visiting with their doctor before undertaking any dietary or exercise changes. Their doctor will be able to help them set goals and suggest other avenues for them to explore in their weight loss goals such as a nutritionist or personal trainer.