Time to Make New Year Resolutions?

Are you thinking about making resolutions for 2020? According to History.com, the practice of making new year resolutions has been around for thousands of years and what we now call resolutions used to be promises made to the gods to behave better in the upcoming year. Resolutions are now made to ourselves in an effort to better ourselves and/or our lives. While 45 percent of Americans make resolutions, only 8 percent are actually successful. If we’re so bad at keeping them, why do we keep on making them?

Untitled design (66)Well, there’s something very attractive about new beginnings. So, a new year, a new month, a new day seems like an ideal time start something new. I personally believe that so many people fail because they’re making this resolution for the year, “this year I will…”, and have given themselves a year to accomplish it and therefore make the goal a big one. That, in itself, is not the problem. A year is actually a good amount of time to make some real changes, but, people don’t create a gradual plan for the year. They create a crash course that they intend on keeping until they reach their goal. “I will run 5 miles every day.” “I’ll only eat salads.” “I will meditate for an hour every day.” Starting from square one, each of these are too severe to expect to be able to maintain them. They end up falling off the wagon and, feeling defeated, give up never having reached their goal. The best way to reach your goal is to start with a small behavior to change, one small step forward. Then, as your body and your mind are ready for it, you can progress to something more challenging. Running 5 miles might begin as walking a half mile every other day. See how it feels after the first week and maybe add a day or progress to a half mile walk/run.

If you want to achieve your resolution, create a progression. Rather than trying to take one giant leap, start with a small step. The idea of committing to smaller steps is easier on us physically, mentally, and takes less time to chisel out of our schedule. Once the first small step is taken, a second one can happen, then a third. Sustainable change is the accumulation of small progressive steps.

As the saying goes, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu

The Problem With New Year Resolutions

The new year is coming up and with that come the new year resolutions that rarely get accomplished. We’ve had enough new years come and go and most of us have experienced that feeling of the unachieved promise we made for the new year. Why do you think resolutions are so hard to keep? I have a few thoughts about it that I’m going to share with you.

newyearresolutionResolutions rarely come with a plan. They are typically announced (even to ourselves) as a platitude. “This year I will… lose 40lbs, start my own business, quit smoking, spend more quality time with my family, etc.” These are well intentioned statements that, when not accompanied by a detailed plan, can put huge pressure on an individual. They are also highly unlikely to be achieved which leaves us feeling like losers.

Resolutions should also, like any goal, be set using SMART guidelines. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Bound.

Specific is the details of the goal. If your goal is to lose weight, how much and how are you going to accomplish that. I will lose 40lbs by creating an exercise routine that consists of 30min of cardio and 30min of weight lifting three times per week. I will also track my calories using myfitnesspal app and stay within my allotted calorie range.

Measurable, is that specific goal measureable? Well, the more specific it is, the easier it is to measure. Did you workout or not? Did you track your calories or not? Having said that, it may be a better choice to not be black and white about it. Give yourself a percentage ranking for the tasks. I worked out twice this week instead of three. So, I scored 66%. Now, what can you do to get yourself to 100%?

Attainable is a reality check. Is this something you can actually achieve? We can achieve most things, but if I were to say that I wanted to play pro basketball (at age 59), it is highly unlikely that I can make that happen.

Realistic, Well, this has always bugged me a little. It’s really the same idea as Attainable. Is this goal realistic? Honestly, having been born and raised in Maine, I prefer to go with the Maine version. Mainers would pronounce smart “smat” (dropping the r sound) which works just as well as a goal setting guideline.

Time bound is simply putting a deadline on reaching your goals. Without a deadline, it becomes easy to put things off. As the  Parkinson’s law states, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. The longer you give it, the longer it takes and with no deadline, it will unlikely get done at all.

Our resolutions should also come with a strong and detailed Why. Why is attaining this goal so important to you. Why is this goal important to you? Losing weight is not about looking better or being healthier. It might be about feeling more self confidence when you feel you look better or it may be about being healthier so that you will live long enough to see your grandchildren grow up. Write dow the real, deeper reason why your goal is important.

To top off our chances of success, we should have someone that we are accountable to. Maybe you ask a friend or family member to help keep you on task. Check in as often as you need, but set a regular schedule. Every day at 8pm, or every Monday at 7am. You could even set a time that you check in with yourself. The key is to set a time to objectively evaluate how you are doing.

So, if you want to win at the resolution game, be SMART, know your why, and be accountable for your meeting your steps toward your goal.