The New Year is a time of new beginnings. It’s a time to reflect on the past year and look forward to the year ahead. For so many, the New Year is an opportunity to honestly evaluate yourself and set realistic goals for the coming year. And, so often, the focus is on health. On January 1, 2012, thousands of people across the country genuinely commited to eating healthier and establishing an exercise routine.
In fact, according to www.Bing.com, in 2011, the top two searches after the New Year included weight loss and fitness. People have the best intentions in the New Year and vow to do all sorts of things to better their lives, from beginning an exercise routine to managing their money more carefully. However, whatever goal s you set, how many will make it through the entire year and beyond?
More often than not, people do not stick to their New Year’s resolution for very long. In one study conducted over two years, about one in five people, or 20 percent, are able to maintain their resolution for an entire year. Three in five, or 60 percent, had abandoned their resolution within six months.
Another study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in 2002 found that 75 percent of people stick to their new goals for only one week. Only 46 percent are still on track six months later. Men achieved their goals more often if they set small measurable goals and women achieved their resolution 10 percent more often if they had a friend help them.
There are two things that are undeniable. 2012 will be here soon and when it does so will thousands of resolutions! Do New Year’s resolutions really help promote change? Does setting any type of personal goal make a difference in whether or not we really stick to change? Research on the impact of resolutions suggests that it does help! However, as stated earlier, the majority of people who make some type of New Year’s resolution find that they don’t make significant progress towards their goal. Psychologists have found some very practical tips for improving your odds of achieving, or at least coming close to achieving, your New Year’s resolution.
Interestingly, it doesn’t appear to matter what type of resolution you make. For example, people who picked “weight loss” weren’t more or less likely to keep their resolution than people who picked “improve my relationship.” It also doesn’t appear to matter whether you are male or female, or, for that matter, young vs. old.
What does matter is how you go about specifying your goal and if you are willing to incorporate change in your life in an effort to meet that goal. Change is very difficult. In fact, it is human nature to resist change.
For the best chances at keeping your 2012 New Year’s resolution, try the following five steps for success in accomplishing your New Year’s resolution:
- Focus on One Resolution: Establish one resolution only. There is a much better chance of committing to that resolution if you stay focused on that one resolution. Working toward accomplishing that one goal will always make you feel better – guaranteed! If you establish more than one resolution and fall short on some of them, there is an innate sense of failure
- Establish a Support System: While the motivation to change always comes from within, making a long-term commitment to accomplishing your goal often requires support from family and/or friends. Share your resolution with people who will keep you focused and on a path toward success. People who are close to you will provide encouragement and emotional support when you feel weakness set in.
- Always Take Action: Don’t procrastinate. Get after your resolution and do so with enthusiasm. Making that initial effort is crucial when it comes to changing behavior. Changing a behavior creates a forward momentum and usually leads to more change. And the changes you make will become increasingly more pronounced. A word of caution: Making a big initial change is often too much of a shock and is not sustainable. Little incremental steps lend itself toward long-term commitment.
- Don’t Let a Setback Discourage You: Often, when change is implemented, you will eventually experience a period of burnout. Frequently, there will be a regression to old ways. Understand that this is normal and plan for it. You should also make a plan on how you will get back to your new ways. For example, if your goal is to implement a new exercise routine four times a week, plan for the time when you may miss a workout. However, make every effort to avoid one missed day becoming two missed days. Reward yourself for pushing through this challenging time. The key is to move on quickly from your disappointments.
- Be Specific About Your Goal: People who are successful with change are able to document what they will accomplish. Don’t be ambiguous about your resolution. Be specific! Setting a resolution of “eating healthier foods” is vague, and is bound for failure. However, establishing a goal of eating the recommended daily value of fruits and vegetables creates a hard number to shoot for.
I have been an endurance athlete for the past three decades and have been able to sustain an exercise and nutrition regimen during that time. My success has hinged on having realistic exercise and nutrition expectations.
If you truly want to start exercising regularly and lose weight, you may need to alter your exercise philosophy. As mentioned earlier, be specific in determining your new regimen. More importantly, design a routine that consists of activity that makes you happy. There is a wide range of fun exercise routines and group workout classes available. Do not waste your time immersed in a routine that you do not like. This approach is bound for failure. Some like Salsa classes. Others enjoy yoga. Many love resistance training. If you do what makes you happy, you’ll be more likely to sustain your routine long-term.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t challenge yourself. Set realistic goals based on your personality and character. You know yourself better than anyone and what you are capable of accomplishing. Also, establish benchmarks which are a great mechanism for sustaining your routine. Benchmarks are also great process for eventually adding to your routine when your fitness level increases.
A Positive Attitude is Everything
When embarking on anything new or life changing, you must be mentally prepared for what lies ahead. Focus on cultivating a new attitude. Life can often be a series of challenges. Periodically, we will face problems and obstacles. The true measure of character is not how you conduct yourself through the good times, but how you respond when confronted with hardship. And your attitude is a great place to start.
Those who have a positive attitude will treat any problem as a challenge to ultimately overcome. Instead of being discouraged, they treat each failure as a learning experience and will be motivated toward greater achievement.
For example, adopting a new dietary regimen is no easy resolution. The first step is always changing behavior, which means eliminating addictive foods from your diet. Again, make small changes in areas that are easier to accomplish. A great starting point may be to eliminate soda, fast food and minimize alcohol consumption. The next step may be reducing salty food intake such as potato chips. A great idea is to always examine the food portions you consume and adjust based on appropriate calorie and food group intake. Consider adding more raw vegetables to your diet.
The key is to make a realistic commitment to long-term change. And you must always have that positive attitude to guide you through the tough days that will ultimately happen. Remember, healthy eating must be a lifetime of continuous improvement and education about healthy foods.
Hopefully, by the time this article is published, you will have formulated a plan of attack for your New Year’s resolution. For the best chances at keeping your 2012 resolution, I encourage you to follow the previously listed five steps in an effort to position yourself for positive change and ultimate success in the coming year and beyond. You will realize better health and an increased quality of life. And you will inspire others to do the same. May 2012 be a breakthrough year for you. Good luck!