A new year often brings a renewed sense of motivation and a desire to improve upon oneself from the prior year. And, with that, come the resolutions, which often relate to losing weight, improving one’s diet, exercising more, or just getting healthier in general.
While these are all worthwhile objectives, University of Scranton research indicates that just 8% of the people who make such resolutions have success in sticking with and achieving them. With that said, here are my top tips on being part of that 8% and shaping a better you in 2015.
1. Evaluate where you are today.
Every improvement program worth doing begins with some kind of baseline assessment. For example, if you’re considering adding a running regimen to your workout protocol, first consider your current routine and fitness level. Are you currently doing any running? Have you been a runner in the past? Being mindful of those things will assist you, or your coach/trainer, in setting some realistic running-related goals for yourself. Likewise, if you aim to clean up your diet in 2015, spend several days logging your nutrition to get an objective view of your current diet. The key here, regardless of the goal, is to be sure you truly understand your current state before doing anything else. That way, you can aim to improve upon that baseline by some measurable – and achievable – amount.
2. Consider your capacity for change.
Now that you have an understanding of where you are today and where (in a general sense) you’d like to go from here, begin considering where you can realistically go. By that, I mean that before you set any goals, you must first consider your life obligations and priorities, such as your family, your job, and anything else that is important to you that should not be sacrificed. Further, you will need to consider how much time, energy, and – in some cases – funding you will have once your first priorities are met.
3. Establish small, realistic, and achievable goals, and nail them.
With those first two steps out of the way, it’s time to set some goals. You know at a high level what you want to do (i.e. lose weight, eat better, etc.), and that is great for keeping the big picture in mind. But, to get there, you must take many small steps.
Since most people can only tolerate so much change at one time before their bodies begin to retaliate, my advice to my clients is to identify one small thing they are going to begin doing and demonstrate that they can nail that goal before they move on to tackling any further goals. For example, a person who currently does not work out and whose diet routinely consists of food from fast food restaurants, convenience stores and vending machines, coupled with three sodas per day might be tempted to say he’s going to start working out daily and also refrain from eating processed food going forward. And while those are noble things to strive for, he will likely struggle to meet his goals, be it due to a requirement to completely overhaul his daily routine, a simple lack of cooking skills, uncertainty as to how to start an exercise program, or just the feeling of overwhelm at all of the changes it will require at one time. Regardless, a better goal to shoot for might be to say he is going to reduce his soda consumption to two sodas per day for one week. Then, once he's proven to himself he can do that, he can move on to one soda per day, one soda every other day, and so on.
While some may argue a cold turkey approach is superior to the gradual one I’m proposing, based on what I’ve seen in my practice, most people generally do better when making small, subtle changes over time rather one massive overhaul at the new year. But everyone is different, so if the latter works for you, by all means, do it. But, if you do opt for the small change route, first prove to yourself that you can make and sustain that first change, and only then do you move on to tackling the next one.
4. Be patient with yourself and strive for better, not perfect.
It takes time to successfully adapt to change. New routines and new commitments to oneself can be taxing, both physically and mentally. Couple that with general life stress in the form of sickness, responsibilities at work, family commitments, and so on, and it can be difficult to stay the course toward one’s goals.
There are going to be bumps in the road. Accept that, and realize that the path of change is not linear. You will make some progress, and you will have some setbacks. Acknowledge that this is all part of the process, and continue to move forward. The goal is not to be perfect, but to be better than you were yesterday. Remind yourself of this every single day.
I wish everyone the best in the new year and would love to hear If anyone incorporates this advice in their 2015 pursuits!