I just got back from my local gym. The parking lot was full, the Zumba class was packed, the trainers were signing up new clients like crazy. It’s that time of year again! Sadly, many of the best intentions fall by the wayside as the year progresses.
Here’s my abbreviated take on avoiding the failure, six recommendations that will help you succeed in making changes that will improve your health (physical, mental, or both) and happiness, turning resolutions into results:
1) TAKE SMALL STEPS
This is the most important thing you can do. It’s a core philosophy of mine that I recommend any time someone wants to tackle a difficult challenge, whether it’s initiating a search for a new career path or knocking two inches off your waistline. Here are a few examples of some common resolutions and suggestions on helping to keep them:
1. Eat healthier – You’re more likely to succeed in improving your diet if you gradually change your eating habits. Rather than pledging to eliminate all sweets, for example, you might start off by avoiding them on one day of the week this month, then two next month, etc.
2. Exercise more – January is when gyms make their largest profits because of the big increase of people signing up, but a large proportion of them stop working out by the time spring arrives. You may find more success in gradually increasing the duration and frequency of your workouts (starting off, perhaps, with 30 minutes just one day a week, rather than an hour three times a week.
3. Watch less TV (or play fewer video games, or spend less time on Facebook or Instagram) – Wean yourself away from these diversions gradually; experiment with a media-free weekday evening or weekend day.
4. Drink less – At a party alternate glasses of wine or beer with a non-alcoholic beverage like sparkling water.
2) GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK!
You’re very likely to slip up and not be able to consistently stick to whatever new regimen you’re determined to undertake. Of course….you’re only human. But the downfall of many is that when they inevitably stumble they beat themselves up and convince themselves that they’re just not capable of making fundamental change. Don’t succumb to this defeatist thinking. Get back on the horse and give yourself another chance.
3) To the degree you can, PUT TEMPTATION AT A DISTANCE.
Don’t test your will power by keeping things you’re trying to avoid nearby. Hide the X Box. Throw out the unopened tin of cookies that you got for Christmas. Put your phone in a drawer rather then in your pocket.
4) ENLIST SUPPORT
It’s much easier to change behavior if the change is being supported or assisted by others. If your goal is to knock of 15 pounds the shared goal of participants in Weight Watchers (now WW) can be a boon. Hiring a trainer can greatly increase the odds of your working out regularly. The success that Alcoholics Anonymous had in helping people stop drinking traces in part to group support.
5) SOLIDIFY YOUR GAINS
At the end of each day write down the successes you’ve had in progressing towards your goal(s), no matter how minute: e.g.: “I turned down the 1/2 bagel my co-worker offered me this morning,” “I did 3 sets of sit-ups instead of just two,” “I turned off a game show that I was watching in order to add three new connections to my LinkedIn account.”
6) BUY AND READ “ATOMIC HABITS”
Written by James Clear, it’s the best book I’ve encountered that deals with behavioral change. It’s chock full of ideas (including, but not in the least limited, those noted above) to help you get the results you want!