This is the time of year that gym managers love – people stream through the doors, signing up for annual memberships that will wind up being unused after only a few months, despite sincere resolutions to the contrary. In fact, less than 10% of people who make New Year resolutions wind up sticking with them.
Why this phenomenon? I believe a lot of it has to do with “overreaching” – making promises to oneself that are such a great distance from where one actually is that the gap between them becomes demotivating. If I pledge to lose 50 pounds this year but after a month I’ve only lost 5 it would be natural to be discouraged.
Make a commitment to effect a small change in your routine, whether that involves eating, exercising, or spending (the three big areas of New Year resolutions). So instead of aiming for a 50 pound weight loss, aim for 10. Or pledge to go to the gym once a week (rather than 5x). Or that you’ll start putting $10/week into a savings account. Of course this requires that you have some way of monitoring both where things currently stand (“How much do I weigh? When was the last time I worked out? How much am I spending per week?”), and that you have a way of tracking ongoing results.
Fortunately there are numerous apps that make it a lot easier to keep track of yourself than used to be the case. Lose It! is an excellent dieting app; MyFitnessPal.com is a great fitness app, and Mint.com is a very popular spending app. But this is a rapidly evolving field, so do some research to determine which apps will best suit your needs.
Here’s a somewhat different way of making changes as you move into the new year: ask yourself what 2013 behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes you would like to leave behind you. Examples: “I’d like not to pour myself two martinis every night after work;” “I’d like to stop raiding the refrigerator at 2 a.m.;” “I’d like not to buy a Starbucks macchiato every morning” “I’d like not to focus on what’s wrong with my company,” “I’d like to be less critical of my kids,” etc. For a lot of people it’s easier to cut back on a negative than it is to institute a positive.
Today’s New York Times makes some other important points about resolutions. First, be as specific as possible in your resolution, and to the degree possible schedule commitments (e.g. rather than saying “I’ll work out 3x this week,” calendar your workouts e.g. “Tuesday from 6:00 – 7:15). Second, “put something you value on the line,” for example $100 that you promise your boyfriend you’ll pay him if you fail to lose 10 pounds by Easter. Third, enlist others in achieving your goal – a buddy who will meet you at the gym for your workout, or a mentor who will offer encouragement and guidance.
One other tip: DON’T try to make too many changes at once. Focus on one or perhaps two changes so, as you implement them, you can really pay attention to what is working (and what is not) towards enabling you to achieve your goal.
Finally, if you see that you are not sticking to your resolution DON’T give up. True, January is the start of a new year and a logical time to implement changes in your life, but birthdays, or first days of the month or season, represent other opportunities to re-initiate. If on February 1 you realize that you’ve only been to the gym twice, take stock of what prevented you from achieving your goal, try to determine how to shift so that you’re less likely to fail, and start again.
For additional, incisive ideas for sticking to your resolutions, I recommend reading the article by Scott Adams (creator of the Dilbert comic strip) in today’s Washington Post: “Read this if you want to be happy.”