I totally encourage “reaching for the stars!”, and “dreaming big!”, but when it comes to something you want to stick, like oh say, a New Year’s Resolution, I encourage you to set your bar a bit lower.
Sure, the prospect of making slow and steady progress isn’t nearly as intoxicating as losing 20 pounds by Valentines Day, but if you want to hit your big goals for 2016, aiming low may be best.
Hear me out! You’re probably super gung-ho about that raw diet resolution you’re going to make. Or maybe since you go to the gym once a week (usually) your resolution to go 6 days a week will be the perfect way to make up those skipped sessions. And you’ll probably do awesome! For a week.
It is not that I don’t believe in you. It is not that you can’t make the positive changes you want so badly. It is that biting of more than you can chew (or in this case, not chew) by making complete overhauls to your lifestyle, will only backfire. Resolutions are code for starting a new habit.
Here are sane solutions to your extreme resolutions:
If your resolution involves going to the gym more, add 1-2 days a week to what you currently do.
Going to the gym everyday when you typically fit in one session a week, is going to be a shock to your body. You’ll be sore, you’ll be overwhelmed with what to do with your time there, and you’ll exhaust yourself after 5 days. “That’s it!”, you’ll declare, “I can’t do this anymore!” and you’ll be back to your old sporadic routine. Same goes with event training. If you are just starting to run regularly, a marathon may not be the resolution you want to make in January. Start with a 5K and see how your body likes it before going for an endurance race.
By adding 1-2 sessions, you’re not drastically changing your current routine, making it easier to stick to. Another option is increasing the time or intensity of your current exercise schedule. If you can’t logistically fit in more than your current 3 workouts a week, consider upping the intensity of one of your workouts. Try adding sprints to your steady state run, or lifting heavier weights for 6-8 reps instead of your usual moderate weights for 12-15 reps.
If you’ve never made a weight related resolution, you’re in the minority. It’s an attractive goal, numbers are easy to track. But If your resolution is to drop 30 pounds, it’s easy to get discouraged and say “forget this!” when you don’t see instant changes. Sustainable weight loss is not fast, and the scale is not the only way to measure progress.
Instead, make the process your focus. Weight loss is a side effect of treating your body right by making better choices. Take your measurements, a better indicator of progress than weight, and remeasure every 4-6 weeks. There is nothing wrong with having a weight loss goal, but understand that dropping weight and keeping it off are different things, and the latter is a process, not something that will happen the first month of the new year.
Much like fitness, if your resolution is to eat better, pick 1-2 specific things to change about your diet.
Going raw, vegan or cooking every meal yourself may seem like it will get you healthy quick, but after a week your cravings will get the better of you and it often won’t be just one slice of pizza that takes you down. “May as well eat the whole thing…plus those cookies!”, is a common response to the slightest slip up of such a strict resolution.
Instead, pick something small and specific. Instead of soda, drink water. Instead of cooking one night a week, cook twice a week, or make casseroles and dishes with many portions to satisfy 2-3 meals that week. Once your new thing becomes mindless and routine, pick another small change to tackle, like switching from white to whole wheat (bread, flour, pasta), or adding some type of vegetable to 2 meals a day.
If your resolution is to get organized, focus on one area of your life and one new system at a time.
A resolution to organize your work area, home life routine, and cooking strategy will start very ambitious, but end with a small loan towards The Container Store and an overloaded mind of trying to remember all the new systems you conjured up.
Instead, identify what is most stressing you out that you’ve been saying you need a system for. If it’s bills, start there, perhaps moving all your repeating bills to electronic payments at the same time of the month. If it’s your 10 junk drawers, start by going through them one at a time and filtering out what you use and what you are at a loss for what it is (I found at least 8 keys that I had no idea what they unlocked!). Get comfortable with your new system and make sure it actually works with your life before tackling the next area of chaos.
Saving more money and/or spending less, takes the same mindset as weight loss; slow and steady. When making a financial resolution, make one small and specific change in your spending/saving habits, then add to it from there.
Vowing to “save more” or “spend less” is very vague and extremely easy to justify your way out of; “this dress was $175, but it’s on sale so I’m saving!”.
Instead, look at your expenses over the past few months and pick one area to cut back. Can you adjust the frequency of dining out, or set a monthly limit on what you spend at restaurants? If you occasionally switch money from your checking to savings account, set up a repeating deposit of $100/month.
New Year’s Resolutions are intended to better ourselves. Making extreme and drastic resolutions is incredibly enticing, you see yourself 50 pounds lighter by Valentine’s Day or cooking vegan for your entire family every night of the week. Oh, how healthy you will be! But if there’s one constant in adopting new habits, it’s consistency. The change(s) you make in 2016 may be small, but doing them consistently will give you big rewards.
Don’t know where to start? Join my January Refresh Challenge and receive a month of health and wellness challenges. You may find a new area to focus your energy and discover tools to kickstart a change!