The Power of New Year's Resolutions
In 2014, I made a New Year’s Resolution that changed my life in ways I never could have imagined. It was a simple goal:
I didn’t vow to lose 50lbs, or exercise 5 days a week, or eat more vegetables - although all those things did happen. I didn’t really know what I was doing, or how to set goals. I just knew I needed to make a big life change.
Never in a million years would I have believed that this decision would lead me to become a fitness instructor, teaching classes multiple times a week, pursuing a personal trainer certification, and blogging about health and fitness. None of those were even on my radar yet. At the time, I just wanted to gain some healthier habits, and maybe lose a little weight along the way.
I’ve had a lot of success with New Year’s Resolutions, actually. One year, my NYR was to switch to black coffee, and to this day that’s still what I drink. Another year, I gave up potato chips (for the entire year). I did it, and I found a new love of tortilla chips and popcorn along the way.
A few years ago, I went a little overboard and made 5 resolutions:
Write every day
Do yoga every day
Read every day
Practice Spanish every day
Go Vegetarian (Aka - avoid meat every day)
I succeeded - 365 days of all that. However, my boyfriend and therapist both agreed that it was a little unrealistic.
Now, I try to limit my resolutions to three. For 2020, my resolutions were:
Get a new job that doesn’t stress you out.
Get back to a strong 125.
Launch a blog and start posting regularly.
One out of three ain’t bad, right?
I think we can all agree this year did not go as anyone expected. But I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m excited to start crafting my goals for next year.
I’m kind of an outlier when it comes to people who set New Year’s Resolutions. Did you know, approximately 80% of people who set a NYR don’t stick to it? According to a study conducted by the University of Scranton, just 8 percent of people achieve their New Year’s goals. That is crazy!
But a huge part of that is because people don’t set realistic goals (ahem, 5 daily tasks?). Today, I’ve learned so much more about behavior change and goal setting, and I’m excited to share a few ways I plan on making the MOST of my resolutions.
First, set SMART Goals.
I think most people have heard about SMART goals by now, but just as a recap, SMART is an acronym that stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound. And a SMART goal encompasses all five of these factors.
An example of a SMART goal: “I’m going to lose 30lbs by the end of the year.”
This goal is:
Measurable (with a scale)
Attainable (achievable if this person sets their mind to it!)
Realistic (most professionals recommend losing no more than 1-2lbs per week)
Time-bound (by the end of the year. 52 weeks if this is a NYR)
An example of NOT a SMART goal: “I’m going to be healthier.”
Sure, it worked for me, but this is definitely not a SMART goal. It’s not specific at all. There’s no way to measure it or track progress, and there’s no time frame.
When you’re setting your NYR this year, try cross-checking it against the SMART template and see if it fits all the requirements.
Second: Break up big goals into smaller goals.
Let’s stick with the example of losing weight. If this is your goal, it’s easy to break it down into smaller goals. Your goal could be to lose one pound a week, and you weigh yourself every Sunday night, tracking your progress along the way. Or perhaps you weigh yourself once a month, and your goal is 4lbs a month.
Another big goal might be to get a new job, or start your own business. How can you break that down into smaller goals? Perhaps you apply to three jobs per week. Or maybe you spend 30 minutes per day working on your passion project.
Whatever your goals are - whether personal or professional - there’s usually a way to break them down into smaller, bite-sized goals. This way you can keep your eyes on the prize and stay on track. It’s like climbing a mountain. You can’t see the peak from the starting point, but you can see the trail blazes along the way and know you’ll get to your goal soon.
Third: Track Your Progress
A year is a really long time. Even without a global pandemic warping our sense of time. It's pretty easy to give up on a big goal that feels like it's looming in the distance. Especially if you're a procrastinator like me.
Along with breaking your goal into smaller tasks, it's important to keep track of your progress. This keeps you on track, and also allows you to look at how far you've come. If you do any kind of journalling, this will be easy for you, but there are lots of ways to track your progress.
You can get a cheap wall calendar and write notes on it as you go (great for weight loss or anything with numbers), or you can use an app. You can find plenty of apps to help with this, or you can just keep a journal (digital or analog). Another idea is getting an accountability buddy or group, and checking in with them at regular intervals.
When you're getting frustrated or feel like you're losing steam, look back and see how far you come to help re-motivate you!
Lastly: Focus on Product AND Process Goals.
There are two main types of goals - product and process. Product goals give you an end result, like, losing 30lbs. Process goals are continuous, habit forming goals, for example: doing yoga every day, or trying a new recipe once a week.
It’s helpful to keep BOTH of these types of goals in mind to make a good resolution. If your goal is to lose 30lbs, your mini-product goals are to lose about 3lbs a month, but you should also have mini process goals, like “exercise 3x a week,” and “track my food every day in a journal.”
If your NYR is a process goal, like “do yoga every day,” you don’t necessarily need a product goal to help you stay on track. But, it may be nice to have one to compliment your process goal. For example, you could pair “do a handstand” or “be able to touch my toes” with yoga. Or maybe your goal is to try a new recipe each week. Why not collect your favorite recipes throughout the year and create a cookbook (product) for your friends and family come next holiday season?
Setting goals is incredibly important. Goals help us challenge ourselves to keep improving. They help us try new things, learn, fail, and push ourselves to do better. But if we make unrealistic goals, we fail too early and then give up on ourselves - reinforcing the belief that we “can’t.”
Setting SMART goals, and using these techniques to help achieve them, will help you improve self-efficacy and could lead to a change in your life you never saw coming. I am a prime example of that.
Today, I’m a fitness instructor, vegetarian, self-proclaimed yogi, wellness blogger, and black-coffee drinker - all because of New Year’s Resolutions!
I can’t wait to see what amazing things will unfold for us all in the coming year!