With the flip of the calendar to 2016, we are inundated with talk of New Year’s resolutions. What’s the #1 resolution? You guessed it, weight loss. As we move into the second week of the New Year, many are still on their resolution “high” as they work toward changing behaviour, be it weight, eating habits, or quitting smoking.
Science plays into this (of course it does!) and findings from a 2007 survey by psychologist Richard Wiseman found that only 12% of people kept their resolution goals. Pretty dismal stats. What it boils down to is willpower and self-control. Humans are pretty stubborn in the way we behave and how we run our day-to-day routines, which makes it challenging to achieve big goals. Interestingly and on a more positive note, those who resolved to change a habit by setting a goal for themselves were significantly more successful than those who didn’t.
For many, success is achieved based on HOW the resolution or goal is set. Exercising five times per week isn’t necessarily a realistic way to start your new year’s goal when you were previously a professional couch surfer. The same goes with diets – whether it’s losing weight or resetting your healthy eating habits, it really makes a difference how you do it.
- Start with a realistic goal: Whether you’re setting a goal on January 1st or June 1st, you will have a greater chance of success if you start with a realistic and sustainable goal. Losing 50 lbs in a month isn’t an example of a realistic goal. Remember those SMART goals? Here’s your refresher: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely – pretty self-explanatory, right?
- Aim for one goal at a time: don’t try to quit smoking and lose inches at the same time, because that isn’t necessarily realistic, is it? Refer to point 1 above.
- Write it down or tell someone: research shows that we are more likely to follow through with a goal or resolution if you write it down or make it public in another way (Facebook, Twitter, sticky note).
- Involve others: we tend to keep up with a goal if you have a buddy alongside to keep you motivated and on track. It might be your best friend that you go walking with, a personal trainer to help you commit to exercise or a spouse to make healthy meals with.
I’m not a fan of resolutions after seeing the spandex-clad masses at the gym disappear by February and the legions of patients and friends who find the discipline to stick to their goals disappointing at the best of times.
Let’s instead look at the idea of moderation (again) and know that changes to our behaviour and routines need to be done in small steps without drastic changes, for us to really achieve the success we crave. But, what I really liked was how a friend reframed the notion of resolutions to “intentions” instead. I can definitely live with that. So this year, find an intention – something you wish to improve upon or change slightly and work on that to better yourself.
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