Why do New Year’s resolutions typically fail? Short answer: A lack of planning. I, like many others have made countless New Year’s Resolutions ranging from the typical vow to lose weight, kick a habit, or to be present in my daily life. I have failed miserably. So much so that I swore off making any more New Year’s Resolutions. Until, I figured out what was missing, why I wasn’t seeing the fruits of my labor and ultimately changed my perspective and how I viewed them altogether.
You’ve likely heard the saying, “A failure to plan, is a plan to fail”. There is a profound truth to this. You likely have said you’d like to lose weight, save money, or stop a habit. Sure you wanted it, but did you commit to it? Or did you hope for it and passively tell yourself that you’d save your left over change, eat more salads, or do some deep breathing when you wanted a smoke? Yes? Me too. In fact, that’s what I’d done with most of my resolutions. It left a bad taste in my mouth when I failed and I became disillusioned with them altogether, not really taking them seriously.
Over the past year, I made a promise to myself to focus on my health (mental, physical, and spiritual). To be honest, it wasn’t a New Year’s resolution (remember, I swore those off some time ago). Although I didn’t workout, eat healthy, or take time for myself everyday, I was consistent in making this a priority. There were days that I didn’t feel like it, would have preferred to binge watch a show or eat a pint of ice cream. To be honest, there were times I did just this! The key to success was consistency. I had to keep my end goal in mind. That helped me to show up at the gym, through workouts when I wanted to throw in the towel (or just plain throw-up), and to eat more veggies and fewer potatoes. I made a choice not to beat myself up for giving in to a craving or skipping the gym when I was especially sore or tired from a long day. Showing myself some grace allowed me to say, “okay, you’ve rested or had your favorite snack, now it’s time to get back on track,” rather than deciding that I’d already blown it l, so I might as well give up.
Here are the key things I did, that helped me succeed:
- Want it. You have to really want it in order to make putting in the work worth it. You have to want it bad, to be willing to make the commitment to make it happen.
- Plan. Be specific on what you plan to do to make your resolution a reality. I worked backwards from my end goal-Loosing a hundred pounds seems so daunting, but I did it! Instead, I focused on loosing one pound a week. Easy. To do that, I planned to workout 4-5 times a week. I set a time for when I was going to workout. After work, before I ate dinner I would workout.
- Meal prep. This seemed like so much work! However, I found that when I did meal prep, it saved so much time during the week and I ate better because it was more convenient to eat something healthy that was ready to be nuked than to stop at (fill in the blank here with your favorite drive through) and wait, just for them to get my order wrong.
- Drink half my body weight in ounces of water. That’s a lot of water! But it helped me feel fuller and helped my complexion (bonus!). Yes I peed a lot, at least at first.
- Take in the good! On my way home from work, I’d listen to a motivational podcast or music that got me in the mood to dance and be active.
- Track my food. I tracked every single thing I ate using My Fitness Pal. Yes, including the chips, snickers and celery sticks. It helped me keep on track.
- Focus. One thing at a time. I can’t stress this enough! I started out making a commitment to myself to walk a mile 3-4 times a week. This was my workout. If I went in head first and expected myself to stay on track with eating right, working out 5 days a week, and doing box jumps from day one, no question, I would have given up before the end of January. That is a setup for failure-taking on too much at one time. Think of your goal in phases rather than altogether. Phase 1-walk 20 minutes 3-4 times a week. After a few weeks, increase the distance, time or speed. Challenge yourself. You can continue to gradually push yourself to do more as you build up strength, endurance and the habit itself. After a month, add on phase two, whatever this is for you. Mine was water, lots and lots or water. Each month, add the next phase on. Taking it one step at a time, giving yourself time to build the habit each step of the way. It makes it less overwhelming. If it takes you longer than a month, so what, the point is to keep going. Doing something towards your goal is better than nothing. If it takes you a little longer to get where you want, who cares. A step in the right direction is one step closer to your goal. It’s still an achievement.
- Rest. Get enough sleep. You can’t expect to stay on track when you’re tired, in a rush, or hangry.
- Give yourself a pass. Know that “cheating” doesn’t mean all the work you’ve done is lost and is a reason to give up altogether. If I really was craving chocolate. I ate it. Didn’t feel a single bit guilty. I know myself and if I denied myself something I really wanted, I would hold out for a while and then end up overdoing it (ie. Trying to appease myself with an apple and when that didn’t hit the spot, some chips, and well chips aren’t great for me, so I’ve already blown it-might as well eat that snickers).
- Be consistent. Every little bit adds up. What matters is consistency. If you workout four times a week or make good food choices most of the time, then missing one workout or eating a slice of cake will be okay. You’re an adult, you get to make that choice. The key is to not give up. Keep going. Don’t fall into the logic that if you have one bad day or three that you might as well give up. Nope, you’re entitled to a few bad days. Just don’t let them become your habit.
- Get out of your head. Don’t compare yourself in any way to anyone else. You aren’t them and they aren’t you. Apples to oranges. Only compare yourself to who you were yesterday. If you doubt yourself or want to give in, always go back to your goal. The reason you are doing this in the first place. Believe in yourself. If you’re telling yourself you can’t do this or that it’s too hard, stop it!!! The work is hard but isn’t that the point. You want the goal, want it more than the momentary pain. Keep repeating this to yourself.
- Growth happens slowly-Set small goals for yourself so you have victories to celebrate along the way. I used to reward myself with food. I’m an emotional eater, so I’d celebrate, commiserate and try to cheer myself up with food. Although, I still sometimes do celebrate with food. Now, I often celebrate with a new pair of jeans (a size smaller), a pedicure or even just a sweaty high-five.
- Eliminate several words from your vocabulary. Should, want, and but- as in I should workout, want to get in shape or I’d like to go to the gym but (fill in with your choice of excuses). Nope, not saying that, any of it, I’m just going to do it! Show up, get in there and do the hard work.
- Last but certainly not least…love and accept yourself where you are right this moment. This one was the most difficult of the entire list. It was painful to look into the mirror and see me with all my imperfections and to genuinely love and accept myself where I was, right at that moment, at that weight, with that graying hair, pimple at the tip of my nose and with all my previous failures. I had to love myself enough that I knew I was worth putting in the time, sweat equity and just plain hard work into. I had to love myself like I would love and show up for a friend, family member or loved one. You should love yourself like you love others. Don’t be mean to yourself. Would you say the things you do to yourself to someone else? My guess would be a resounding no. STOP doing it to yourself! BE NICE!!! (Editorial note: Last two sentences to be read in completely ticked off Mom tone. Yeah, you know the one).
That list seems a bit overwhelming. Sure, it is a lot of little and some big things. Don’t do them all at once. Decide what you want to do and start working backwards on what you need to do to make it a reality. From there pick one thing and do it. Give it a month to become a habit and then add on, little by little. It doesn’t matter how quickly you get to your goal. It matters that you make it. Remember the story of the Tortoise and the Hair? Slow and steady ends up winning the race. The key is consistency. Don’t count yourself out before you’ve even started. Don’t give up!
This year, the promise I vow to myself (ie. my resolution) is not to hide. This is the mantra I will repeat to myself over and over. Not to hide out of fear of being seen, rejected or judged. To loose my fears by facing them head on, instead of running from them. To be unafraid to go for the things that I want and to not get in my own way. If I fail, I’ll have learned something. Either way, it’s a win in my book. Someone recently told me that I should feel free to fail forward. What a gift! How liberating this really is! I’ll let you know how it all turns out a year from now.
Life isn’t a fairytale and nothing magical is going to happen at the stroke of midnight that is going to make you suddenly ready to tackle your goal-the thing that you’ve been putting off. Are we ever completely ready? Most of the time I’ve found the answer to be ‘no’. That’s life. It just happens. You may never be ready. You still have to do it, just go for it. Ready or not-I’m coming for those goals. If you hesitate, opportunities may pass you by. You can’t rely on motivation to sustain you. After the newness and excitement wears off, the motivation will wane too. You aren’t going to want to get out of bed early or put in the work after a long day. You just have to do it. Brene’ Brown has a great trick I’ve used more than a time or two. Count yourself down from 5 and go for it. Ready or not. Go get it!
I hope your vision is 20/20, that you focus on where you want to go and that you exceed your own expectations. Happy New Year!