For many of us New Year’s Day means football and New Year’s resolutions. We declare that we’re going to do or not do something – usually having to do with lifestyle changes like losing weight, exercising more, eating better, or drinking less. Heard that before?
Resolutions Can Be Tricky
Have you ever seen the hang-dog look on the face of an athlete in a goal scoring drought — or the look on a goalie’s face when that blasted ball or puck lands in the net?
We often set broad – huge – resolutions and goals that are virtually impossible to accomplish (like losing thirty pounds by the end of next week) and end up making you feel awful when you don’t achieve them. You’ve basically set yourself up for failure and most likely you’ll be sporting that hang-dog look, too.
Ten Tips To Boost Your Success
- We’re guilty of all-or-nothing thinking and overly ambitious goals. Drastic changes usually don’t synch with daily life and probably won’t last more than a few weeks. Try this often and you solidly embed a “no can do” attitude in your brain. So, don’t make too many resolutions. Your unhealthy behaviors took time to develop and replacing them with healthy ones takes time, too. Don’t get overwhelmed and think that you have to reassess everything in your life. Instead, work toward changing one thing at a time. Human brains don’t like too much disruption all at once – they like their familiar way of doing things. Pick one thing at a time and create a new habit around it.
- Small changes can lead to big results. The key is to start with very small, realistic, and accomplishable goals – like using mustard instead of mayo (one tbs of mayo has 100 calories and one tbs of mustard has nine calories — replacing mayo with mustard 5 times a week saves 455 calories – enough to lose 6 ¾ pounds in a year) or riding your exercise bike for 15 minutes 3 days this week instead of everyday for an hour (what are the chances of that happening). Resolve to make changes that you think you can keep. Small changes do bring results.
- Write your goal down (writing reinforces it) and set a time target for achieving it. Leaving it open ended is just an invitation to put it off. Commit to taking whatever action is required twice a week, then three times, then everyday. Start small with things that are fairly easy to do and that don’t disrupt your lifestyle. Get some success under your belt. Then move on to bigger challenges. Writing reinforces and solidifies your commitment. It also makes it harder to lie to yourself.
- Not having succeeded before doesn’t mean you won’t succeed this time. Everyone has made and broken resolutions. We’ve all tried to lose weight or eat more fruit and veggies. Have a positive attitude and frame your resolution in positive terms. “I will eat vegetables instead of French fries twice a week” or I’ll have cereal only on Saturday mornings” is much more positive than “I’ll never eat French fries or cereal again.” It’s easier to put a new habit in place than to change an old one, so embed the positive behavior not the negative one.
- Absolute perfection is unattainable so don’t beat yourself up if you go off track. Derailments happen. Having a plan for when you slip or get off track gets you back in the swing rather than throwing in the towel. What if you polished off the breadbasket last night at dinner and then followed it up with half a container of ice cream? It happened. It’s over. Don’t let it derail you and, for sure, don’t give up. What’s your strategy for getting back on plan?
- Be realistic and certain that what you’re committing to do is what you want to do for yourself and not for your friends or relatives. A personal goal isn’t carved in stone never to be broken or altered. Don’t paint yourself into a corner by swearing you’ll do something that might be impossible to achieve — like swearing you’ll never eat ice cream again.
- Set weekly mini-goals that lead to accomplishing the big goal. Achieving the mini-goals gives you motivation to keep going and allows you to keep track of your progress. For example: if your big goal is to eat fast food only once a month rather than your current 5 times a week, how about a mini goal of 4 times a week for the first two weeks, then 3 times a week, etc.
- Create a support network. Family and friends can support your efforts, be a source of accountability, and motivate you to keep going. Unfortunately, they can also be saboteurs (both intentionally and unintentionally) so know what you’re going to do or say if that happens. Have you heard this: “Gee, I know you’re on a diet but why don’t you have a little piece of this chocolate cake I made just for you because I know it’s your favorite?” Figure out how to deal with comments like that.
- Give yourself visible cues to remind you of your new behavior(s). Old habits die hard. Send yourself emails, ask co-workers to keep you on your toes, leave post-it reminders on your kitchen cabinets. A note on the cabinet where you keep the crackers and chips might prevent you from mindlessly reaching in and munching. Give yourself visual references – pictures, clothes you want to wear, etc. Don’t just remove negative cues; surround yourself with positive ones. Fill your cabinets with healthy food, buy a pedometer, join a gym, and make your environment weight-loss friendly.
- Be committed and willing to work on your goal(s). Decide if you’re really willing to make change(s) in your life. Are you serious or half-hearted about what you want to do? Just making a resolution because it’s the New Year — especially if it’s a resolution made on a whim or with I “kinda,” “sorta” want to do this attitude — won’t keep you motivated to attain your goal. “Kinda,” “sorta” goals give you “kinda,” “sorta” results. Realistic, achievable goals produce realistic results. You’ll be amazed at how good you feel with a nice sense of accomplishment tucked under your belt. Makes you want to go back for more!