It's that time of year. Social stigma dictates you'll be sitting at your next social gathering, discussing the changes you'll be making in your day-to-day life. You might be thinking, "Why should I bother making a resolution if I won't make it long term?" We all want the best for ourselves, but according to the U.S. News & World Report, the failure rate for New Year's resolutions is said to be about 80%, and most lose their resolve by mid-February. This means that those who are successful in their pursuit of change are a rarity at 20%. We set ourselves up for failure for a wide variety of reasons but some of them as simple as the word we choose to describe this goal, 'Resolution.' The word itself is a strong, demanding word which solidifies the idea that you MUST complete this task. When you inevitably fail your unsustainable goal, it leaves you feeling weak, disappointed, and in some cases, ashamed. Some classic standards that I hear in my line of work are,
"I'm going to start exercising."
"I'm going to eat healthily."
"I'm going to fit in my old jeans."
"I'm going to be able to keep up with the kids."
"I'm going to cut _____ out of my diet."
"I'm going to eat more vegetables."
What about if these goals were made possible just by changing the way in which we look at our describe our New Year's Resolutions? Is there a way that we can make them change FOR GOOD?
Here are some helpful tips you can use, to ensure that you have the best chance in bettering your life and making your life changes stick!
1) Be Clear, Be Specific.
The best thing you can be, is clear with yourself on what exactly it is that you want to accomplish, and how it is that you're going to get there. If we take any of the above examples of resolutions, we often make resolutions that are vague like "I'm going to eat healthily." What does that mean? What is Healthy? Of course, we all want to wake up on January 1st and be healthy, but unfortunately, life, as well as blood tests, don't work that way. Set a goal that is small, yet specific, something like " I want to eat 3-4 different vegetables every day." That's very specific, it is in the form of a checklist, and can take it one meal at a time to ensure that you're on your way to achieving your final form. It also encompasses the idea of long-term and short-term goals.
2) Prime yourself to Act Differently
We prime ourselves all the time, and we usually don't even think about it. Our habits are formed by unconscious cues we take from our environment, which is how we prime ourselves to behave a certain way. Companies take advantage of this by nudging you to purchase their products and services. In a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, supermarket customers had their selections influenced by stereotypical French and German music. When French music was played, French wine outsold German wine, and when German music was played, sales reversed. By redesigning your environment, you are able to influence future subconscious decisions that you make. You may be the type of person who has their outfit for the next day prepared before bed, and that is a form of priming. You've primed yourself to wear that outfit so you can impress everyone at the office with your new holiday top. While that may not be relevant to your new year's resolution there are other ways you can prime yourself to be more successful in your new year's resolution. Do you have a fruit bowl? A fruit bowl on the counter in your kitchen is a relatively cost-effective way of enticing yourself to grab fruit more often. If it is on the counter, you will likely lean more towards this option, much like you would lean to the option of a chocolate bar, or a cookie from the cookie jar, if you kept it on the counter.
3) Set Your Defaults
By setting a default you are passively committing to yourself that this is the standard of behaviour. For example, I personally have a default that I am going to cook myself dinner every single night, therefore if I decide to order in, or go out for dinner one night I have an understanding with myself that this is a special occasion and is not the norm. Defaults are also used with organ donation, in fact, countries where there is an opt-out for organ donation see a greater rate of organ donation than countries with an opt-in system. Clearly, we humans are pretty lazy, so the easier the default, the more likely it is to stick in our routine. In order to be most successful, you must design your defaults such that they flow into your usual routine, and they are easy enough to become a passive commitment.
4) Commitments made Public
Announce it, shout it from the rooftop. Tell your family/friends. Post it on social media. Whatever is required for this information to become public around you this is a major key in making your New Years Resolution become permanent. Public commitment creates an incentive for people to work harder towards the goals they have set, as an innate pressure forms and we don't want to let those around us down by failing.
5) Your Social Circle
People are creatures of influence and habit. We are very impressionable and can have our choices swayed by those in our social circles. In order to make your changes stick, you must do the tough task of performing an audit on your social circles. Take a fine-toothed comb and make your way through the groups you are associated with, and surround yourself only with those that are supportive of your future goals and changes. Set your gameplan for success and follow the above tips.
Your Successful New Routine
1. Set your goal and be specific: Tell yourself you're going to go to the gym 3 times a week. Set up a push, pull, legs routine, and commit to three visits per week.
2. Priming: Pack your gym bag and leave it in plain sight every single night prior to your workouts.
3. Set your defaults: Set the default that every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are workout days. Unless by some
4. Commitments: Find an accountability partner and introduce stakes for if you miss a workout. i.e My goal is to stick to workout regime of 3 times per week, if I miss the three days per week threshold I must donate $20 to the upcoming Donald Trump campaign
5. Social Circle: Pick a friend and go with a said friend on the default days you agree upon to crush those goals.
My goals have taken some ups and downs. While, of course, I have goals for my physique, it's important to understand that we can't always look our absolute best. Hence the first photo below, but take everything in stride. With enough work and focus you can get back to your best in no time at all! I am not immune to the effects of social media on body composition and body image issues, but with the help of my social circle, I take the time to remind myself of the sustainable future I am working towards. Be diligent and work hard to reach your goals.
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