Ah, it’s that time of year. For the past week people have been building up to and celebrating Christmas. For the next week some folks regret all that they’ve eaten, losing another year of not improving themselves the way they’d like to have, and generally making false promises to themselves (called resolutions) that they swear they’ll start on January 1st. Some might. Some might not. According to some studies, those who do launch their resolutions on January 1st, on average, will give them up within the first week to ten days of the New Year. It’s been reported that fewer than 10% of people who make New Year’s resolutions make it the entire year without breaking the resolution. The question then begs: Why do people make resolutions if the success rate of them is so low?
Let’s face it, all of us would like to make improvement. Some people are truly unhappy with themselves physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually or some combination of all of that. Some people are happy with themselves but have discovered how much they enjoy the effort and commitment of trying to make constant improvement. Some people make those resolutions with great intentions but with little motivation or discipline to back them up. Some people make resolutions based on criticisms from others (I personally believe those are the worst resolutions to make).
So how do you vow to improve yourself in the ways you’d like without making hollow promises that go forgotten or abandoned in the first half of January? First, focus on goals rather than behaviors. Second, find a partner to join you to keep you motivated and accountable. Third, document, document, document. With the plethora of social media available today, use it not to brag but to keep track of yourself. I can’t remember everything I did on whatever day of the week it was December 27, 2010. But Facebook, twitter and other outlets surely have a record of everything I posted. MyFitnessPal STILL has my intake diary, exercise diary, etc. available in the data records.
First up, goals versus behaviors. Rather than making a resolution to lose X amount of weight or to quit a specific bad habit, make a resolution to invest in a more healthy lifestyle. Focus on eating a little healthier (a little less sugar, a few more veggies, some semblance of a balance between carbs, protein and fat). Make time to walk a little more or do some regular stretching or even a few calisthenics. If you smoke and want to quit, make it a goal to deny yourself every other cigarette you want rather than just quitting outright. It’s been said many times by plenty of well-known and long-experienced health coaches: living a healthier life is a lifestyle change, not a diet, fad exercise program, or the latest in herbal therapy. It involves being responsible to yourself about what you’re eating and drinking, how much you move and, most importantly, being consistent about it. You don’t have to be perfect 100% of the time, but anything over 80% should be the goal. (Read my blog about the 80/20 rule here).
The second item, finding a partner for accountability and motivation matters huge. We are far less likely to disappoint a friend or partner than we are ourselves. Increasing your accountability with a friend or in some type of support group can make a big difference in your decisions and daily performance. We all have that friend, spouse, sibling, child, parent… whoever, who also wants to make some changes in their life for the better. When those goals mesh, partner up with them, make your plan, commit to your plan, and answer to each other for sticking to that plan. Especially where spouses are concerned, a great many diets fail because only one spouse is dieting while the other is complaining about the lack of food options or changed food options in the house. If, instead of one-half dieting, both spouses agree to eat a little healthier, then the grocery shopping, food planning, etc. all is done together and they stay motivated together. If one half is feeling like moving a bit and wants to go for a walk, but the other half doesn’t, there’s at least that chance that the motivated half can motivate the lazy half (in that moment). If commitments are made to each other (or a group) to eat within certain guidelines and improve other healthy habits, the commitments are more likely to be kept.
The third item of documenting can be tedious but also invaluable. Our memories are fallible and it’s easy to forget that extra cookie we ate, the fact we had three glasses of wine instead of two, or the amount of sodium we took in one day because we ate at the Japanese Steakhouse where the sauces are full of it. There are a plethora of easy to use, FREE intake diary apps you can use to track your intake. In general they give you feedback on total calorie intake, how much water you drank in a day, and what percentage of what you ate was carbs, protein and fat. Some of the better (or paid) versions allow you to track every nutrient, vitamins, minerals, etc. The Health & Wellness industry is a $7B annual business, so trust me… there are plenty of products out there you can use and yes, some of them are free (they make money off the advertising and upgrades). I use MyFitnessPal.com. I have it on my phone, my iPad and as a tab that automatically opens each day when I open my browser on my computer. I have friends who use the same app to track intake and exercise and it allows us to offer each other support and encouragement.
Now, let’s review because this is the cool part for the next week leading up to New Year’s Day. Resolutions to make are:
- Live your best life each day but know how you can improve your best life with some minor investment in yourself each day.
- Find a partner to enjoy your life with and help them stay accountable to their plan for improving their life.
- Keep track of how you go about both and what you accomplish.
If you resolve to do those three things and follow through on them, think about how much different and better your life can be in another 365 days.
Happy New Year!