Two Keys to Making Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick

The guidance on whether or not you should set resolutions for yourself at the start of a new year is a mixed bag. Some say it’s a good practice, while others say it’s a waste of time as most people fail to keep their resolutions through January.

Personally, I think it’s always a great idea to have goals. And what better time than the start of a new year to start some new goals?

That said, I’d like to offer you a bit of advice that might just help you find success in sticking to your resolutions.

1. Start Small. The problem with most resolutions is they are too big, or even worse, too vague.

If your goal this year is to get fit, great! That’s an awesome goal to have, and I’m willing to bet there are a few million folks just like you resolving to do the same thing.

But consider this — if you’re going from zero to Mr. Olympia, you’re in for a rude awakening. Where most people fail on the fitness resolution is they try too hard to start out, and then fizzle out for a multitude of reasons.

If you haven’t stepped foot in a gym since Richard Simmons was popular, it’s a bad idea to start off by doing a 2 hour workout. One of two things is going to happen; you’ll either injure yourself, or your brain will rebel against you and you’ll start finding all sorts of excuses to skip the gym.

If your goal is fitness, then start small, with regular check-points. Choose something like 5 minutes of cardio a day for a month. This is great because it’s a super small commitment (just 5 minutes a day) and you have a defined end point that’s rapidly approaching. If you try to focus on the whole year instead, you’ll find yourself procrastinating — after all, 12 months is a long time away — and you’ll be playing catch-up after Thanksgiving.

Some of you may balk at the 5 minutes I suggested. However, if you’re doing nothing now, then 5 minutes is a huge jump from where you’re currently at, but it’s still small enough that you’d really have to work hard to find excuses to skip it.

And if your goal is more along the lines of loosing weight than general fitness, you can apply the same principles here. Set yourself a goal to lose 2 pounds a month. Again, that seems too small to even make a difference, however even something as small as loosing 2 pounds a month means you’re no longer gaining weight, and at the end of the year you’ll be 24 pounds lighter!

This can apply to any goal really, just follow the guidelines of making it laughably easy and with a short, well-defined check point (like every month).

2. Celebrate Your Wins AND Your Losses. In fact, don’t even think about it as winning or loosing. Don’t consider success or failure as your only options.

If you miss your 5 minutes of cardio today, don’t beat yourself up over it! Instead, view it as a learning opportunity. If you lie down in bed at night and slap yourself across the forehead because you just realized you didn’t get your 5 minutes in, just think back on your day. Recall the times that you thought about your goal, but put it off because something else was happening. And if you didn’t think about your goal at all today, that’s fine too. Think about ways that you can make sure you’ll remember it tomorrow — maybe set a reminder in your phone, or write yourself a sticky note and put it on your bathroom mirror.

One of my goals last year was to read a little each day. Did I manage to pull it off? No, but my consistency for the year was 88% (which means I missed roughly 44 days — not bad right?)

In summing all of this up, I’m reminded of the quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln, in which he said “I walk slowly, but I never walk backward.” It may seem silly to do something as small as 5 minutes of exercise a day, and yet, if you keep with it, you’re much better off than you’d be if you hit the gym hard 2 hours a day every day for the first two weeks of January then quit. The same could be said for any of your other goals.

Start small. Don’t sweat the days you miss. And never, ever, ever give up.

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