Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Year's Resolutions: 3 Things You Can Do to Be Successful

So I've been thinking a lot lately about New Year's Resolutions, and why they so often fail.  I see it every year in the gym... As soon as January 2nd hits, that place turns into a mad house, a clusterfuck if you will.  A clusterfuck full of everyday, hardworking people who have been neglecting their health all year long, especially over the recent holiday season, and are now determined to get in shape and lose weight.  But this clusterfuck never lasts.  It slowly ebbs away as the winter months go on, finally reaching a low in the Spring and Summer when the weather is nice and people return to their normal lives.  Hey, at least it gives people something to focus on other than the harshness of post-holiday Winter.

Of course not everyone fails in their New Year's Resolutions; about 12% of us succeed, according to a 2007 study (1).  That's right... just 12% succeed...  88% fail.  This year, 9 out of 10 of us will fail with our resolutions.  And what do we want?  No surprise, weight loss tops the list (2).

Why the horrible success rate?  Why do we fail at our goals to begin with?  And how can we be successful?  After some serious reading and thinking, I've come up with the following:  three things you can do to succeed in your New Year's resolution this year!

1.)  Set goals that are consistent with who you are.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do before you set a goal... know yourself and your values.  I can't stress this enough.  Sean Croxton wrote a great article about this topic here, I highly recommend it.  You need to do some soul searching.  If the things that you value most are your family, your business, education, religion, and the New York Giants... maybe you need to rethink your goal of losing 100 pounds this year.  I don't see health, nutrition, or exercise anywhere in that list, so unless you plan on denouncing football and God in the process, you won't find long-term success there.  There's nothing wrong with not caring about health.  Everybody is different, everybody has different values.  Know yourself, be confident in what you stand for, and set goals that make sense for you.  

But just because you don't value health as much as other things in your life, that doesn't mean you can't have a successful health-related resolution this year.  Just gauge your resolution to the value you place on it.  If you only kinda-sorta care, there's nothing wrong with setting yourself a goal that reflects that...  something relatively easy, like giving up soda.  You don't have to change the world here if you're not so inclined.  Just know who you are, and know the level of commitment you're willing to put into it.

2.)  Make sure you're doing it for the right reasons.
At the deepest level, behind every human action lies one of two emotions:  fear or love.  Setting a New Year's resolution out of fear is a dead end street.  If your goal is to lose weight, ask yourself why you want to lose weight.  Is it because you're afraid of being unattractive?  Are you afraid of having a heart attack?  Afraid that you don't look like a Victoria's Secret model?  If you set a resolution out of fear, then at the deepest level, you don't really want it.  You'll find that even if you do get there, the fear still remains. 

On the other hand, if you want to lose weight because you love the way you feel at that weight, because you love your life and you want to stick around for a while, or because you love being the best person you can be... then carry on.  If you do it from a place of love, you will get the return on investment you're looking for.  Recognizing whether you are coming from a place of love or a place of fear isn't easy; it requires a lot of self-reflection.  It's a fine line, but it's a crucial concept.  It could be the difference between success and failure.  Don't do it because you're afraid of what others think of you... fuck everyone else.  Do it for you.

3.)  Set goals that are realistic and attainable.
Now that you've got the first two covered, you need to set a goal that is realistic, and perhaps more importantly, it needs to be conducive to long-term success.  In other words, don't try to lose 50 pounds by February.  A.)  You won't.  B.)  You'll feel like a failure.  and C.)  You won't maintain it.  And if you've never weighed less than 150 pounds in your adult life, don't set your goal weight at 110 pounds.  It will not happen.  Accept it.

You would be wise to set both long-term and short-term goals.  Set a long-term, overarching goal you'd like to achieve, and set short-term goals that get you there.  Let's say you want to lose 30 pounds by the end of the year.  That's totally attainable.  Divide 30 by 12 and you get 2.5 pounds per month.  Shoot for 2-3 pounds of weight loss a month as your goal.  If you lose more than that, great.  But keep your goals modest and keep your long-term goal in sight.  The constant success will keep you motivated and you might even hit your goal before you planned to.  If you do, good for you!  I know I know... slow, gradual weight loss isn't sexy, but it's the only way to go if you want to keep the weight off long-term.  It's far easier to implement a minor lifestyle modification than an intensive one, especially over the long haul.  If you set out to eat zero carbs, and exercise 2 hours every day, you'll fail.  Quickly.  Take your time, don't get carried away, and keep your long-term goal in mind... there's no rush.

There you have it.  Three bits of advice to aid you this year in your New Year's resolution.  I hope this helps someone out there.  Has anyone had success with their resolutions in the past?  How did you do it?  And what are people going for this year?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments!


  1. return on investment... you sound like Ellen! I love this. It definitely made me think about my goals for the year 2013!

    My goal for 2013 is to get to be in the top 48 in the CrossFit opens and get to regionals! BOOM! What's your goal?

    1. Why thank you Amanda! I just sent Ellen my resume for grad school and I put my blog on there, hopefully she checks it out and sees these comments :)

      That's a great goal, you could definitely get there, you're a baby beast! I don't know what my goals are yet, gotta do some serious thinking!