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We are 24 days into the new year. As the calendar is renewed, two-thirds of America plans to better themselves. Nearly 40 percent of people want to either eat healthier or get more exercise! Looking ahead into the calamitous future, only 25 percent stick with it after a month and about 8 percent complete their New Year’s Resolution. Whatever your goals may be, I am here to help you accomplish them. Take a look at these tips and see where you can incorporate them into your daily lives.
1) Make a plan!
A goal without a plan is just a wish. As a personal trainer, I love making goals. Let’s take a look at this example:
“I will save money.” Okay, good start. How will you save money? How much will you save? For how long will you save?
“By the end of January, I will save 100 dollars by not eating out.”
It’s Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and has a Time component. We call this a SMART goal.
“I will work out at the gym three times a week during January.”
“Throughout January, I will eat a salad four nights a week.”
“For the next month, I will go to bed at 10 PM so I can get at least eight hours of sleep each night.”
Whatever you want to get accomplished, make a goal! I advise making short term and long-term goals; a short-term goal is a stepping stone to your long-term goals. If you want to get in better shape and build muscle, that is a great goal, but how do you measure “build muscle”? You can measure how much weight you lifted, how long you ran, how many stairs you can climb, etc. A short-term goal will lead you to your end goals. I will lift 135 pounds one time on the bench press is a short-term goal leading you to lifting 225 pounds by the end of the year.
Action Step: Write out your goals in a SMART format.
It is easier to fulfill your goal when you have someone there to support you; this can be as simple as having a workout buddy or as extreme as having someone force feed you a salad four times a week. Whatever floats your boat, I don’t judge. Having support from a family member or friend makes a world of difference.
Here’s why! We feel bad about cheating our diet, but that pizza, Grippo’s and Ski just tasted oh so good! However, we feel awful when we let someone down. Our emotions play a huge role in our actions.
If you are a lone wolf, that is okay. Using a journal to track your behavior gives you visible evidence of your behavior. You might think you have not gone out very much but looking at your budget you can see the eight Starbucks visits, three Taco Tuesdays with margaritas, and those two times you just had to have some Buffalo Wild Wings! We can trick our brains into believing almost anything.
Action Step: Find someone or something to keep you accountable.
3) 21 Days
21 days is how long it takes to make or break a habit… maybe. This has been around since the 1950s when a plastic surgeon found the remarkable consistency between his patients that after three weeks, they all had adjusted to the sight of their new life (nose job, amputee, etc.). Plot twist, he actually said it takes a minimum of 21 days.
A recent study found that it takes anywhere from 18 days to over 200 days to form a habit. Fortunately, the mean (average) is 66 days. While this seems much longer than the previous 21 days, it also explains why 25 percent of people fail to reach their New Year’s Resolutions after one month; THEY HAVE NOT GIVEN IT ENOUGH TIME!
If you want to look at the huge picture, if you live another 50 years, 66 days is less than 0.4 percent of your life. You can do it.
Action Step: Stick with your resolution. Tomorrow could be the day it transforms from a chore to a habit.
4) The Dreaded Wagon
I’ve never heard someone be excited about the wagon. So many people want to try something knew but are afraid of falling off the wagon.
“Fear of a name increase fear of the thing itself.” – JK Rowling.
You cannot be afraid to fail! I could have a hay day right now with failure quotes and overcoming failure.
Here is my thought on this. It is okay to PARK the wagon, but don’t fall off.
Let’s take a look at this practically. Your goal is to eat vegetables at least once a day for the entire month and eliminate all pizza and sweets. Meanwhile, at the end of the month, you are going on vacation with your family and you know that you are going to want some ice cream. Do it. Eat the ice cream. Be happy about it too. Life is about balance. Being healthy and sticking with your goals is important, but so is your happiness. Compromise with yourself; have ice cream only two times that week, go on a walk with your family, and eat some more vegetables. Heck, the wagon is parked, eat the ice cream and do nothing about it. The important thing is to not over do it! Have one normal size bowl, not a bowl made for André the Giant.
Arguably the most important thing is this: when you get back home, start the wagon again!
Action Step: Plan your future and be realistic with yourself. Be happy.
5) You are NOT your failures.
This is a concept that I believe everyone should take a moment to think about. We have a tendency to dwell in our failures and let it drive our life. On one spectrum, this can be a great thing. A student fails a test and tries even harder the next time. Our failures can motivate us.
You are you. You are not what you did not accomplish. In the textbooks, they talk about Thomas Edison’s success to harness energy into a light bulb; they don’t talk about the 10,000 ways he failed. That would be a big book.
So you stopped following your New Year's Resolution and January isn’t over. So you wanted to finish college but things got in the way. So you wanted to deadlift 500 pounds but can’t. So you wanted to read a book but didn’t make it past the cover page. So you wanted to try the keto diet but you had pasta the second night. So what?! There is time. You are reading this, which tells me you are alive. There is always time. You can change. You must first accept that your first attempt was simply not the right recipe and now it’s time to try a different one!
Action Step: Love yourself for all your accomplishments and failures.
It is fun to imagine our lives for the better. So many of us want to lose that extra five pounds on the scale, lift that extra 100 pounds at the gym, be just a little smart. Whatever your dream is, there is nothing stopping you.