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How to make New Year's resolutions stick

(Image courtesy: U7 Gym)

By U7 Gym

For many of us, we view the new year as a closing of an old chapter in our lives and the beginning of a new one. We see it as an ideal time to put a stop to bad habits, and to make promises to ourselves that we will improve our lives by making positive changes in the year ahead. And you know what? That’s fantastic!

There’s never been a bad time to make positive changes in your life. But for each new year that passes, many of us look back and realise we didn’t stick to our previous resolutions, and if we tried, we probably can’t even remember the resolutions we made before that. Don’t worry though, if this sounds like you, you definitely aren’t alone. Most of us are guilty of taking on the mindset of “new year, new me” at least once in our lives. It’s always half said in jest amongst our friends, but deep down some part of us believes that this year we will stick to the lifestyle changes that we are promising to ourselves. 

So why do so many of us flop when it comes to new year’s resolutions, and how can we put ourselves in an actual position for success this time round? Read on as we delve deep into all things new year resolutions and how you can approach them slightly differently this year so you can emerge victorious in 2023.

A Brief History.
You may be surprised to know that new year’s resolutions aren’t just another man-made modern creation to get people to buy gym memberships and spend money. No, the tradition of making new year resolutions actually goes back to ancient Babylonian times 4,000 years ago! Back then, people would pledge to the Gods to pay their debts and return borrowed objects to their rightful owners before the start of the new year. 

Their new year was slightly different to ours as it took place in March instead of January, as this was to coincide with when they planted their crops. If they stuck to their resolutions, the Gods would bless them by providing a good harvest. Failure to stick to their resolutions, well, I guess they’d have a whole heap of bad luck go their way as they fall out of favour with the Gods. Not ideal.

Nowadays, the typical resolution doesn’t involve making promises to any Gods. Instead, resolutions tend to focus more on self-improvement and look similar to ‘I will eat healthier’, ‘I will exercise more’, or ‘I will be more organised’. These are all great goals to have, however sometimes they can be too general, and if we just focus on these broadly-termed goals, we may not provide ourselves with the right framework to get the most out of our resolutions and be successful.

How Successful Are New Year’s Resolutions?
We don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but new year’s resolutions don’t seem to be that successful at all. According to U.S. News & World Report, only 71 percent of people stick to their New Year's resolutions after two weeks - a near 30% drop off in just two weeks?! What’s more, just 64 percent are successfully staying on track after one month. As the year continues to move forward, only about 46 percent of people make it past six months, and statistically, only 8 percent of people actually achieve their New Year's resolutions. yes, you read that right. 8%. Shocking, right?! 

A big reason for this high failure rate is because resolutions generally aren’t created with an expiration date. So, if you make a resolution such as ‘I will eat healthier’, it’s easy to make excuses and either start tomorrow, or eventually when you decide it’s a convenient time to start. In addition to that, trying to stick to such wide-sweeping and generalised resolutions such as the one described above, leaves so many important questions unanswered. What does eating healthier look like? How much ‘healthy’ food is enough? When will I know if I’ve achieved my goal? These questions can also easily be asked of any exercise-related, or other lifestyle change resolutions too. The important point here is that without any structure to your resolutions, it can be really difficult to make those all-important and meaningful steps to achieve your overall goal.

Change Your Mindset from Resolution to Goal.
When we set ourselves a resolution such as “I will attend the gym more”, we’re failing to look at the root cause of why we are wanting to set that specific resolution in the first place. We’re only skimming the surface of why we want to set that resolution. For example, a common reason to set a resolution to attend the gym more is if you’re wanting to lose weight. However, the resolution of attending the gym more is too vague, and so we can easily change the resolution into a goal and by doing so, give us structure, timeframes, and accountability. Thus, a much better resolution would be to “lose 5kg in the next 3 months by attending the gym 3 times a week for one hour.” See the difference? Now you’ve got yourself a real goal that is structured, achievable and that you can measure.

A framework that coaches use commonly in the fitness industry, and one that you can use to help you build your goals is known as the SMART goal framework. SMART is an acronym that stands for:

Specific: Be specific about what you want to achieve, why you want to achieve it, and how you are going to do it. Ask yourself why you want to achieve this goal to really understand the driving force behind your desire to achieve this goal. 

Measurable: Set yourself a metric that will help you measure your progress and determine if you have achieved your goal. This could be amount of weight lost, or how many calories you are going to eat each day, for example.

Achievable: Set a goal that you can actually achieve. Don’t set yourself up for failure. It is important here to be realistic! Start small and as you achieve each goal, you’re constantly moving closer to your big goal!

Remember, shooting too big too soon is a large part of the reason that so many resolutions fail.

Relevant: Does this goal help you reach your desired outcome?

Time-bound: Set yourself a time-frame in which you will give yourself time to achieve your goal. With a time-frame set, this helps to keep yourself motivated and accountable for achieving your goal in the given time.

Once you‘ve set yourself a SMART goal, it’s important to continually review and amend your goal as time passes and as you progress. Things don’t always go to plan, life happens, and things can slow you down from achieving your goal. When this happens, all you need to do is look at your goal and make some changes to ensure you stay on track. An example of this might be updating your goal from 3 gym sessions a week to 2 sessions per week due to time constraints, and instead of losing 5kg, you may alter it to 4kg. When things get in the way of your goal it can be frustrating but remember it’s better to make small changes along the way rather than dropping your resolution altogether.

Be SMART And Increase Your Chance of Success.

By following the SMART framework and setting yourself goals instead of a general New Year’s resolution, you'll give yourself measurable objectives and the motivation to reach your goals. Remember, it's all about taking small steps towards success, while having that all important bigger goal in the back of your mind to help keep you on track. So, this year when it comes to setting yourself a New Year resolution, try setting yourself some SMART goals instead and watch how successful you'll be.

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