I saw a meme the other day that I posted on my instagram page (username: maryellendance) that says: “I don’t call them New Year’s Resolutions. I prefer the term, ‘Casual promises to myself that I’m under no obligation to fulfill”. I thought this was hilarious and when I posted this on instagram I received many likes and comments of others who also found this funny. Why did we find this so funny? Because it is incredibly true!!
Studies show that 73% of people who set New Year’s Resolutions to go to the gym give up (www.bodybuilding.com). I’m not sure about you, but I have been to the gym in the first few weeks of January and it has been a crowded mess! By February, usually the crowds have died down significantly, or so I’ve heard because I am usually one of the 73% that give up by February.
People who are close to me, know that New Year’s Eve is one of my least favorite days of the year. I find it to be a lot of pressure to have fun, be happy, and ring in the New Year on a positive note. Often, by 12:15AM on New Year’s, I find myself annoyed by something, or have said something where I have had to put my foot in my mouth and I always think “Great, the whole new year is ruined now!” I understand that this is a bit of an over exaggeration, but the pressure of New Year’s, keeping resolutions, and the age old phrase of “new year, new you” is very real.
So if this is the case, and we all know that this is the case, why in the world do we keep making New Year’s Resolutions over and over again year after year? I like to think, that the reason we keep putting ourselves through this pressure and this failure (or at least 73% of us) is because we want to be better. It shows that people are interested in self improvement, self growth, and being the best they can be. So if we are interested in this, but we keep giving up on our resolutions, what do we do? Do we move forward living a healthy lifestyle every January and then giving up? That doesn’t sound great to me.
Well, I have some thoughts on how we combat this yearly struggle. Someone once told me “To move forward, we have to know where we’re going”. I think this is genius, how can we grow and improve if we don’t know where we’re going. Goals (or resolutions) are a great thing to have. They help to keep us focused, keep us moving forward, and know what direction we’re going in.
I think we often give up our goals because we don’t know how to achieve them. Just saying “I’m going to go to the gym 3 times a week” is actually not specific enough. That is a goal that can easily be forgotten about. If someone told me that was their goal or resolution I would ask: What days will you go to the gym? What gym will you go to? When will you set your alarm? How will you be held accountable to go? If you miss a day, how will you handle that? What will you do to get back on schedule? All of these questions often go unanswered and make it very easy for us to give up on our goals.
Another thing that I think happens when we make goals is we make too big of goals. Achievable goals should be made looking at the next 1-3 months. I used to make huge to do lists where I would end up writing things on my to do list that I would need to do between now and the next 5 years. This was a recipe for disaster and just overwhelmed me. Making smaller goals helps us to focus, not feel overwhelmed, and actually achieve these goals.
A good thing to practice when making goals is making sure they are S.M.A.R.T. goals. This stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely. Continuing with the goal example of going to the gym, ways to make this a S.M.A.R.T. goal might be: I will go to the gym 3 times per week for 45 minutes. I will go to this specific type of gym (insert gym) and I will do these types of workouts (insert types of workouts). I will go on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 7am and be home in time to shower and go to work on time. If I happen to miss a day, I will make it up on Saturday. I will do this for 2 months and then reassess my goal.
The other important thing to remember is that we don’t just have to make goals on January 1st. We can make new goals every single day! Taking things day by day, making realistic goals, and giving ourselves a break if we don’t achieve these goals without completely giving up! Good luck setting S.M.A.R.T. goals!!