The New Year provides motivation to those seeking positive change. January acts as a starting point for improvement, but all too often, this quest to change ends in failure. Resolutions don't fail because of a lack of desire; poor planning is the usual culprit and ruins even the best of intentions.
With solid planning and a keen awareness of how much work change actually requires, a New Year's Resolution becomes a starting point for progress and personal improvement. Avoiding common resolution mistakes allows you to realize the benefits of change and build confidence to tackle even bigger goals.
Step 1: Have a Realistic Goal
The most important step in creating a successful New Year's Resolution is drawing up realistic goals. A New Year's Resolution shouldn't attempt to erase years of bad habits overnight. If it took an entire year to gain 50 pounds of unwanted weight, it's unrealistic to try and lose it in one month. If you've never ran more than half a mile, it's unrealistic to attempt a half marathon in March.
Transforming yourself from inactive and unhealthy on December 31st into a health nut on January 1st isn't realistic. The steps needed for positive change are sometimes overwhelming. Overwhelming shouldn't dissuade you from making change, it should however, lead you into more realistic goals and time frames.
Instead of using a resolution to fix big life problems, start with smaller goals. Though losing 50 pounds is a great long term goal, think of all the steps needed to get there. Rather than trying to lose 50 pounds right now, start putting together smaller steps to move you in the right direction.
Some good realistic New Year's Resolutions include: "lose two pounds per week in the first two months for total loss of eight pounds by the end of February", "exercise 45 minutes per day, four times per week" or "limit intake to 2,000 calories per day."
All of the above resolutions lead to the ultimate goal of losing 50 pounds but are more realistic and easier to achieve. These smaller goals build confidence allowing you to tackle bigger problems in the future. Remember, a resolution isn't the end, it's just the beginning. Once you hit these small targets, move onto bigger and more challenging ones.
Step 2: Make a Specific and Detailed Plan
A successful resolution needs a solid plan. Ask yourself detailed and specific questions on how you plan on accomplishing the goal. How many days per week are you going to exercise? How many calories are you going to eat? What sorts of food do you plan on cooking? What needs to go on the grocery shopping list?
Some examples of details you need to include in a plan are: a list of foods to buy, the outline of an exercise routine and a resolution contract with yourself. Putting the plan into writing gives you a framework to succeed. When you plan out all the small and specific steps you need to take, the amount of work needed to change comes with much less of a shock. When you know what to expect, you are more likely to find solutions to problems rather than quitting at the first sign of trouble.
Step 3: Define Success
A New Year's Resolution must define success with measurable goals and time frames. Avoid open ended goals such as "being healthy" or "getting into shape." These vague goals have no clear end date or definition of success which gets frustrating if you're looking to measure progress.
Instead, set up a goal with targets. Instead of "getting into shape", try, "run one mile in eight minutes or less by the end of February" or "lose 5 pounds in two months." These goals are narrower and more focused than "getting healthy" or "getting into shape" because they are built with specific goals making progress (or lack of) easier to gauge.
Step 4: Complete Smaller Goals First
When making more than one New Year's Resolution, start with the smallest one first. Small goals are easier to complete and build confidence allowing you to go after bigger and more challenging ones. Though more challenging goals ultimately offer more reward, the shock you feel from too much sacrifice makes you reconsider change all together. Starting with a smaller goal eases the transition of change.
Step 5: Get Help From Friends and Family
It's almost certain you're not the only one with a resolution. If you look around, you'll find family, friends and co-workers with similar goals. Find these people and work together. When you start slipping, friends and family should be there to pick you up. Having a support network makes change a lot easier.
The Bottom Line - Step 6: Don't Aim for Perfection
Don't expect an easy ride. The reason why resolutions fail is because people envision the process of change as a perfect one. Once the slightest problem surfaces, they already think they've failed. Realizing change isn't a smooth process allows you to solve problems rather than letting them destroy goals. Even the healthiest people aren't always on the right path. The beauty about a healthy lifestyle is it allows you to engage in unhealthy habits some of the time given you practice great habits most of the time. Don't let perfection get in the way of real progress.