The New Year provides the necessary motivation to fuel ambitious change. While motivation is a requirement of change, it alone does not guarantee success. Change requires hard work, sacrifice and time. Above all, a successful New Year's Resolution needs a solid plan made up of realistic goals, firm targets, rewards and contingency plans to thwart failure. Here are a few ways to doom even the best resolution intentions. Success comes much easier when you avoid these common resolution mistakes.
1. Unrealistic Goals. A resolution must be ambitious, but at the same time, realistic. Biting off too much leads to failure. Examples of overly ambitious goals include: losing 30 pounds in one month, gaining 20 pounds of muscle in six weeks or completely turning yourself into a health nut overnight. These goals are all built on great intentions but are unrealistic. Worthwhile change is difficult and time consuming. Quick change requires too much sacrifice to handle and eventually leads to premature failure. Slower change allows you to gradually become accustomed to a new lifestyle and is much easier to sustain over a long period of time. Slow change results in permanent and healthy lifestyle improvements while quick change is fleeting.
2. Don't Make Plan. A resolution without a solid plan won't go very far. A solid plan must include specific steps on how you intend to make change happen. For example, a weight loss plan must include some of the following details: daily calorie intake, weekly exercise schedule, off limit foods and cheat day rules. Figuring out the details before embarking on a resolution allows you to get an idea of how much work is needed to successfully change. A detailed plan shows you how hard change is, allowing you to adequately prepare.
3. Vague Goals Without Time Limits. A detailed plan must include: 1) a specific goal and 2) a time frame. Examples include, "lose 20 pounds in 3 months" or "run a 5k in under 25 minutes by the end of March." Vague resolutions without deadlines such as "lose weight" or "run more" lack the necessary structure to be successful. A specific goal with a time frame (example: lose 10 pounds in 6 weeks) alerts you to when you've succeeded and when you need to take additional measures to avoid failure.
4. Don't Reward Yourself. Rewards ease the transition from unhealthy to healthier habits. Change is a long term goal; it's the sum of many small accomplishments which eventually lead to bigger improvements over time. If the ultimate goal is losing 20 pounds, think of all the small steps you're taking to get there: eating healthier, cooking more often and exercising daily. When each of these smaller goals turn into new habits, reward yourself. A reward is anything you enjoy: shopping, eating out, cheat day or a rest day.
5. Quitting Too Soon. Change is difficult and doesn't come without a fight. Habits, both healthy and unhealthy, are deeply rooted in day-to-day routines. Transforming bad habits into good ones involves sacrificing many comforts you've become accustomed to living with. This sacrifice takes time and determination and rarely goes smoothly. On some days, this change may not even seem worth the effort. These feelings of doubt are normal. Don't turn back from all the progress you've made because of one or even a few bad days. Remember, change is the sum of many small steps. Don't think you've failed because of a few bad days. Improvement is a long, never ending journey in which you're always pushing yourself to complete new goals. Skipping the gym a few times, eating a few pieces of candy or missing a weight loss target by a few pounds means little over the course of the entire change journey.
The Bottom Line
A New Year's Resolution won't end in failure when you prepare for a successful one. Creating a realistic goal with a detailed, specific and time restrained plan greatly increases the chances of success. Rewarding yourself and realizing change isn't easy keeps a resolution going when progress starts feeling out of reach. Though the path to a successful resolution takes a great amount of hard work, worthwhile change is always difficult. Once you've completed this resolution, you'll have the confidence needed to tackle even bigger goals.