It’s that time of year again when many of us resolve to change. And while January is when we make resolutions, February is when we fall off the wagon. While thinking about what improvements I would like to make in 2015—build more lean muscle, replace processed foods with whole foods, act with more patience and let more things go — I started to ponder why we succeed and why we fail at resolutions.
The reasons aren’t always clear and they’re certainly different for everybody. That being said, I came across a post from Women’s Running Magazine recently while scrolling through my Facebook Feed. It said, “Resolutions get broke but GOALs get accomplished.” It struck a chord with me. And I started thinking that setting goals –particularly small ones—instead of making resolutions would better position us all for success.
According to virtually every form of media, resolutions related to better health and fitness are the most common and the first to be abandoned. Perhaps setting goals is the first step towards breaking this trend. But before we set any goals, can we all agree to ditch the word “diet.” It’s synonymous with deprivation (yuck). And let’s face it, healthy eating should be a lifelong process not something we do temporarily to lose a few pounds. Getting into a goal-oriented mindset should make it easier to build on smaller successes. So, I’m getting more specific with my goals and keeping them short term. Instead of thinking about the year ahead, I’m going to take it week by week. This week, I’m going to:
- Shop the perimeter of the grocery store (where all the fresh, whole foods are) to fill most (I didn’t say all) of my cart.
- Pick one new vegetable-based recipe before making my shopping list. Include the ingredients on the list, cook and serve it.
- Stop buying artificial sweeteners. If they’re not in the house, I won’t use them in my coffee or otherwise.
If I can do it this week, I can do it next week. And so on and so forth. Success will build on success. It should be no different with fitness goals. If I can commit to one strength training class that’s outside of my cardio comfort zone per week, I will most likely get stronger and maybe even enjoy it—making headway towards that lean muscle goal!
All of this sounds great on paper, but about setbacks? Answer: plan for them! We go to parties and eat cake. We get sick and miss that class at the gym. We’re human. One of the kindest things we can do for ourselves and others is to acknowledge slip-ups and let them go (another goal in progress!). Don’t make them an excuse to give up. Nobody is immune to failure. The greatest achievers are those who persevere. And in the simplest, short term language, if you get right back to work after backsliding, you will still be further along next year than you were the year before.
Ultimately, we are all works in progress. If we think of ourselves as projects that are never finished, but always improving, we can allow ourselves to build on small successes while accepting the ebbs and flows of life. Go ahead and set big goals. Then, create small step-by-step plans to achieve them. And don’t forget to reward yourself for jobs well done.
I wish you all the best this year and many successes—no matter what your goals may be.