New Year’s resolutions – we all make them, but why? Turns out we have been making them for thousands of years. It all started in ancient Babylon, with people making promises to gods hoping they will earn good favour in the coming year. Whether it’s wishing for better success with love, health, fitness, or anything else – we use the new year, the notional break and reset in our calendar, to promise ourselves the resolve to improve or change ourselves for the better over the next 12 months.
With 2016 coming to an end (don’t worry, we’ve no idea where this year’s gone either) we’re on the edge of declaring the season for New Year’s resolution season open. From late December/early January, we’ll all be making lists on lists on lists with #goals to help us make 2017 the best year of our lives.
But, are New Year’s resolutions always the best way to help us start a better lifestyle? Are we really more likely to stop skipping the gym and eating McDonald’s just because we promised to “be healthier” from the 1st day of January, instead of any other day?
Turns out the answer, perhaps as we all suspected, is most likely to be “no”.
Let’s look at the hard numbers. According to Refinery 29’s research conducted last year, only 5% of us have never broken a New Year’s resolution and only 10% of those who make them can say that one of their resolutions has actually turned into a permanent habit.
10% success, grim statistics right? Well there’s more. According to psychologists, New Year’s resolutions tend to be more stressful than motivational. Why is that?
Well, turns out there’s a few reasons actually.
Set Effective Goals
First, those goals you set? We tend to aim too high, or too general. When it comes to our expectations of ourselves, it turns out we err on the side of being a little too optimistic. You will not always be able to achieve your goal if it is as vague as to just to ‘be healthier’, but if you can then clearly define what the process steps necessary to be what you consider ‘healthy’ then it becomes a great deal more achievable.
A popular method is to split your goals into ‘Result Goals’ and ‘Process Goals’. So, to effectively reach an end ‘result goal’, it’s then necessary to create realistic ‘process goals’ which help you get to that result – makes sense, right?
If ‘healthy’ to you means increasing muscle mass, lowering your resting heart rate and dropping some body fat, then that creates some more tangible (and achievable) process steps to get there: Go to the gym 5 times a week with a well-chosen and effective resistance training program, make some defined nutritional changes and add in some aerobic exercise.
There will be times when you can’t hit those process goals of course - you will have to stay at work late or go to a friend’s birthday party instead of going for a run. And hey, that’s OK – just because you’re missing one workout, doesn’t mean that you’ve ruined the ‘result goal’ resolution, you’ve not fallen off the wagon – it’s good to cut yourself some slack every now and again, especially if it means you can keep close to those ‘process goals’ of yours.
Make Your Goals Progressive
Another reason that New Year’s resolutions tend to falter so easily, is that they often require a sudden, drastic change in your life, that start on one single given day, which is always hard to maintain. It’s quite difficult to go from eating cake 3 times a week to having no sugar whatsoever. Mentally, and physically, adjustment often comes in a gradual sense and requires those realistic and achievable process goals to evolve into something bigger over time. Stop putting sugar in your tea as first step, then drop that cake habit to one less slice a week, and so on.
So should we, as a society, ditch New Year’s resolutions completely? Definitely not.
Any effort to make change for the better is always good, something is always better than nothing. But the way we approach the resolutions may need to be more considered, if we are to work on improving that 10% success rate we mentioned earlier.
How about preparing yourself for it this year? Start early, start now. Do your research, and see what works for you so that you can set reasonable result and process goals. What do you want to achieve, and what will it take for you to get there?
Maybe start testing out that new gym program now, in December, to see if it’s something you enjoy and can stick to. Then when January comes it’s not such a drastic change at all.
We’re all different, and the way we reach our goals, whatever they may be, is a very personal journey. That’s why we created DNAFit. For every fitness and nutrition goal there exists many different roads to get there, many different process goals. We help people better identify their response to different kinds of exercise and nutrition, so they can choose the best way to reach their goal based on who they are, not just what works for everybody else.
Luckily, DNAFit’s test is available all year around, we don’t need to wait for January 1st to help you make that change. So, if you’re thinking about a fitness or nutrition goal for your new year’s resolution, why not start the path to that ‘result goal’ today with a better-informed plan than ever before – based on you, and only you.