To help you with your new year health and fitness resolutions, we've put together a few blog articles that focus on improving your health and fitness for the new year.
This is the first blog in our "New Year | New You" blog series and we want to discuss how to set your goals and the best way to achieve them. Many people set themselves New Year's resolutions, but very few stick to them or achieve them, let's turn this around!
Choosing a New Year Resolution
If you listen to most people and ask them about their New Year's resolutions, you'll start to see a pattern between people that succeed and fail. Generally those who fail to stick to their resolutions have very vague or general goals. On the other hand, those who are most likely to succeed have clearly defined goals.
It doesn't matter if your New Year's resolution is based on health, fitness or just general life goals, the important thing is setting yourself up correctly with something you want to achieve.
How often do you hear people say "This year I want to lose weight" or "This year I'm going to exercise more" ? These aren't really goals, they are statements.
The truth about statements, is that they're very easy to say, but very difficult to achieve. Our brains operate a reward system that rewards you with feel good hormones, such as dopamine, when you achieve things. It's a powerful system that is hardwired into our genetics through years of evolutionary survival, it's also why so many people get addicted to computer games.
So when someone says "This year I want to lose weight", at what point does their brain reward them? The truth is it doesn't, because there is no clear point where the brain can identify that it has achieved the goal. Without perceived progress or achievement, our motivation soon fails, even in those with spartan-like self-discipline. So the problem with most people's New Year's resolutions is simply that they're not SMART goals.
Choosing a New Year's resolution is firstly about setting a SMART goal and secondly it's about forming a solid habit. Once you have the habit established, then success is far more likely. So let's quickly cover what a SMART goal is and then we'll discuss how to create a habit.
SMART goals have been around in popular psychology since the 80's and they work. In order for a goal to be SMART it needs to be:
Specific - So the goal of "I want to lose weight" isn't specific, its very general, instead you could say I want to lose 10 kilos of body fat by September 2020.
Measurable - It's important for the reward system, we discussed above, that the goal is measurable. This way you can track progress and see that you are achieving your goal bit by bit. You'll be a lot more motivated with tangible results.
Achievable - There's nothing more demotivating than looking at the top of a physiological mountain and wondering how you'll ever get to the summit. Keep your goals achievable, but still challenging and you'll be a lot more successful. It's better to set a new goal every month, because you're smashing your goals, than grinding away at something unrealistic and feeling like you're getting nowhere. Also be careful about setting goals that contain factors outside of your control. For example, setting the goal of finding love, would depend on other people and no matter how hard you work, you may just be unlucky in finding the right person.
Relevant - It's important that the goal is highly relevant to you. Ask yourself these questions: "Is this the right time?"; "does this seem worthwhile?"; "does this match my needs?"; "Does this fit my lifestyle?"; "am I the right person to reach this goal?".
- Time bound - An open ended goal totally lacks in commitment. Therefore you'll have no pressure to work on it and probably won't achieve it. If you set some sort of time target within your goal then you'll work harder to get it done in time. Even if you don't hit the target, at least you have something to aim for. You can always adjust the target, but always set a deadline, even if it's as simple as "by the end of the year".
So now you have a New Year's resolution, you've set a SMART goal, the next thing to do is breakdown the goal into steps. What do you need to do in order to achieve the goal? What resources do you need? Do you need to research the best method for achieving the goal? Once you've done this planning, write down the plan and write down your goal. Place it somewhere you will see every day, such as your bathroom mirror. Seeing your goal/resolution everyday is a very powerful motivator. Most importantly breakdown your ultimate goal into a daily goal which will form the key to the next part of achievement - habit.
Create a habit
Creating a habit can take time. The old tale that they take 21 days, isn't really accurate, with modern studies showing an average of 66 days and this depends a lot on the task and the person. However habits are powerful and shouldn't be underestimated. By creating a smaller, daily goal you can develop a habit. So for example if your goal is to be able to have a 10 minute conversation in a new language by the end of the year, you could break that down into studying your new language for 30 minutes a day. This sounds a lot easier and more accountable than "I'll study every single day".
Now the key to building a habit is doing it everyday. This is absolutely mandatory to success. However life doesn't always allow us to exercise for "one hour a day". You might get sick, or have a really bad day. But no matter what, do something everyday to maintain your habit. So using the above language example, if you had a super busy day, it's bedtime and you really can't face studying. Then put on a podcast in your language, even if you just do five minutes it's better than nothing. In this case, it's the act of simply doing something to maintain the habit that matters, not so much the amount of work you put in.
By never breaking the habit, it'll become cardinal. This sends your mind the message, that no matter what, this is a habit and it won't be broken for anything. It'll also keep your motivation up. If you do nothing and tell yourself "I'll make up for it tomorrow" you'll face an even bigger challenge the next day and what if something else unexpected happens?
This is another thing that most people overlook when they set a New Year's resolution. It's easy to lie to yourself, but it's much harder to lie to someone you, like and respect. So tell someone, or several people, about your goal. Explain to them that you want them to hold you accountable. Make sure they check up on you every week to see how you're doing. This instantly increases the consequences for not working on your goal and it gives you someone to help with motivation. It'll also give you a lot more satisfaction when you finally achieve your goal and those people are there for you.
Most top athletes use this technique and it's been proven to work in helping people to achieve their goals and dreams. You simply visualise yourself already having achieved your goal, think of yourself as if you've already achieved it and you'll instantly feel better about yourself and you'll dedicate yourself more to your goals.
So set your resolution, make a plan, create a daily habit and use these techniques to give yourself the best possible chance of success with your goals in 2020. Good luck and if you need any new fitness equipment to help you with your goals then check out our clearance sale, we have a wide range of products at some fantastic prices: