It’s that time again, the days when we painstakingly and determinedly make our list of New Year’s resolutions and put in place the first steps to better enjoying the journey.
This year, some people proclaim, will be the year they make a budget, the year they lose weight. This year, some will stick to a workout program, keep a cleaner house, get organized, better supplement a diet made up of much healthier foods and quality nutrients.
However, according to recent research, of those people who make at least one resolution when New Year’s rolls around (even for those who keep it simple), the vast majority – about 88 percent – will fail fast and give up.
At Xtend-Life, we often get emails asking for tips and advice on supplements and skincare products...and at this time of the year, one of the questions people ask us is… how they can start and stick to their New Year’s resolution of staying healthy, happy and nutritionally balanced.
We thought it would be a good idea to share some of these tips with you. It doesn’t matter if you’re starting a New Year’s resolution or not...you can use the info in this article to help you stick to whatever health and wellness plan you want, regardless if it’s on the 1st or 20th of January or the middle of the year. However, since it’s the January issue, we’ll focus on the example of New Year’s resolutions.
According to Marti Hope Gonzales, associate professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, research shows that “six weeks after people make their New Year's resolutions, 80 percent have either broken them or couldn't remember what they were.”
Since most of us choose to ring in the New Year with celebration, mixed drinks and an array of rich foods, we’re groggy and sluggish the next day, not at all in a position to begin making positive changes.
Instead, we’re wondering how we’re going to dredge up the energy to get up off the couch for anything other than a snack to nosh on during the football game, and from that moment on, we’re already feeling a bit like a failure.
It’s not as if we don’t know the things we need to do in order to be better. That’s why we are making resolutions in the first place.
“Sometimes we know the best thing to do, but fail and then giving up doing it. New Year's resolutions are often like that. We make resolutions because we know it would be better for us to lose weight, or get fit, or spend more time with our children. The problem is that a resolution is generally easier to break than it is to keep,” said Australian philosopher Peter Singer.
We just set goals so big that it’s easier to put if off a day, then another day, and then another.
Since we choose the couch over the gym on New Year’s Day, we are more likely to delay getting started on Jan. 2 as well, until more often than not, we’ve accomplished nothing and we’re right back where we started, this time with a little extra feeling of failure to make us feel worse than ever.
Even if we do manage to make it to the gym or spend a day eating well with no junk food in the mix, we often end up feeling so deprived of our previous lives that we quit before we give ourselves a real chance to succeed.
That feeling of deprivation is the first step toward failure, and should be erased along with the resolutions.
It’s not the goals, it’s the process
Wanting to improve ourselves is a perfectly wonderful idea. It’s the way we go about it that’s the problem. Vague resolutions, the abstract idea of being a better person, are not the way to make it happen. Goals, on the other hand, are better options, because they’re more focused and targeted.
By setting goals, we activate a certain process that allows us to take the first step toward revamping our lives successfully. Generally, experts say, the resolutions we set for ourselves are way too big, and much too generalized to manage.
According to USA.gov, the most common resolutions that Americans make include:
- Lose weight
- Manage debt/save money
- Get a better job
- Get fit
- Eat right
- Get a better education
- Drink less alcohol
- Quit smoking
- Reduce stress overall and/or at work
- Take a trip
- Volunteer to help others
The problem with such resolutions is that they offer an “I will” kind of quality, a vague notion that requires us to believe absolutely that we have the power to make it happen.
Experts suggesting rather than making a big, long list of things we want to change – a list that more often than not becomes overwhelming from the starting gate – select one thing where we can place all of our efforts.
Rather than saying, “I will lose weight, I will exercise, I will budget better,” consider saying “I want to lose 10 pounds by Valentine’s Day, I want to do a 5 mile run this spring, I want to save a certain amount of money for a cruise.” (Picking one, of course, not the whole list!)
Setting smaller, more manageable goals erases the abstraction of resolutions, and makes you more likely to succeed.
Training for improvement
In addition to setting the stage for success with smaller goals, we can also train our brains to work harder, especially when it comes to willpower. But throwing on a host of broad-stroke resolutions such as lose weight, quit smoking or get in shape is like taking on a full triathlon before you’ve even started a workout program.
Start with one consistent good habit you can achieve daily. If you start with too much effort full on you will risk exhausting yourself and give up before you’ve even started, zapping your self-esteem and setting yourself up to fail.
The brain, like our muscles, responds best to incremental demands.
Starting slow – like with a smaller dumbbell when beginning a weight training program – results in the most successful of changes.
By recognizing that there are things about ourselves we’d like to change, we’re one step better than Benjamin Franklin ever expected us to be.
“How few there are who have courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them,” he said.
To do the mending, we have to think of our willpower as a muscle to exercise. In order to strengthen our resolve, it’s important to make good actions a habit, an essential part of our lives.
In order to establish a habit, experts say we have to invest anywhere from 21 days to two months, depending on which study you choose to place your belief in.
If you want to slim down and be healthier, try setting a goal of eating a healthy breakfast every day or adding a piece of fruit as a snack each day. As you become more accustomed to the changes, and are successful at exacting those small but meaningful changes, you will be encouraged to add other healthy habits to the mix.
On the other hand, if you set your large goal – I want to lose weight – without breaking it down into more manageable pieces – you run the risk of running off the rails at the first taste of chocolate, and will feel defeated before you even begin.
Motivation is vital
Being motivated is the most critical aspect of change, experts say. If we truly are motivated to effect change, we will have the power to do so.
But if we are changing for others rather than ourselves, our motivation spirals downward, and we are less likely to succeed.
“Your ability to find and maintain your motivation for meaningful and long-lasting change will ultimately determine whether you're able to break long-standing habits and patterns,” says Jim Taylor, an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco.
Motivations can be either internal or external, and both can be effective.
Internal motivations are a deep desire to attain something, a passion for developing a skill or the need to take on new challenges for personal development.
External motivation comes in the form of praise from others, recognition from others, monetary rewards, or honors such as ribbons or medals.
For an Olympic athlete, motivation is usually both internal, a desire to be the best, and external, in the form of gold, silver or bronze medals. For those of us who are not Olympic athletes, finding a way to blend both forms of motivation can be a good way to help make goals reality.
Imagine your life right now. If you hate what you’re doing, and hate how you feel, do you really want to be doing it another year from now? Imagining yourself a year from now, living a life that has come from successfully tackling the goals you’ve set for yourself, can be the motivation you need to take that first critical step toward exacting change.
Tips to get (and stay) motivated
Since staying motivated is such tricky business, we want to make sure we have all the tools we need in our arsenal to help make the process easier.
Visualize, but do it right. When visualizing your goals, imagine the results of staying the same vs. making the change. If you want to add jogging to your exercise regimen, first picture the outcome if you skip the run – another night on the couch with no energy to do much more than open a bag of chips. Then imagine how you’ll feel after the run (satisfied, energized, confident and proud). To prevent inertia from taking charge, also imagine yourself choosing to change clothes and head out the door, even if your desire wanes.
Plan for all your excuses (they’re yours, after all, and by now you know them well), and think of solutions for each of them.
Keep your goal front and center. If you goal is to lose weight for a class reunion, keep the invitation in plain sight so you’re reminded throughout the process why you’ve set the goal in the first place.
Plan rewards. Because we know breaking up your goal into smaller ones is essential, planning rewards when each small goal is attained is an excellent way to maintain motivation, even when it gets a little bit harder. New jewelry for every 10 pounds lost or new bike gear as a reward for reaching a personal best on a steep climb can help inspire motivation to continue improving.
Track your progress. Weighing yourself once a week or monitoring the speed or distance of a run allows you to see real progress, and will help motivate you to continue and provide the impetus required for soaring past hurdles and discouragements that come.
Take a break. Allow yourself to miss a workout once in a while – muscles need a break to rebuild and get stronger – and don’t beat yourself up if you eat something that’s not part of your healthy diet. Know that feeling deprived is the biggest roadblock, so keeping those feelings at bay by allowing a weekly cheat meal or a day of rest and relaxation can go a long way toward future success.
Give yourself a pat on the back
So we’ve set our goals, we’ve motivated ourselves to make them happen and are taking the one-step-at-a-time approach to set them in motion.
By setting the stage for success, we’re making success a more likely outcome. Laying groundwork, after all, is half the battle.
While working toward your goals, no matter what they are, be kind to yourself in the process.
Get enough sleep, drink enough water, and eat well to ensure that you have the energy to live a happy, joy-filled life. (Fast food meals tend to zap us of energy because they contain too much fat and sodium, so we feel sluggish and bloated rather than energized from our food).
Ensure you’re getting the right nutrients every day. Nutrient deficiencies can not only contribute to more stress and fatigue, these deficiencies may even support the onset of other health conditions...causing a serious dent in your plan to live a healthy lifestyle.
One way of ensuring you’re getting an optimal amount of the right ingredients and nutrients your body needs is by supplementing with products like Total Balance, Omega 3 / DHA Fish Oil and Kiwi-Klenz. These Xtend-Life products are formulated with synergistic ingredients that may help support your health and body’s systemic functions throughout your quest to stay healthy.
When it comes to New Year’s resolutions (or any personal change for that matter), the key is never give up, even if you miss a day or make a mistake while achieving the goals you’ve set out.
Forgive yourself if you make a mistake, and get on with it. We’re human, after all, and tomorrow is a new chance to try again and take a step closer to your goals.
Enjoy the journey!