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Sticking to Our Resolutions

Happy new year everyone! It’s pretty traditional that we look at where we are going this upcoming year and set goals for ourselves. Working out, eating right, spending time with loved ones, working on that special project, etc; all things we didn’t get to do as much as we would have liked last year. Yet, how many times have we had a resolution fizzle out after the first few weeks? According to inc.com, 80 percent of new year resolutions don’t get accomplished. With that failure rate, makes you wonder why set a resolution at all? How about we tackle this and make our resolutions successful ones.

SMART Resolutions and Goals

Goals and new year resolutions are really the same thing. Although, we can get picky with the words, the end state is the same. I’ve heard a swath of resolutions this year such as “Work out and get healthy”, “Don’t eat fast food”, “Lose 30 pounds”, “Finish xyz project”. Nothing is wrong with these resolutions generally, but they all could use just a smidgen more information to really make them stick.

We’ve talked about goals a lot in previous articles, but one of the main take-aways to remember is that goals are only as good as their ability to get us to move in the direction we want. If we don’t know how to get the goal accomplished, it’s not going to do us any good. In the project management world Peter Drucker, coined S.M.A.R.T as a way to easily remember that all tasks need to ultimately be Specific (it’s clear what we are going for), Measurable (we know how we are getting closer), Attainable (it’s in the realm of real possibility), Relevant (it’s useful, appropriate or meaningful to us) and Time-Bound (there is a timeframe we are aiming for).

Instead of “Work out and get healthy” a SMART resolution would be more like: “Work out 3 times a week for at least 30 minutes each following xyz workout guidance to improve strength and cardio.” All our resolutions listed earlier could use a similar sanity check; for instance, “Don’t eat fast food” may sound like it meets all the guidelines, but does chipotle count as fast food? Can we eat a salad from McDonald’s? How long are we doing this, and is the purpose to save money or to be healthy or just because?

Once we’ve established what we believe are SMART resolutions, we actually shouldn’t stop there. We have to think of our initial pass as a first draft. After we’ve gotten an idea of what we want, we have to look at our unclean slate.

What happened to last year?

It’s easy to understand why resolutions don’t often get accomplished. We make them with high hopes and aspirations for the new year, we think of the new year as a clean slate to start fresh. Unfortunately for us, there is no clean slate. We have all the same baggage and problems all around us and mixed into our lives. What this means is that most of the time our resolutions aren’t very realistic and don’t account for the unclean slate.

Let’s say our new SMART resolution is to lose 30 pounds in four months; why didn’t we do it last year? Most likely we’ll have a list of reasons, some of them justifiable some of them just excuses. Maybe we worked two jobs and didn’t have time, maybe we were stressed out in other areas, maybe the gym closures really affected our regular schedule, maybe we injured something. The point isn’t that we do or don’t make excuses, the fact is if we are deciding to have a resolution, we at least acknowledge that we are responsible for change ourselves.

The more important point is that we had reasons last year, what makes us think those reasons will not be a problem this year? What we cannot do is rely on “motivation” or “will power” of the new year to get us through; we can’t just be hard headed and put our head down thinking if we try hard enough it will be fine.

We have to truly understand what held us back, what took priority over our resolutions in the past? Even with brand new resolutions, we are still changing something about what we used to do and what we’re going to do now. All these priorities and things going on last year is the unclean slate and the fact is we will have to make room for our new priorities.

If we still work two jobs and that was a primary cause of our weight gain, we may need to be even more specific to ensure it’s really attainable. How are we going to get a decent workout in when we’re tired from working 16 hour days? Can we incorporate something into our workday? How can we eat better? Can we incorporate an intermittent fasting program easier? We have to really understand our situation, what is or isn’t our priorities and be as realistic as possible. While the point of SMART goals, is to do just that, sometimes we may not realize that a simple goal may sound attainable, but it really isn’t unless we walk through all the priorities that can get in the way.

Tough Resolutions

Now even after we’ve made our SMART resolutions, tweaked and incorporated previous priorities, we still may fail to stick to our resolution. In those cases it could be that our resolutions are attainable, but just not very fun. It could be painful and mind numbing. There isn’t an easy answer for tough resolutions, people like David Goggins are much better at describing how to dig in and get tough resolutions done. The bottom line is that if it sucks, but we really want to achieve our resolution, we have to embrace the suck.

Some goals don’t get easier and it is often very misleading to believe that they always do. Let’s take short distance sprinting as an example. Imagine we ran 100 meters in twelve seconds for the first time in our training. We tried our hardest to get those twelve seconds. If our goal was to be a college or higher athlete, we most likely would be working to get as fast as humanly possible. Our goal then would be constantly changing to decrease our time; next eleven seconds, then ten, then nine and no matter what we would always increase the goal to get to the next level.

When we constantly ratchet up or change our goals, the process never gets easier from a difficulty perspective. It will always be difficult to achieve the next level. The real point of “resolutions” is that we resolve ourselves to go through the pain and the difficult times to achieve something we really want for ourselves.

Resolve to Have a Good New Year

Let’s recap on how to not be part of the 80% of resolution drop outs:

  1. Set SMART Resolutions
  2. Address the unclean slate
  3. Accept that some things will never get easier
  4. Accept that failure will happen, but giving up doesn’t have to

Despite the cliche, we all should have resolutions. Let’s not randomly drift through life, let’s take the helm and go where we resolve to go.

Thoughts?

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