Happy New Year!
It’s that time of year again. Everyone posts a Facebook status detailing all the positive changes they’re going to make this year, but for most people those changes will be short lived.
Separate yourself from the masses and crush your New Year’s resolution with five strategies to pave your way to goal setting glory.
Number 5: Believe Your Resolution Is Achievable
When you’re setting a goal, the first step to achieving it is believing you can. Some people create a spur of the moment resolution because everyone else is doing it, and this can result in an unreasonable goal.
If you announce a resolution to gain 30 pounds of muscle without knowing anything about diet or exercise, you’re setting yourself up for failure. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be ambitious, only that your ambition should be tempered with realism.
It’s better to be forced to raise the bar once you reach it than to lower the bar because you couldn’t get there. Be honest with yourself and start with a goal you believe you can reach.
Number 4: Reward Your Small Successes
Setting milestones and rewarding yourself as you hit them is proven to increase motivation and strengthen commitment. This works because of something called classical conditioning – we’re hardwired to seek rewards and avoid punishment.
By rewarding yourself as you achieve progress, you’re conditioning your brain to associate progress with pleasure.
We’ve all heard someone say that going to the gym is hard at first, but eventually it becomes hard not to go. This is because there’s not much of a reward at first, just hard work and sore muscles.
As muscles grow and fat disappears, the brain starts to understand the short term pain of working out leads to long term happiness and self-esteem. The emotions you feel are a result of whether your brain has a positive or negative expectation about future events.
Your brain is a quick learner, so take advantage of this mechanism and reward behaviours you want to develop.
Number 3: Be Prepared With a Clear Plan
A person’s level of preparation is one of the best predictors of resolution success.
If your goal is to lose ten pounds, you’d have a decent shot at success if you plan to eat less and exercise. A better plan would be to eat less, join a gym, and avoid fast food. A great plan would be to create a meal plan, have the groceries in the fridge on New Year’s Eve, hire a personal trainer, limit your drinking on nights out, and avoid fast food.
Take into account multiple ways to succeed, and anticipate multiple ways you might fail. It’s much easier to succeed if you have an in depth understanding about what you need to do and how you’re going to do it.
Number 2: Make Your Resolution Is Specific, Measurable, and Attainable
If your resolution has these three traits, you’re already ahead of pretty much everyone.
Specific goals are far more likely to be pursued because you know exactly what you have to do. A classic example of this is the wave of people who buy a gym membership in January only to quit days or weeks after signing up.
These people likely made a goal of going to the gym – which they achieved – but they didn’t specify a series of exercises to do when they got there. As a result, they felt overwhelmed by the variety of equipment and didn’t even know where to begin.
I remember my first experience in the gym being incredibly awkward. Huge jacked dudes were everywhere moving quickly from machine to machine; they knew exactly where they needed to go and how to use different equipment. People waited around impatiently while I figured stuff out, and I felt like I had to rush through everything.
I stopped going after a couple weeks because it was such an unpleasant experience, which brings us to the number one secret to making your resolution a success…
Number 1: Define Failure Realistically
Getting in shape was my resolution that year, and I felt like shit when I quit after only two weeks. About a week after I stopped going, a friend invited me to a Muay Thai class and I loved it. I started training three times a week and eventually got into competitive fighting.
Success doesn’t always happen the way you think it will. If you define failure as having a slip or a setback you’re setting yourself up for disappointment, because we all slip at some point. Mentally prepare yourself for the times when you come up short, and don’t beat yourself up over it.