Keep those resolutions going past February!
It’s January! The beginning of a sparkling new year! So much potential in January! Other than the Chicago weather, I generally love January. As a fitness instructor, I see January as packed with determined (sometimes apprehensive) new students, ready to conquer their fitness goals. I always hope they all stay, some of them do.
What happens to the ones who leave? I can only guess, but I believe there are several reasons, the most common being setting unrealistic goals or too many goals and both of which lead newbies to feeling overwhelmed or discouraged when these ambitions don't come to fruition.
I recently came across a study that it takes 66 days (or about twelve weeks) to really make a habit stick. I think most of us had heard 21, but apparently after 66 your body is used to your new activity with less effort. So if you’ve made a decision to get up early and workout before heading in to work every day, be prepared to MAKE yourself do it for 66 days.
What does this mean for all of those new health goals? It means that starting with more than one or two big ones is probably going to be too many. You’re going to be uncomfortable until it sticks. In how many ways do you want to be uncomfortable at once and for how long? How much bandwidth do you have to focus on new behaviors?
I also find that people focus a lot more on numbers than behaviors. For example: ‘I want to lose 15 pounds before Valentine’s Day’ or ‘I want to fit into the dress that I wore before I had kids by the end of the month,’ (read: drop x number of sizes by x date). There's nothing wrong with having a goal. In fact, sometimes a concrete goal will motivate you, if the stakes are high enough. In my experience, just dropping weight or a pant size is not high stakes enough to stick to an extreme goal.
When you hear about people making drastic changes and sticking to them, it’s generally because they had a high stakes reason. Some examples might be a diagnosis with an illness that will not improve unless you make severe lifestyle changes, or qualifying for a high level competition that really challenges and scares you a little bit, so you know you can't screw around or you will fail or get injured. The only reason we, as humans, voluntarily endure lots of discomfort is in order to avoid greater discomfort.
My recommendations? Change the fabric of your goal setting. Decide that you're going to get to the gym three times a week this year. Maybe you surprise yourself and end up going more often! Great! Another goal would be to begin cooking your own food more often and pay attention to what ingredients you use. Maybe check how often you eat out now, and set a goal to reduce by a certain amount per week. Small, achievable goals, broken up into increments like weeks, take less bandwidth and will add up. Keep those big goals, but maybe start with these small changes. Check how you're doing with your goal once a month or so just to keep you on track.
It’s not the things you do once in a while that are going to change you, it's things you do every day or at least most of the time. Change something small for good and watch the results!