For many people, the beginning of a new year marks an opportunity for self-improvement, often in the form of health and fitness goals. On average, 45% of Americans make a New Year’s resolution each year. However, only about 8% actually follow through. Why is it so hard for most people to stick to their resolutions?
1. Your resolution is too vague
When deciding on your resolution, the more details the better. If your resolution is to “get in shape”, how will you know if you’ve achieved that? Does losing 5 pounds count as getting in shape? What about running twice a week? Something as ambiguous as “getting in shape” will allow you to settle for much less than you’re capable of, and you don’t really know when you’ve accomplished your goal. A better resolution for getting in shape would be “I will lose 20 pounds by the end of March and will maintain that weight for the rest of the year,” or “I will run 3 times a week and will increase my speed and distance so I can run 6 miles at a 9-minute-mile pace by the beginning of June.” These are specific goals and it will be easy for you to hold yourself accountable for reaching them.
2. You try to accomplish everything at once
To stay on track and reach your end goal, you need to break up your resolution into small, achievable steps. If you want to run 6 miles but can’t currently make it around the block, you’re setting yourself up for failure by only focusing on that end goal. When you set out on your first run and only last 5 minutes, those 6 miles will seem so far away and so unachievable that you might be tempted to just give up. Instead, focus on small goals that you can achieve each month, like:
- Run or run/walk 3 miles by the end of January.
- Run 3 miles at an 11-minute-mile pace by the end of February.
- Run 4 miles at a 10-minute-mile pace by the end of March.
When you reach each of these milestones, it will help you feel a sense of accomplishment and progress, and this will motivate you to keep working towards your ultimate goal.
3. You save celebrations for the end
Once you set small steps for achieving your end goal, celebrate and reward yourself each time you reach one of them. If your end goal is 6 months away and you don’t get to feel any sense of achievement until then, that’s a long time to wait. Instead, if you celebrate and reward yourself each time you complete a step, it will make the whole process more enjoyable and will motivate you to keep working towards the next step. You just ran 3 miles for the first time? Great, you get a new pair of shoes! You ran your first mile at a 9-minute-mile pace? Time for dinner at your favorite restaurant! Just make sure your rewards aren’t counterproductive to your goal – you don’t want to reward yourself for running 4 miles by skipping your workouts the next week.
4. You don’t tell anyone about your resolution
It’s tempting to keep your resolution to yourself. If you don’t end up sticking to it, no one will know, and the only repercussion you’ll have to deal with is a slight sense of guilt. Who cares if you can only run 3 miles, not 4, by the end of March? No one knows that you’re slacking off except you! On the other hand, if you tell your mom and your co-worker and all your friends that you’ll be running a 5K next month, you’re much more likely to make sure that happens. From the beginning, do anything you can to publicize your resolution and your progress – write it down in a journal, start a blog about your journey, hang up a progress chart that everyone in your house can see. Unless you’re one of those very rare people who truly don’t care what others think, you’re going to want to stick to your goal now that everyone knows about it. Plus, your friends and family will want to see you succeed and can be a great source of support and encouragement.
5. You don’t make adjustments
The reality of New Year’s resolutions is that sometimes we aim too high. You need to frequently check your progress and make necessary adjustments to your plan. Are you behind schedule? If so, what’s preventing you from reaching your milestones more quickly? Which tactics are working and which aren’t? If things get slightly off-track, don’t just throw in the towel and declare that you’ve failed. Adjust your end goal and modify your steps to make it achievable. You may realize at the end of March that you just aren’t able to run as fast as you hoped, and that a 9-minute-mile pace is not a realistic goal for you. Maybe now you need to focus on going a longer distance at a slower pace, or using a walk/run combination. You may end up reaching a slightly different goal than you originally planned, but as long as you’re working towards something realistic and you eventually accomplish it, you can say that you stuck to your resolution!