The first major mistake that people make when beginning to execute their fresh, ambitious New Year’s resolutions is to jump into too many changes at once. For example, say your resolution is to lose 20 pounds over the next year. It’s a common goal and one that is dearly needed in the lives of many individuals (though I’d personally rather it be framed in terms of body fat percentage). However, if you’re currently a desk jockey with a busy schedule, adding five or six outings to the gym per week may simply be too much to handle at first. Besides the physical ramifications of such a large-scale change to your exercise output, abruptly altering your lifestyle in big ways can often lead to a quick jumping of ship. It may be more reasonable to plan a trip or two to the gym per week and find time to fit them into the schedule. Later, as you become used to the new weekly timeline, you will be able to open up more space and continue to add sessions as needed. Jumping into any large commitment tends to induce at least a bit of anxiety. By applying your new exercise and nutrition goals slowly but surely to your current lifestyle, you will find the results to be much more satisfying, productive, and sustainable over time. Remember, a small improvement is better than no improvement at all.
The second mistake often seen with New Year’s resolutions is to expect too much too soon. While this problem is an ever-present plague in the nutrition and fat loss industry, it is especially prevalent around the New Year. Big goals and big ambitions can seem insurmountable when viewed as one large block. Taking the example of losing 20 pounds again, viewed as a lump sum, it’s a pretty significant number. When people don’t see the first 10 pounds come off by the end of January, they often start to panic and may even abandon the plan entirely. One way to avoid the stress of making small progress towards a large goal is to break the big number down into smaller, intermediate goals spread out rationally over time. That way, you always have an achievable, short-term goal on which you can focus. As the small landmarks are reached, the overall progress will grow and grow without you even having to consider it. Three to five pounds of fat loss per month is a good goal for most people. If you have a lot of fat to lose and are starting with some notably bad eating and exercise habits, you can set more aggressive goals, but always be sure to keep your expectations within reason. Setting proper goals is the first step to success and it doing it right often requires a level of objective self-assessment that many people aren’t used to. In the end, though, you will find that small, approachable goals set out over time will provide you with a much easier path towards big achievement.
Finally, and this may be the biggest issue of all regarding New Year’s resolutions, there tends to be a sense that, because we have failed with so many resolutions in the past, it’s ok to give up on your new ones, as well. The fact is that a resolution should be just that, a decision to become resolved, resolute to achieve your goal. Determination is a big part of being successful in many areas of life. You simply have to have a reason to make it happen. For some it may be about overall health, blood pressure, cholesterol, or well-placed concern over future complications from carrying excess fat and a lack of exercise. For others the driving force may be more present. Diabetes, mobility problems, or an inability to do what you want to do in your daily life can all be great motivation to stick to your resolutions. There are still others who want more out of their bodies, whether it’s greater sports performance, better endurance, or more strength and power. Whatever your reason for making a resolution this year, keep it fresh in your mind. When training gets hard (and it does), you will need to be able to focus on the reason why you are there.
This year, don’t just make a resolution. Design a plan for success with reasonable, small goals spread out over time. Make changes to your lifestyle slowly but surely to allow yourself time to adjust. Know your motivation and keep it in mind at all times. Don’t get discouraged by setbacks and small failures. They are a part of the process and are common to everyone’s experience, especially when making big life changes. Finally, get your friends and family on board, either by actively joining in with you as you make improvements or by simply being there to support you and help to keep you on track. Be resolute in your decisions and be accountable to yourself and your goals. 2011 can be the year that you permanently change your life for the better, so stick with it!