We see it every year: New members flood gyms, sports supplements fly off the shelves, and exercise equipment finds new homes in bedrooms and garages, all only to be abandoned by mid-February. The problem with most New Year’s resolutions is that they are easily given up, often too large an undertaking to begin with or dismissed as goals meant to be forgotten because, hey, does anybody ever reach their resolution anyway?
Simply having a resolution doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to reach it or that it will be easy to do so. Instead of throwing in the towel, take advantage of these 10 easy-to-implement strategies to stay resolute and reach the finish line.
1. Don’t think of the new year as a new you.
No matter what your resolution is, old habits can be broken and replaced with a new and healthier lifestyle, but it takes time and patience. You can’t do a 180 overnight, and those old tendencies will come back to bite you in the butt every now and then. Expect some occasional setbacks, but forgive yourself for them and don’t let them stop you! You are a constant work in progress, so keep taking small steps forward toward your goal.
2. Set yourself up for success.
Do your research, properly prepare, seek guidance if needed, and keep your goals short and attainable. If you want to run a marathon but have a hard time running a 5k, don’t expect your body to magically build that sort of endurance overnight. If losing 100 pounds is your finish line, don’t expect to cross it by Easter. Instead, get fitted for the proper gear, see a running coach, and break down your goal into smaller milestones, like running a 5k, then 6k, then 10 k and so on as you slowly, safely and sustainably build your miles to a full marathon. For weight loss, consider a personal trainer and shoot for 1% weight loss a week to keep it healthy and retain muscle mass. This applies to non-fitness goals as well. If your goal is to save $3,000 for a dream vacation, start with putting 10% of each paycheck aside and cut unnecessary small costs out of your budget wherever you can. Having the knowhow you need and achieving little goals along the way will keep your spirits high and help push you along the way.
3. Surround yourself with inspiration and motivation.
Do future you a favor and place motivating reminders where you’ll see them frequently and where they’re most needed, like a quote on your mirror, photos in your planner, reminder apps on your phone’s home screen, a race sign-up confirmation on your fridge, an image or written description of your goal itself, healthy snacks and water bottles in your desk drawer, Nicorette gum where you usually keep your cigarettes, etc.
You can also find other inspiration is all around us, like the stories of amazing people overcoming insurmountable obstacles in the form of books, videos, and even friends and family. Hearing what others have accomplished can keep you humble and strong in your reserve, so surround yourself with sayings and images from the things that motivate you. If they can do it, so can you!
4. Do what you love.
Sometimes outside pressure tells us we should be doing something because everybody is doing it, but don’t jump into something just because it’s trendy. This applies to fitness programs, healthy eating, smoking cessation and any other endeavor, health-related or not. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t want to stick to the program. Try different things to find what you love and make it work for you.
5. Remember that you are not alone.
No matter what goal you have, whether it’s eating better, managing your money more responsibly, or getting more organized, there are those out there with the same goal and others who have already reached it who can help you along the way. Don’t feel like you have to take the challenge on all on your own. A little help, collaboration and encouragement from others can go a long way!
6. Take your resolution public.
With as much intrinsic drive a person may have, sometimes a little extrinsic motivation and accountability is what’s truly critical to maintaining progress toward a goal. Verbally express your goal or desires to others around you or share with your trusted friends and family on social media. Not only are you keeping yourself accountable, but others can give you an extra positive push along the way. You might even inspire them to join in!
7. Think outside the box.
Don’t be afraid to try something you’ve never done before, especially if you’ve been working toward your goal and your current program is getting stale. If you’ve been too intimidated to try a class or activity, shed your apprehensions and just do it! Chances are there will be other first-timers there, too. You may stumble into exactly what you have been looking for and gives you that extra oomph, and if not, so what? You don’t have to stick with it and can easily move on to something else.
8. Track your progress.
How do you know where you are going if you don’t know where you’ve been? When you track your progress, you can see small steps forward add up over time into a big leap from where you started. Seeing a positive change will reinforce your drive to keep going, and when you hit a setback, being able to recognize it will stop you a backslide and get you back on the right foot.
9. Reward yourself when you’ve earned it.
Now that you can see your progress, reward yourself when you’ve earned it. Giving yourself an extra day to kick back or treating yourself at the mall can give you something to look forward to when you are pushing yourself through the daily challenges of a resolution.
10. Team up.
Having a partner or team around you, particularly for big goals, can make or break your success. Grab one or two others or even an entire group with the same or similar end goals and train together for encouragement, camaraderie and someone to celebrate with when you reach milestones. Can’t find anyone you already know to team up? Try MeetUp groups or find virtual fitness communities, which are especially great for regular travelers.