Instead of keeping you waiting on the cold truth behind resolutions, I’ll get right to it...they don’t work. Sorry to burst your ‘new year, new me’ bubble, friends, but the elaborate plans to change everything about yourself because the calendar turned over ain’t cutting it. And it’s not because people have bad intentions in setting resolutions but almost entirely because resolutions are doomed to fail from the start.
Resolutions are fundamentally flawed in three major areas:
- If you’re waiting for a specific time of year to change what you know needs to be changed...you’re probably not really ready for it to change.
- Resolutions feast off of motivation and motivation burns fast and is fleeting -- it will die out on you.
- Resolutions are almost always completely over estimated in terms of inputs and outputs -- too lofty of a goal and too little of an effort. I’m just calling a spade a spade, but there is a better way...
So, if resolutions are typically doomed from the jump it begs the question -- what actually works?
The answer is (unfortunately) boringly and un-satisfyingly simple. Let’s look at three quick scenarios. “I’m gonna start changing my diet on Jan 1.” Nah. You have to actually be ready to make the changes in your life not just making changes because the calendar turns over.
“I’m going full steam ahead starting in January.” Also...Nah. You also need something more powerful than a burst of motivation to create long-term change. You need discipline and consistency...the less sexy but way more powerful long-term engines of change and success.
“I'm not going to eat sweets, drink, or have pizza for a year.” Ok really the biggest Nah yet! You need to be real with yourself and not set a ton of crazy goals. Trying to make massive, sweeping changes all at once is a recipe for failure. If you’re eating completely out of control...making that kind of turnaround is insanely hard. If you’re not even going to the gym 2x a week...going every single day just isn’t going to happen.
You gotta be real with yourself and set real goals. Let’s talk about how we can save ourselves from the cold curse of resolutions.
If you’re waiting for a specific time of year to make a positive change, you’re probably not really ready for or invested in that change.
Don’t wait for New Years to make the changes you know need to be made...start now. And, if you know you’re not ready yet, don’t waste your time on resolutions. Invest in some soul searching about why you’re not ready before pulling the resolution lever.
Changing something significant in your life is very, very hard, and you 100% need to be ready to do so. Change won’t happen just because the dates on the calendar change or because you’re thriving off of everyone else’s energy about what they are going to do in 2021. YOU MUST BE READY AND WILLING TO CHANGE. This also comes down to the hard(er) truth that you have to be ready to put in the work.
Resolutions without work behind them are as good as “hopes and dreams” -- it sounds nice to say but there’s no real action. I’m not trying to discourage you from making real changes...the opposite (and, of course, this goes for me too!). I want you to achieve every goal that you have for yourself, but if you take a hard look in the mirror and you know you’re not ready...save yourself the time (and heartache) in making and breaking the resolution. Instead, invest some time in understanding what you need to do, think, feel, etc before you’re really ready. Find out what’s holding you back before signing up for something you can’t handle.
"Instead, invest some time in understanding what you need to do, think, feel, etc before you’re really ready. Find out what’s holding you back before signing up for something you can’t handle."
You might be surprised...it could be as easy as “damn, I need some help in figuring this out!” or it could be as complex as “there’s a voice inside of me pulling me the other way...why?”. Whatever you figure out, you will be better set-up for success when it’s time to go to work.
Most resolutions are fueled by motivation or other short-lived fuel that lack the staying power to promote meaningful, long term change.
Embrace the monotony of consistency and discipline in reaching your goals. Motivation is great but it dies off fast. Instead, form consistent habits and not flash in the pan resolutions. Lean into a level of grit in attacking your goals -- know that you need to be committed every day.
This is where most people fail. Most people fail in achieving their goals (and specifically resolutions) because motivation starts hot but burns out fast. And when it’s gone...they don’t have the discipline or consistency it takes to power through. Here’s the deal -- I love me some motivation. I am sucker for it. It’s intoxicating to set new goals and feel fired up. It’s even great to come out of the gates like a bat out of hell and smash the first few weeks. But, ahem...IT DOESN’T LAST.
Somewhere along the way the “resistance” is going to start to kick in. You’re going to start telling yourself that you’ve worked really hard and deserve a break. You’re gonna say, oh well I can pick back up tomorrow. You’re gonna feel like it’s getting too hard to continue. This is the gift and curse of motivation...it allows up to get fired up but it also allows us to burn out.
"This is the gift and curse of motivation...it allows up to get fired up but it also allows us to burn out."
You must back up your goals and habits with discipline and consistency. As boring as they sound (and are), the most successful people are the most consistent. And the most consistent people are typically the most disciplined (and vice versa). Discipline is that stuff you muster up to get up at 530am even though you’re tired. Motivation is the stuff that helps you week one but then scurries away week two. If you’re setting goals for yourself this New Year, make sure you are aware of the discipline and consistency needed to really impact the changes you’re seeking.
Many times resolutions are unattainable or unrealistic due to the fact that it’s too much, too soon, and too fast. People typically drastically overestimate what they can do before they set out in doing it.
Start small and set goals that are achievable with hard work and consistency. Avoid the temptation of sweeping changes, complicated steps, and those “dream state” end states. It’s intoxicating to think about the dream scenario but getting there all in one move never happens...be real with yourself and manage your own expectations.
Of all three this is probably my own biggest fault. I am classic in overestimating what I can do in a day and underestimating what I can do in a year. I set big goals on short timelines only to be let down again and again. Learn from my mistakes here, friends.
If you have big goals, great I love that but think about breaking that one goal up into micro, more achievable goals. This will help you in two ways:
- It will keep you engaged and fired up as you achieve your small goals. This isn’t always the case with huge goals. If you’re banking on one big payoff it’s typically gonna take a lot of time.
- Too much, too soon, too fast is one of the most common ways people get tripped up. If you’re not going to the gym at all, what makes you think you’re gonna go everyday for 3 hours a day and only live off chicken and broccoli...it’s just not gonna happen.
We all need a dose of humility when it comes to goal setting. Again, I’m not saying don’t have lofty goals...have lofty goals but that are also realistic. Have lofty goals that have achievable steps. Have lofty goals that don’t doom you from the start. I want you to be majorly successful but I also want you to be minor-ly successful in every small step that it takes to get there.
"Again, I’m not saying don’t have lofty goals...have lofty goals but that are also realistic. Have lofty goals that have achievable steps. Have lofty goals that don’t doom you from the start"
Now, after I’ve just ripped on resolutions for the past 200+ words...let me love on them a little. There’s something very heartening about a time of year when everyone is looking how they can be better, do better, live better. It’s like the first few minutes of a workout when you’ve got that sick adrenaline rush! I would encourage you to take advantage of that feeling. Heck yeah you should ride that wave of good vibes! But do so in a way that sets you up for success rather than failure.
No matter what you decide to get after in 2021, I hope that you embrace the change, dial up some serious discipline, and tackle it with ruthless precision...step by boring step. Let’s get it!
Chief Fitness Officer at NCFIT. All about coaching, hustle, black coffee, and American Traditional tattoos.