Before the start of the new year, I created a video presentation entitled "Why new years resolutions suck!" (You can click the title to be taken to the video if you like)
Every year, as the world brings in the New Year, millions of people around the world get very reflective about the year that has just past and vow to make the new year a better one. The one act of setting New Years Resolutions has become quite a universal principle and out of all the resolutions that are set by the many millions, if not more, people around the world setting new years resolutions, The goal to lead a more healthier lifestyle is by and large, the most popular resolution set. Whether it is to get fitter, eat healthier or just lose a bit of weight, fitness related goals dominate the list of things people want to improve about themselves year on year.
Whilst that may not surprise anyone, what surprised me was to learn that out of all the people setting new years resolutions, research had shown that a whopping 88% of people fail at their new resolve. Now, 88% is a big number of people failing and I wanted to share my observations as to why that may be the case in order to help people stand a better chance of success.
Since starting my career as a personal trainer, I have had the mission of helping as many people as I can take control of their bodies and develop more confidence and self esteem through health and fitness to help them have richer experiences in their lives. To me, it was more of a mission than just a mere profession. I wanted to change lives and as a result, I write this article in the hope that it helps give people more fortune in achieving their goals than being part of the 88% of the masses who's dreams, no matter how much they were cast with good intentions, fall by the wayside.
Perhaps the major reason why new years resolutions are doomed to failure is because they don't address the key principle to change within our own minds. You see, you and I are where we are at in life not by some chance but through our daily routines and habits in fact, one of my favourite quotes of all times states, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit” (Aristotle). The beauty of this quote is that it holds the key to our lives. We are exactly where we are because of the routines and habits we have put in place.
And our minds love habits and they love routines. Why? Because there is safety in routine. Our minds, in particular our subconscious mind, is responsible for keeping us alive. Our concsious mind, the part we have direct control over (the part which lets you decide whether you want chocolate ice cream of vanilla ice cream for dessert today), whilst the subconscious mind, the more powerful of the two has a more important role. It is the central processing unit of your mind (Think of it like a computer) and it runs programs and based around an operating system which is designed to keep you alive and safe. Some of the programs that come with this operating system include “Breath”, “Heart Beat” etc. In other words, you don't need to consciously command your body to breath or your heart to beat, it's done on autopilot. And create a routine or a habit and it becomes a program in your subconscious.
When you do anything that is in conflict with the programs in your subconscious, you get nervous or scared and that's okay, that's your minds way of keeping you safe. The trouble is, the mind doesn't know whether some programs serve you well or not. The routine of eating take away food and watching tv all night after a hard days work served you in keeping you protected and out of harms way so when you then decide to eat healthy and go to the gym instead, your mind will fight you because it's not the program you have set up inside yourself.
The mind loves familiarity, give it something unfamiliar and you panic because you're out of your comfort zone.
And speaking of familiarity. When we say anything to ourselves, our subconscious mind will go through its records to see what it knows about what you're trying to get yourself to do. So, when you do set a new years resolution, what do you think your mind tells you? Probably something like this, “You're going to set another new years resolution? That's cute! Is it going to fail like all those other attempts at new years resolutions you made in the past” – In other words your subconscious mind, which stores all of your memories, looks through its records to see what it knows about anything you're about to do and will give you feedback based on your past experiences and as a result, you're not really given much encouragement by your subconscious.
One way of overcoming this in built hurdle is to change the language we use with ourselves. Instead of using new years resolution or even goal (because let's face it, how many times have you set a goal and not hit it?) you can use the word promise instead. You're more likely to keep a promise than hit a goal (Assuming you're not someone who lacks integrity and makes false promises!). So, rather than set a new years resolution, how about making a promise to yourself this year to do whatever it takes to get fit and healthy?
The reason we do anything
Why do we do the things we do? Apart from the fact that we've created habits and routines, we do anything we do for two reasons according to human achievement expert Tony Robbins. And those two things are to gain pleasure or to avoid pain. In fact, whilst you may think that gaining pleasure is the more motivating, it's actually avoiding pain which we tend to gravitate to strongly. This includes new experiences and anything that takes us out of our comfort zone being linked to pain and as a result, we do whatever we can to put them off.
So, unless dieting and exercising are part of your lifestyle routine, the big chances are, your mind will equate eating clean and exercising with immense pain and as a result, will do whatever it can to stop you from doing it.
This can be very problematic when trying to develop new habits. The key therefore is to apply discipline in doing the new actions so they have a chance of becoming habits whilst constantly reminding yourself as to how amazing it feels and how much pleasure you're getting from it. And the good news is that exercise releases endorphins. These are your brains happy hormones and give you a feeling of well being, happiness and positivity. One of the main reasons why exercise is such a good anti depressant.
So what can you do to ensure you see through with your new years resolutions.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when setting a new years resolution is to make a light hearted mental note of what they want rather than writing it down and then formulating an plan on how they're going to achieve it. As the old saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
So the first step is to write it down. The second is to set it as a goal and one of the best goal setting methods is to set SMART goals.
SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Agreeable, Realistic and Timebound. When goals are SMART, they're more potent as will be explained as we break down how to set a SMART goal.
SPECIFIC: The first rule of setting a SMART goal is to make sure what you want is specific. In other words, you're giving yourself a specific instruction. Just saying “I want to lose weight” is not specific. It's too light hearted and doesn't give you any indication as to exactly what you want to achieve. A more specific goal would be I want to lose 12lbs or I want to lose 10% body fat.
MEASURABLE: It is important to be able to measure your progress. This is important because you'll want to know whether what you're doing is working and then course correct as well as providing you with motivation if things are working. Luckily, measuring fitness and health related markers are easy such as weight, body fat levels, levels of fitness, how much weight you can lift etc.
AGREEABLE: You have to be able to own the goal and be responsible for it. It must be your goal and no one else's. If you don't internally agree to seeing it through, then you'll probably give up. If you're working with a coach or an accountability buddy then both should agree that this is something you can achieve. Being agreeable can also be an opportunity to own the action steps that you agree to too such as exercise, healthy eating etc.
REALISTIC: Whilst I am all for being positive and pushing yourself, a goal needs to be realistic. For example, if your goal is to win an olympic gold medal in the next olympics at a sprint race but you're not a professional athlete getting times close to the world's elite, then it's not a realistic goal and will demotivate you rather than motivate you. Make sure the goal stretches you but not to the point where you break.
TIME BOUND: They say a goal without a deadline is just a dream. Give yourself some positive pressure by making your goal time bound. It might be to get a bikini trim body by the holiday you've booked for summer or just 3 months from now, it adds a challenge element to your goal.
So, for example, the new years resolution of losing weight would look more like this when formed into a Smart Goal: “I will lose 10KG of weight by going to the gym 3 times a week and eating better foods by May 1st”
Taking it one step further.
One of the ways to really see you achieve your goals faster in any area of your life is to get accountable and hire a coach or a mentor who will not only give you the instructions and advice on how you can go from where you are to where you desire to be but also give you that degree of professional accountability.
So many times when we set a goal to achieve something more than we have now, we feel overwhelmed and lost due to not having the right information or having too much and going into information over load. It is important to get the right information that is specific to our needs and our goals and then formulate a plan to execute them and have accountability along the way. A good coach or mentor will not only devise a program that's unique to you and your individual nuance but also give you both the motivation and the accountability you need to see your goals through.
If you're struggling to keep up with your new years resolutions to get fit, lose weight or get in shape or are currently frustrated with the results or not know what to do, then I would strongly advise the coaching route. In fact, you are more than welcome to book me for a free consultation to discuss your goals, where you are now and your plan of action by visiting http://www.fahadmaniar.com/fitness-consultation/