Whether you’re trying to get into a healthy routine before the holidays or just interested in resolutions that stick for next year, you’re likely to find that setting ambitious goals may not be the best approach.
Here are some tips for developing stronger resolutions that keep you fueled for any goal:
Just saying, “I want to be more fit,” or “This year, I’ll get in shape,” can be a motivation drain, because there’s no definition of what that means. Most important, there’s no endpoint to those goals. How will you know when you’re fit? And what does that really represent to you — six-pack abs, the ability to sprint up the stairs at work or just having more energy to play with your kids before bedtime?
Any goal, whether fitness-related or not, benefits from a high degree of specificity, according to Jen Sincero, author of “You Are a Badass.” She notes that vague goals actually de-motivate you, because they feel too overwhelming.
“Specifics will set you free,” she says. “Being able to articulate exactly what you want, and within a certain time-frame, gives you structure.” For example, instead of saying you’ll “run more” in 2018, choose a 5K or half-marathon that’s far enough in the future to allow you to train. Then, set weekly goals extending until race day.
FIND YOUR WHY
People tend to set goals that they think they should have, such as, “I’m going to lose 20 pounds,” or “I’ll work out three times per week,” but they don’t always think about why they’re choosing those aims, says Aaron Leventhal, NSCA-CPT, owner of Fit Studios in Minneapolis.
“You really need to step back and dig deeper into the ‘why’ of your goals, and uncover more and more layers,” he notes.
For example, someone might want to work out more often to get stronger. Asking why that’s important might lead the person to realize that strength would allow him or her to feel more confident. Another why could uncover that more confidence would lead to finally looking for a better job. It usually takes about five or six why layers to get to the real reason for a goal, Leventhal says. When you do, that becomes a powerful motivational tool.
FOCUS ON DE-STRESSING
Around the holidays and new year, it can be challenging to dial back on a hectic schedule. But if you’re trying to hit your goals, it’s worth the effort. Prolonged stress causes the body and mind to fight back with fatigue, says Henry Emmons, MD, author of, “The Chemistry of Calm.” That causes a rapid drop in motivation and a ripple effect that sabotages even smaller, seemingly reachable goals.
“It can be hard to become active if you’re stressed,” says Emmons. “Then you see sleep disruptions, less-than-nutritious food choices, increased caffeine use, and pretty soon you’re having trouble focusing and feeling easily frustrated.”
Fortunately, you can jump off that slippery slope by employing some stress-relief tactics. Bonus: saying “no” to more tasks and events can free up your time for goal-oriented activities.
Another benefit is that less stress can lead to feeling freer and more playful, Sincero says. Bring some joy to your goals and you’ll end up crushing them more easily. This can be especially true if you incorporate some fun into your fitness.
“Think about when you were a kid and you just enjoyed being free in your movements,” Sincero advises. “Choose some activities that bring that back and make you feel like you’re playing.”