We really hope you didn’t already call it quits on your New Year’s Resolution. But you probably have (or you failed and just haven’t admitted it yet). Not to worry; it seems that roughly half of Americans make resolutions, and an estimated 90% of them fail to achieve their goals. Why should you, an average reader, do any better? Fear not, we have some advice (and we are on the internet, so you know you can trust us).
Before we go into unfailing your resolution, we ask that you stop making “New Year’s Resolutions” altogether….and just make normal goals for yourself. January 1st is no different than September 12th, which is as good a day as any to improve yourself. It’s neat to start the resolution on a clean 12-month calendar so you can easily monitor and look back on your progress, but that’s a pretty flimsy excuse for putting off self-improvement until January 1st rolls around.
We will mainly focus on exercise goals, because that’s the type of goal most people set. Whether it is January first or if it’s the third day of beach season and you realize you skipped the last 6 years of cardio, here is how you can keep from being as big of a failure as Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign.
Gentlemen’s Guide to Everything’s advice:
Research shows that setting (realistic) PROCESS goals are better than setting OUTCOME goals. You’ve probably been setting outcome goals, such as “I want to look better”, or “I want to cook more”. A process goal would be “I want to lift weights three times per week for 30 minutes each session” or “I want to cook my own dinner 3 times per week”. The process of achieving this weekly goal will bring about real, lasting change…and it will be easier too!
This happens because process goals help improve intrinsic motivation (internal motivation). The more motivated you are, the better your results. It’s as simple as that. It will also be easier and more fun, because intrinsic motivation is that feeling of wanting to do something… so the opposite of what you feel when you are working your 9-5 data entry job.
However, this type of goal also has upkeep. In order to maintain results, you must revisit your process goals often. This is one of the backbones of this theory of goal-setting, that revisiting your goal and re-setting realistic process goals every few weeks will help you maintain motivation.
Outcome goals such as “I want a six pack” can leave you deterred week after week of seeing little progress. Setting a process goal like “I will do 10 minutes of abs, 5 days a week” can leave you feeling successful.
Advice you will read everywhere else (but still decent advice):
You shouldn’t set flexible or subjective goals such as “I will be happier” or “I will look better”. Those goals can’t be easily measured, so you won’t know if you truly improved; therefore, it will be hard to stay motivated. You can use that as a starting point, though, as an insightful exercise. If you initially want your New Year’s Resolution to be “I want to be happier at work”, you need to ask yourself a lot of questions about why you aren’t happy and what you could be doing differently. Use that insight to develop a better goal! You can do this by being SMART.
The S.M.A.R.T. goal system is boring and cliché, but , like most boring cliches, it’s prevalent for a reason: it works.. You want to make sure your goal is each of these things: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timebound.
Break your goal down. When you break your goal into simple, attainable, measurable parts, you can easily feel yourself achieving them. It’s really hard to see how one training session in the gym contributes to muscle growth, but it’s easy to tell yourself, “okay, this Sunday morning workout sucks, but it’s helping me accomplish 33% of my weekly goal!” *muscle emoji*. Plus, you can instagram yourself at the gym everyday with the hashtag #goals and it’ll actually be true.
Sleep can help. Improving sleep improves energy levels and reduced stress, both things associated with increased self-control. So take more naps…how’s that for an attainable New Year’s Resolution?