7 Tips for Making Your New Year's Resolutions Stick
Happy New Year! New Year's Resolutions are notoriously hard to keep. I don't know about you, but 2015 took its toll on me; my lifestyle changed dramatically, grief and depression initiated some bad diet choices that eventually became habits (excessive sweets, lots of cheese and more fried foods than I'd care to admit). My strong-willed days of working out for 4+ hours a day and following the WHOLE30 Program seem long behind me, buried with my hard-focused goal of becoming an Olympian. But, I've sacrificed too many of my good habits, and I refuse to let my rough past year defeat me. Thank God for the New Year. I am welcoming 2016 with open arms.
Last year was a roller-coaster of a ride for me and though I don't doubt that 2016 will have its fair share of challenges, I'm feeling very optimistic about the year ahead. In the past, I haven't been the biggest fan of New Year's resolutions because I was consistently motivated and didn't need a kick-in-the-butt to get me going. This year, that's not the case, but my years of goal-setting for skiing have helped me strategize how to become the best version of myself in 2016.
So on that note, here are my 7 tips for making your new year's resolutions stick!
#1: Focus On the "WHY"
This may sound obvious, but if we set a goal or a resolution about something that we don't truly value, our motivation won't help us push through the sacrifices in order to attain it. Do you really want a rock-hard body and a 6-pack, or do you want to wake up feeling energized and strong? Dial-in on the WHY behind what you want (i.e- I want a rock-hard body so that I feel good about in my body) and begin focusing on the latter part of the statement- feeling good in your body. Sure, weight-loss and dieting goals are one of the most common to set, studies show 66% of people set fitness goals for the new year, but is that really what you're after? Maybe adding some yoga or meditation into your day, a little extra time in nature, or a 30 minute walk with your dog several days of the week will reconnect you with your body in a way that allows you to not only feel good about it but also in it.
#2: Be Specific
If we aren't specific about what we are trying to achieve, it's impossible to gauge our progress. If we can't gauge our progress, it's easy to lose motivation. And if we lose motivation... well, you can see where I'm going with this. You want to lose weight? Great, how much and in what time frame? You want to improve your finances? In what ways? Reduce your debt? By how much and by when? One of my resolutions this year is to "be a better citizen." If I left it at that, I'm not sure I'd do much more than loan sugar to my neighbor when he or she should ask. So, I've broken it down: once a month I will give back to my community in some way. There are lots of options here, but some things on my agenda for this winter are to volunteer with the National Ability Center and to organize an event with SheJumps.org. I'm using the next two weeks to build out that plan in month-by-month detail.
#3: Be Realistic
Yes, I want to improve my diet, cut my body fat percentage, and lose a little bit of weight. Yes, I've followed strict plans in the past, but my life situation is different now. If I say that I'm going to start eating paleo again and plan to workout two hours a day, 5 days a week, I'm just setting myself up for failure. So instead, I'm cutting any added sugar on days that start with "S" and eating real food breakfasts 5 days a week. You may think this is backwards, but for me, it's realistic. During the work week I have less time and more stress. Food is my drug of choice, and as much as I hate to admit it, I'm currently eating added sugars of some kind everyday. Two days is a great place to start. It provides a foundation from which I can begin implementing better choices over time. Also, I'm less likely to eat out during the week, so I'll be exposed to less temptation- the weekends are when the temptations really strike.
#4: Pair Something You LOVE With Your Resolution
One of my favorite ways to pass time on a road-trip is the Freakonomics podcast. The podcast came to be following the great success of the book by economist, Steven Levitt and writer, Steven Dubner. One of the more compelling casts that I listened to this year was titled "When Willpower Isn't Enough." In it, Katherine Milkman (PhD in Computer Science and Business) presents her theory of "temptation bundling." She proposes that if you pair two things, like your new year's resolution (something you should do, but don't entirely want to do), with something you really enjoy, but shouldn't be doing (like watching TV), then you'll be more likely to stick with your resolution. For me, this means pairing foam-rolling and stretching with an episode of Homeland. (Note: If you value your time, don't start watching this series! It's so addictive!) The key is that you must make a rule that you can ONLY do or have the thing you like, if you're doing what you've resolved to do. So, are there two things that you'd be able to pair together to give this method a shot?
#5: Pay Attention to Your Surroundings
I have twice signed up for Deepak Chopra's and Oprah Winfrey's 21-day Meditation Challenge only to make it part way through day 2 before dropping out. I would see the daily emails containing links to the day's meditation and would convince myself that I'd just start a few days later where I had left off. In fact, I'm pretty sure I still have all the emails, unopened in my inbox... The main reason for this failure wasn't lack of time or lack of desire it was my failure to acknowledge my surroundings. This includes people, spaces, animals and objects. There was a shy part of me that wanted to try to meditate in private, to secretly sneak away from my fiancee so that I could meditate, without needing to explain why I wanted to start this practice. So, I woke up before him to meditate on the first day of the challenge, sat down on my couch and pressed play. It wasn't 5 minutes before my dogs were disrupting me because they needed breakfast, and by the time they were fed, my fiancee was awake. Then I felt embarrassed to say I needed some time to finish my morning meditation. The reality is that Chris would be entirely supportive if I had clued him and would probably have helped me find 20 quite minutes a day for 21 days... So, what is it in your surroundings that may be getting in your way? Are you able to turn that hindrance into an asset?
#6: Write It Down, Type It Up, Print It Out & HANG IT UP!
When I was competing full time and trying to be the best in the world at a sport that involved a significant amount of risk, I had to push beyond my comfort levels A LOT! It wasn't easy. If I had
relied solely upon myself and was not accountable to anyone else, I would never have become a 2 time world champion or X-Games gold medalist. Every single goal was written down. Every big goal was broken down into smaller goals, and each of those goals was WRITTEN DOWN! I shared them with my coach, Elana Chase, and she kept me accountable for my actions. This is probably one place where my over-developed sense of responsibility has served me quite well, and yours can too. I understand, you probably don't have a coach or trainer by your side when that ice cream craving strikes, but if you clue your family and friends in, they can keep you in check. (Just don't get mad at them when they actually do try to keep you line!) Another trick I've used in the past is posting an image of what I'm striving for near a source of temptation. You know the saying "out of site, out of mind?" Well, these images make sure that your goals are not forgotten, whether they be an image of Ronda Rousey on your fridge, or a picture of the new car your saving for tied around your credit card.
#7: "Fresh-Start Effect"
Another interesting tidbit that I learned from my Freakonomics friends is the notion of a "fresh-start effect." This phenomenon describes an aspect of the human psyche which keeps a tally of events and files them away into segments of time. Thus, on January 1st, we are able to reflect on our lives in great perspective, write-off the happenings of the previous year, and move forward into the next. The key takeaway here is that we can create these time periods at any point. Every day is the start of a new 365-day cycle: the first of the month, the start of a new season, or following a birthday. If you aren't quite ready to make a new year's resolution, don't force it. Keep your eye other opportunities for a fresh start and move forward when aspiration is it's strongest. You don't have to wait for the next January 1st.
Please share your thoughts on what helps you stick to new year's resolutions in the comment section below!