This is the time of year when people look within and think about how they want this year to be better than last year. No. 1 or No. 2 on nearly everyone’s list is some sort of New Year’s resolution related to weight loss or fitness. Positive intentions are nice, but alone they are not enough. This is why 88 percent of people fail at their New Year’s resolutions.
Here are five strategies to make sure this year really is different:
1. Are you playing blind archery?
At my first archery lesson about eight years ago, my excellent instructor was able to get me hitting the ring right outside of the bull’s-eye consistently on day one. Just for fun, at the end of the lesson, I tried shooting with my eyes closed (I saw this in a movie). I missed by a lot (surprised?).
When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, most people are playing blind archery. They have goals like, “I’m going to eat better” or “I’m going to work out more this year.” These goals are just about as good as me thinking, “I’m going to shoot this arrow over there” with my eyes closed. With vague resolutions, you’re going to miss.
Working out more becomes “I will work out twice a week for one hour each” if you don’t normally do anything. Eating better becomes “I will not drink my calories.”
Good goals are set with the acronym S-M-A-R-T. “S” is for specific.
2. How will you know? Create a measurable finish line. This is the “M” in S-M-A-R-T.
You need to attach a number or at least answer a “yes” or “no” question about your goal. If you want to “get rid of this (while grabbing your belly roll),” how much smaller is a smaller belly for you? How big is your belly to start? How are you doing along the way? You don’t want to leave this up to your eye or your feelings because they change like the wind, leaving you depressed when you are doing great (losing inches), or happy when you are going in reverse. The numbers have it.
3. Mission impossible? The “A” in S-M-A-R-T is for attainable.
Do you aspire to look somebody in a magazine? Do you think you need to look just like them to be happy? Then you’re going to have a terrible year because those models don’t even look like that in real life.
Don’t set yourself up for failure. This is not at all to say that you should resign yourself to a life of muffin tops. Just remember that there is a very big difference between being able to go to a pool and feel great about yourself in your swimwear and looking like the person who professionally models that swimwear.
4. Does it matter? Relevant is the “R” in S-M-A-R-T.
“Lose weight” is actually completely irrelevant 99 percent of the time. People want to lose fat, but they weigh themselves on a scale to check progress. Scales tell weight, but not fat, nor how you look in or out of clothes. Weight and body mass index are popular measures because they are cheap and easy, not because they’re useful when it comes to body composition (how you look naked). We have a member who started with us wearing a size 12, and one year later is wearing a size 6, but she weighs essentially the same on the scale. Did she fail?
5. What’s the deadline? The “T” in S-M-A-R-T is time bound.
Just because it’s a New Year’s resolution doesn’t mean you need a year to achieve it, nor that you need to commit to a given behavior for an entire year. In fact, one-year goals for weight loss and fitness usually lead to procrastination because you have an entire year to get it done, so why not wait until tomorrow to get started.
Instead, think about where you want to be in a year, and then work backwards to figure out what that means in six months, three months, one month, one week and one day. If you don’t have anything specific to do right now, it’s usually too overwhelming to do anything about a huge one-year resolution.
Josef Brandenburg is a Washington, D.C.-area certified fitness expert with 11 years of experience.