The Psychology of Resolutions
Lots of you are probably reluctant to, once more, make a New Year’s Resolution to improve your fitness. You’ve done it before only to see the motivation lessen and the old habits right back in place by mid-January. Why set yourself up to fail?
But consider this – people reach goals all the time. There are so many success stories out there – what separates them from those of us who keep setting the same goals every year because we never quite reach them? New Year’s is a natural time for new intentions: It signals the shift from long, dark nights to more daylight and new growth, and it’s a natural fresh start. There are a few things we know that make it more likely that you’ll stick to your new intentions:
Make it small and specific.
Saying, “I’m going to get fit this year!” is a wish. Saying, “I’m going to get out and walk three times a week for at least half an hour,” is a plan. If you want to plan out the entire year so that you’re 20 lbs. lighter or bench-pressing 100 lbs. more by the end of 2015, fine, but break it into manageable chunks that you can tackle one at a time. Goals are important, but the action steps you’ll take towards those goals are more important, because without action, goals are just wishes.
Focus on habits.
We are creatures of habit, as Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habit explains. We all have some bad habits, and sometimes they get so problematic, we realize we need to change something. What are the habits you’ll have to change in order to begin new behavior? Sometimes it’s as simple as changing the route you take home from work so you pass the trailhead instead of the 7-11. Sometimes it’s getting up earlier, or planning your meals each week. Decide what old habits have to go, and what new habits you’ll work on developing.
Expect to get dirty.
The Reverend at our church today gave a great example: We send kids out to play baseball and we expect them to get dirty. We don’t ask them to play hard while staying completely upright and clean. You’re heading out to the field here, it’s going to be dirty. You might fall. You might have to slide into home base, and you might still get called out. Expect it as just part of playing hard. At least you’re on the field and not in the stands. Be compassionate with yourself, pick yourself up and keep playing.
Focus on one thing at a time.
It’s OK to be working on more than one part of your life at a time, but you probably need to decide which one is most important. If you take one of them and say, “Absolutely, this one HAS to happen,” it gives you structure for what to choose when faced with a situation where you can’t do it all (which we find ourselves in all the time, right?). Make one resolution the non-negotiable change, the one where no excuses will be tolerated.
Ask for support.
Telling people about your intentions and asking for their support means you’ll have someone to turn to when you want to give up. It also gives friends a family notice that you might be changing some behaviors that they’re used to, and gives them a context for your new behavior. People are often happy to be supportive if you let them.
In this community, we’re all working towards better fitness and health. Most of us have made fantastic strides to improving our strength and our endurance – that’s great! Why not make this the year you stretch your wings and try something you haven’t tried before – a longer distance, a new class, being outside more? Let us know what your goals are this year, and how we can support you.