Are you setting a fitness goal for the New Year? Well, you’re not alone. Health and fitness goals are among the most common New Year’s resolutions. And the truth is: Just by setting a resolution, you’re already ahead of the game.
According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, people who set New Year’s resolutions are much, much more likely to reach goals compared to those who do not. Yet, setting the resolution is the easy part; sticking to it is where most people have trouble. Another study found that more than half of people give up their resolutions by June, and less than 10 percent actually succeed.
How can you make your 2017 resolution achievable? Whether you have a fitness goal of losing weight, or you want to compete in your first triathlon, science shows there are specific steps you can take that improve your chances of fitness success in the New Year.
Why Fitness Resolutions Are So Hard to Achieve?
When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, there are two main reasons they are not achieved. First, our brains are hard-wired to dislike change and struggle. And often, New Year’s resolutions are challenging to achieve. Ambitious fitness goals might require changes to your lifestyle, including diet and exercise, and thusly, they become untenable when the going gets tough.
Secondly, the type of goals you set might also predict just how likely you are to stay on track. Tony Higgins, a U.S.-based psychology researcher, says that there are two main types of resolutions: Promotional goals and prevention goals.
Promotion goals are improvement-oriented, i.e. “I will lose X number of pounds in 2017” or “I will complete my first triathlon in 2017.” Prevention goals, on the other hand, are more habit-oriented, like setting a goal of going to the gym or training for your marathon three times per week.
Promotion goals are harder to keep, because the short-term is more likely to trump the long-term. You might decide that learning to play piano is more important to you than losing weight, and so you stop training. You’re much more likely to keep fitness prevention goals, because they’re focused on the short-term and building good habits, Higgins notes.
Tips for Setting Achievable New Year’s Resolutions
When setting a New Year’s resolution, many choose a “stretch goal,” or a goal that’s challenging – but not impossible – to achieve. These types of goals are problematic. In the workplace, for example, research has shown that performance drops when employees fail to consistently reach their stretch goals. In other words, if you start with an improbable resolution, you are much more likely to fall off track and ultimately give up. What’s better: Set goals that you can consistently reach and create benchmarks that will ensure you stay on track.
Write Your Resolutions Down
It might seem like a simple step, but it’s absolutely necessary. One study out of Dominican University of California found that writing down goals can be highly motivating. People who wrote them down were more than 40 percent more likely to achieve their resolutions.
Are You In It For the Right Reasons?
Motivation starts with you. You have to want it, and your success depends on it. People who are motivated for the wrong reasons, i.e. by friends or family, are much less likely to stick to fitness goals. In fact, a 1996 study found people trying to lose weight who wanted to for their own health stuck to a six-month programme more consistently and lost more weight than those motivated for wrong reasons.
Hold Yourself Accountable
The early mentioned Dominican University study found that people who held themselves accountable were more successful. In the study, participants sent emails or contacted friends and family to talk about their progress, and 70 percent who did this ultimately reached their goals. Find someone who you trust to talk about your fitness goals, and share your successes and failures. It could be what sets you over the top.
Devise a Step-by-Step Strategy
Complex, multifaceted problems can quickly overwhelm us. That’s why breaking down your resolution into small actionable steps will set you up for success. This theory was popularised by psychologist Karl Weick, who’s advocated for “small wins” to more manageable tasks, rather than larger wins over more challenging problems.
Add Fitness Supplements for a Boost
Ultimately, you may need a boost when it comes to reaching your fitness goals, and supplements might be the secret sauce. Pre-workout supplements, for example, can deliver nutrients and energy helping to boost performance in the gym, and protein powders and shakes can give you a dose of protein when it counts.
New Year’s resolutions are fun to set, but the real challenge is achieving them. Recast how you think about your 2017 fitness resolutions. Instead of big, abstract goals, think smaller and more actionable. And with a few additional steps, you’ll be on your way to 2017 resolution success.