Why You Should Set Goals, Not Resolutions

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By: , – Justin Ochoa, Certified Personal Trainer
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With a new year comes an onslaught of "new year, new you" conversations. How will you improve yourself in the coming year? What should you consider changing about your lifestyle to make your next year your best one yet? Can a little tweak here and a little change there be the ticket to your happiest self?
 
As New Year's resolutions dreams and plans swirl around your head, I'd like to make one request: Don't make resolutions. Really, it's not worth it. If your plan is fitness related, especially, seriously, do not even bother. It might sound crazy, but I promise there's a better, more effective way to approach your new year, new you.
 
First, let's check the numbers.
 
According to Statistic Brain Research Institute, 39.2 percent of all resolutions have something to do with wellness or self-improvements, including losing weight, eating healthier, general life improvement and exercising more often. Yet, on the flip side, only 9.2 percent of people felt they were actually successful in achieving their resolution and a whopping 42.4 percent said they never succeed and fail in their resolution each year.
 
So why do we keep trying? While these statistics reflect just one study performed on a small sample size, they're likely relatable for most. Who doesn't know someone (or perhaps that someone is you) who has started the year full of ambition, only to throw their hands up and quit after a month?
 
The solution here is simple: Give up on resolutions. Try setting a smarter goal, instead.
 

Why Resolutions Fail
 

Don't sit here in December and tell me about how you're going to start losing weight in January. Don't tell me about how next month you're going to stop smoking, or that in a few weeks you're going to start eating healthier.
 
Start now. If you want to accomplish something, now is the time. Stop waiting on gimmicky traditions to help you along. As you'll recall from the aforementioned study, the time-honored ritual is not all that effective anyway. Instead, focus on committing to calculated goals any time of year based on your current lifestyle and the life you see yourself deserving.
 
A resolution and a goal differ in many areas, but most of it comes down to your approach and mindset. For example, if your goal is to do one pull-up and you complete that, you don't just quit and never do pull-ups again. You make a goal for three pull-ups, then six, then 12, then weighted pull-ups and so on.
 
Unlike goals, resolutions have a concrete start date of January 1st and usually have a clear-cut end date. Often, they are random, trendy and sporadic in nature. They don't systematically make you healthier, wealthier or less stressed—they simply challenge you for a period of time and then, according to the data, you fall off and the resolution disappears, often for one of these eight reasons I see as a trainer:
  1. Resolutions have a built-in start date, which glorifies procrastination and ultimately could hurt your momentum.
  2. If you're lucky enough to make it one full year, resolutions have a built-in end date, too.
  3. Many resolutions are based on removing things from your life, often creating a negative relationship with that thing, especially in the case of specific foods.
  4. Everyone makes resolutions at the same time, so yours is not special to anyone. Your would-be support system is too busy worrying about their own resolutions to help with yours.
  5. Resolutions are often sporadic decisions.
  6. Resolutions are pass/fail, but life is not. It's important to have the bigger end goal in mind and be flexible when life gets in the way of specific plans, which is not often the thinking when it comes to most resolutions.
  7. Resolutions, they're plural. Many people make more than one resolution, spreading themselves way too thin. Put all your energy into one goal and you'll have a higher success rate.
  8. Most of the time, a resolution lacks true structure and, thus, so will the execution of the task.

Replace You Resolutions
 

Rather than a resolution that is broad and tied to a just one time of year, learn how to set SMART goals, or goals that require that you be specific, realistic and calculated in how you approach, attack and measure your health and fitness ambitions. By setting aside time to think about what you really want at that finish line and strategizing real ways to fit new lifestyle changes into your real life, you won't fall victim to some of those common reasons generic resolutions fail.
 
The all-too-common "I want to lose weight" is a perfect example to consider. Saying you just want to lose weight is not enough. How much weight? How? What's the underlying reason for your goal? It's broad, leaves room for interpretation and has no real thought behind it to allow you to consider exactly how you will go about achieving weight loss.
 
A better option is, "I want to lose 20 pounds in the next five months by meal prepping and going to the gym three times a week so I can feel confident on the beach during my spring break vacation." This is SMART. All the boxes—specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely—are checked and you can create a health plan that will lead you to success.
 
If you have a resolution in mind for the upcoming year, scrap the idea and start on your goal right now. Set aside time to think about the reasons you want to improve, find a goal you can be proud to go after, make a plan that you can reasonably fit into your current lifestyle and get after it. Don't procrastinate your success and your journey any longer. Get started literally right now—stop reading this and get to work.

What kind of goals are you setting for yourself this year?

About the Author Justin Ochoa is a personal trainer, strength coach and co-owner of PACE Fitness Academy in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is passionate about health and helping others achieve their fitness and nutrition goals. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter by visiting www.justinochoa.com.

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