How You Can Keep Your New Year’s Resolution for 2018 — and Beyond
Written by Dr. Larry
Here are some quick practical tips on keeping your New Year’s resolutions that I’ve been thinking about since I talked about it on SF Fox’s KTVU.
How do you keep New Year’s resolutions?
- Write them down on paper, and post where you can see it.
- Tell someone and have them hold you accountable; make a public commitment.
- Make sure your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timetable).
- Use positive reinforcement (reward yourself).
- Get deeper**
Why do New Year’s resolutions fail?
- Unrealistic goals — too big.
- No accountability from ourselves, nor others.
- We are not ready to change our behavior.
- How we handle slip-ups.
- Get deeper**
READY TO CHANGE
As a practicing physician for over a decade, every day I watch people struggle with behavior change. Lifestyle is is how we live long and free of disease, or die young from preventable shit. And it’s often so hard to change.
Here’s my practical thoughts on why resolutions fail, and what to do about it.
So often, we just aren’t ready. Behavior change is usually hard and a little stressful. It takes energy to break old habits and form new ones. Very frequently, I see patients where they are simply not ready to change, to commit to a health goal, and do whatever it takes to achieve it. There are plenty of examples of extra life stressors making it not the right time: surgery, hospitalization, new job, moving houses, divorce, family died, kids going to college, etc.
I get it; it’s OK. I’m not going to force you to change or tell you it has to be today. When you are ready — when you are ready to take on the challenge of changing habits and your daily lifestyle to life a healthier, better life —we will be here to help you through it.
Now, once you are ready to change, I want to make sure you have a good goal: one that is reasonable (bite-sized — five pounds instead of 50 pounds), measurable, etc. The SMART goals.
Which do you think is better here?
“I want to lose some weight.”
“I want to lose five pounds of fat by Feb. 14, by reducing my calorie intake by 500 calories, walking 15 minutes a day and lifting weights for 30 minutes two days a week.”
It’s specific (fat loss, not just weight, which could be water, muscle or fat), measurable, achievable (five pounds in six weeks is less than a pound a week), and on a timetable (Feb 14).
In a short five-minute video series on Youtube, I cover each of the SMART criteria and how using them can help you be successful.
I do want to emphasize how picking a small, realistic goal (like five pounds) can be the best place to start. We are so seduced by Instagram before-and-afters, nutritional supplement ads and bullshit marketing selling us 30 pounds in 30 days, along with TV shows like “The Biggest Loser” making us thing that 200-pound weight loss in six months is normal — this bullshit makes us think that we can lose it all in a month, and if we don’t, there’s something wrong with us. In my experience with patients and myself, it’s the tortoise not the hare that wins this race; slow changes over time (months to years, not weeks) is the stuff that lasts. And it’s changes in what we do, our daily habits, that lead to these changes in body, appearance and health.
For myself personally, I can only see the change in my body over years. A two-year before-and-after picture, I’m like, Wow, I really have done some work here. Something I can’t even see at six months.
I think for most, the body and life we really want takes months to years to achieve, and it happens when we do the actions, the habits, every day that move us, however small, in that direction. SO START SMALL!
Just the act of writing down a goal and posting it where you can see it, so it continues to work in your mind — even unconsciously, where you are asking yourself, “How can I accomplish this?” — is a well-studied strategy to getting what you want.
Adding in positive reinforcement only helps. The best way I’ve learned to start a new habit is break it down by a week, and when I do the habit five days in a row (get up at 5 a.m. to lift weights, for example), I will reward myself with something, like a bottle of cologne or new workout shoes. Working toward that reward gets me out of bed, and when I accomplish the five days, I have something I’ve earned. Try it! What little reward would you work for? This is how I build, one week at a time, a new habit, especially if it’s hard to do — I love sleeping in!
With patients and clients I’ve coached, it’s often surprising with how little I actually instruct or direct them. Most of what I do for them is just hold them accountable: ask them where they are at with regard to their goal, what’s your weight, etc., and if they have done the action plan that they said they would. Simple accountability.
You could be a coach where that is all you do: is hold someone accountable. And I think you’d be pretty good. So, setting up a system for yourself when it comes to goals or resolutions where someone holds you accountable — big setup for success. Plus, if you miss, you have another person to bounce ideas off of about what to do next, and someone to encourage you to keep going and not quit!
And in terms of how we manage slip-ups, one study I read said that of those who stuck to their resolutions after two years, they had over 14 slip ups. Did they quit, or did they get up and keep going? Slip-ups happen; how we deal with them is more important.
The above are five simple tips that I like that can help. But this can go much deeper if you’re looking to seal in even more success and harness more power of your mind.
For example, as I laid out in the beginning of my book, “The Gentleman’s Diet”, the place to start is with your vision, your mental image of yourself and what you want. Then translate that into specific goals (SMART, as above). And, perhaps the most important and my personal favorite: connect it to your BIG WHY — that is, why you are here and what you are doing on this planet (your mission).
Exploring these deeper levels can often provide the motivation boost you are looking for to take you to the next level, in health, in life, in love. In anything, baby!
Keep your eyes peeled as I more further develop SMART goals and motivation listed above. We will also release an article soon further detailing the research we did on New Year’s Resolutions. It’s interesting stuff and can certainly help you be more successful.