How to FINALLY Stick To Your Resolutions
(Adapted from a Rebase episode)
It’s that time of year when everybody aggressively, hesitantly or otherwise sets their sights on making some improvements in their lives. Now, I typically, historically have not been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. I don’t believe you need to rely on a specific time of year in order to set a goal and make some change in your life, but whatever floats your boat.
I’m obviously part of the minority. A lot of people choose January 1st, in order to figure out where exactly they need to make a change:
- The way they treat other people
Whatever it may be, this is that time of year, and I want
for all of you to be able to not only set these goals, and get that dopamine hit of saying, “I’m finally going to lose weight,” but I want you to actually lose the weight. I want you to get that new job. I want you to be able to find that special someone.
You’re not going to do that if you just set the goal, and then move on, tell somebody about it so that you can feel like you’re actually making progress … and then you never actually make any progress. Then it ends up being that running joke that everybody has every year: “Yeah, So I was going to quit smoking, but maybe next year. It’s only January 15th, but give me another 11 and a half months and I’ll try again.”
So, we all know that’s bullshit. So what I’m going to do for you guys is to give you a framework, if you want to call it that, give you just some really high level tips for how to make these goals meaningful and achievable, and how to actually hit them for once.
So are you ready to jump in? Oh you can’t answer me, so we’re going to jump in.
Make It Measurable
The first thing that’s really important when setting a resolution is to make a goal really measurable.
Saying that you need to lose some weight is kind of bullshit. You can
dehydrate yourself. You can go out for a night of drinking and wake up in the morning, your body all depleted of water, and you’ll be a couple pounds lighter. Most people’s weight fluctuates three to five pounds day to day, so really there’s no way to tell if you succeeded unless you make that goal measurable.
So if you say, “You know what? I feel like I’m 15 pounds overweight. I am going to lose 15 pounds.”
THAT is measurable.
You can tell what success is.
You can tell when you’ve reached success or not by making the goal measurable.
So, for the sake of making this simple, I’m just going to use this weight-loss goal as it’s a common one (one of the most common ones) for people coming into New Year’s resolutions.
So instead of saying, “I need to lose some weight,” say, “I’m going to lose 15
Just the language that you use in your internal dialogue is really important. To say, “I need to, I want to, I’d like to”?
No, fuck that. I’m going to lose 10 pounds. I’m going to lose 25 pounds.
I’m going to do this because it’s important. Which leads me into the next step …
Get Really Clear On Your “Why”
Spend the time, as much as necessary, on the purpose of why you need to achieve this goal. It can’t be something external. It can’t be
I want people to look at me differently.
I don’t want people to call me fat.
I don’t want them to look at me funny.
You need to really understand why internally for you this is important, because you will do things for a period of time for other people, or for the perceptions of other people. But you won’t stick with it long
So if you do feel overweight, for example, and you feel like people are judging you, start digging into why do you feel like people judge you? Why do you feel like you’re overweight? Why do you really need to lose that 15 pounds? Is losing that 15 pounds really going to bring you joy? Probably not. I mean, it’ll make you feel a little bit better in the long term, maybe not.
But why 15 pounds? Is it because that’s the way you were whenever you went to college, or before you got married, or before you had your sixth
I don’t know. It’s going to be different for you. It’s going to be different for
everybody. But why would being 15 pounds lighter be important to you?
Is it so you have more energy? Is it so you can fit into that bikini when bikini season comes up?
Why is fitting into that bikini important to you?
Why is being the weight you were when you got married important to you?
Is it because you want to be able to play with your kids?
Is it because you want to feel sexier?
Is it because you want to feel more attractive?
Is it because you want to feel more attracted to yourself?
Is it because just mentally you know that’s where you operate at your peak?
Get very clear on this and then just keep reminding yourself of why you’re trying to get there.
Make It Result-Oriented
The next tip is to make the goal really result-oriented and not task-oriented.
I’m going to keep hammering on this weight-loss thing because it’s just easy.
To say, “I’m going to go running every day,” is a task-oriented goal or resolution.
“I’m going to run five miles every day.”
What happens whenever you get a freak injury? What happens when it’s pouring down rain outside? What happens when any little thing gets in the way of accomplishing that task, as opposed to moving towards that clear measurable goal?
If you want to lose that 15 pounds, yeah, maybe running five miles a day, or two miles a day, or whatever it is, is going to help you get there. But on the days where it’s snowing and you can’t make it out of the driveway to even
get to a treadmill to try to simulate that distance running, what can you do?
You need to have other options. You need to have backup plans. You need to have contingencies, which I mentioned in a previous Rebase episode.
You need to have alternatives to help keep moving you towards that result versus this task or this list of tasks that you think you’re going to be able to do every single day.
On the days where it’s snowing outside and you can’t be physically active to the degree that you would like to be, maybe you just mind your nutrition a little bit more that day.
Maybe you decide you’re going to do some body-weight circuit training at home. You need to have alternatives. If you have a clear goal-based resolution and not a task-based resolution, then you’ll be able to be more flexible, and you’ll be able to keep moving in the direction of that goal, despite any sort of setbacks and things that are honestly out of your control.
Set A Deadline
The next thing you need to do is to set a deadline. Not only should the
goal be measurable, it should be time constrained.
So, make sure that it’s realistic, but be able to say, “I want to lose 15 pounds by the end of February,” because if you just say, “I want to lose 15 pounds,” well eventually anybody can get there. You can lose one pound every three months and then just kind of wait for several years, and eventually, you’ll lose that 15 pounds.
There’s no sense of urgency whenever there’s no deadline that you set for yourself and you commit to.
So you need to set that deadline. You need to commit to it, and think that even if you say, “I need to lose 15 pounds in the next two months,” and you don’t get there, if you “fail” but you lose 8 pounds in two months? Think about how much better that would be then if you didn’t have a sense of urgency, and you just kind of lost four pounds because you didn’t really care about the goal that much after the first two weeks and you’re just not really that motivated to it.
Set the deadline because that will force you to hold yourself accountable.
Next thing you really need to do is to set checkpoints. Things are going to fluctuate up and down, but if you set reasonable checkpoints along the way — let’s just say you have that time-based goal, and you give yourself three months in order to achieve that goal — what does progress look like after three weeks? After six weeks? After nine weeks?
You’ll know after three weeks whether you’re making progress. Maybe it is not that you’re a quarter of the way there, but it’s okay. As I said, these things will ebb and flow.
If you set checkpoints along the way to just stop and assess whether you are making progress. If you’re not making the progress you like, how do you change your behavior to accelerate progress?
Or maybe you’re way ahead of the game, so you allow yourself a couple slices of pizza. Whatever it may be. So set those checkpoints.
Nobody I’m aware of has ever set a goal months out, and then they just kind of
forget about keeping themselves honest and keeping themselves accountable. Then three months goes by and they’re like, “All right. I did it. Didn’t even have to check in with myself to see how I was doing.”
It doesn’t happen.
Cut Off Those Who’d Interfere With Your Resolution
The next one is a bit of a delicate topic.
You need to cut out the people who might interfere with you achieving your goal, or at the very least if you can’t cut them out completely, you really need to limit the access they have to you.
This is so important because people in your life will be uncomfortable with change that you’re making, and even though it’s not about them (or maybe in some cases it is) they make it about them.
A lot of times people won’t support the change you’re making because they don’t understand it or they’re afraid of how that’s going to change who
you are and how that changes their relationship with you.
Worst case, it really shows them or changes how they feel about themselves.
So, if you have been hanging out with a lot of friends who are maybe eating poorly, or drinking a ton, or not exercising, or not being active, as soon as you start showing an interest in fitness or nutrition or in taking care of yourself and improving the quality of your life, if they’re not doing the same thing, they’re worried that you’re not going to be their friend anymore.
They’re worried that they’re going to lose a connection to you.
They’re really concerned potentially that it reflects poorly on them, like, why aren’t they as dedicated as you are?
They will try to sabotage you, even despite having (most of the time) good
So, take a good account, audit your friends, audit the people you surround
yourself with, and make sure that you’re not allowing toxic behavior. I’m not going to say “toxic people,” because most people, like I said, they have the best of intentions, but their behavior could absolutely interfere with this goal.
You will do this if you’re absolutely clear on the “why” you’re doing it and the why you’re committed to this goal.
If you’re not, you may just allow these people to remain in your life, and then just say, “You know what? The goal is not really that important.”
“This resolution, who needs to quit smoking? Who needs to lose weight
whenever I can just stay here, stagnant, with the people I already have in my life?”
Things are going to change, and when you set a goal like this, you are going to change, and you need to understand and accept that that might mean, at least in the short term, changing the people you surround yourself with.
Cultivate An Environment of Support And Accountability
Next thing is to create for yourself an environment that supports this change and that holds you accountable.
We’re not great at holding ourselves accountable. Some of us are better than others, but you really need to make sure that you have some mechanism for accountability to make sure that you’re making progress, that you’re coming close to achieving that goal when you get to that deadline, that, at your checkpoints, you’re sharing this information with somebody.
Maybe in this case of the weight loss, you have a workout partner; maybe you have a personal trainer; maybe you have a strength coach; maybe you have a nutritionist. Somebody or something that will hold you accountable to making progress.
Again, calling back to the last tip of cutting out people who aren’t supportive, who or what can you involve in your life as you’re making this change?
You’re growing. Let’s be clear that you are changing as a person. Who or what will support that change?
If you don’t have that environment, it’s far too easy to backslide into previous negative behavior or the behavior that got you into this scenario, this point in time where you aren’t happy.
So, cultivate that environment that provides support and accountability.
Be Patient With Yourself
The last thing, before we wrap it up here, is to just understand that, again, you’re growing, you’re changing and forming new habits.
Forming new habits takes time.
The guys who wrote the book The ONE Thing — who also now run an
entire company built around the concept of The ONE Thing — have referenced studies that show that forming a new habit can take an average of 66 days.
It’s not this 21 days all the time. Sometimes it is. It depends on the scope of the new habit, but a lot of times, these things take time.
66 days is almost 10 weeks. So, you need to be doing these things on a
regular basis. You need to be going to the gym and eating well and trying to do it on a regular cadence, so that you’re forming a habit; you’re strengthening a muscle.
You don’t go to the gym one time and all of a sudden you’re big and strong.
You don’t eat healthy one time and you never have to eat healthy again.
You don’t wake up and meditate two days in a row and all the sudden you’re good.
No. These things take time.
They’re habits and you need to allow that change to take shape and to set in.
And the other side of this is? You will face setbacks.
Life has a way of intervening.
One of my favorite sayings of all time is “No plan survives contact with the enemy.”
In this case, the enemy is your current lifestyle, your current situation, the people you surround yourself with, your work, your sleep schedule, the weather.
Any fucking thing can interfere and present itself as a setback. So, cut yourself a little slack. When you fall off the horse, you get back on the horse, know that every single moment, every single day is an opportunity to start creating that change.
Even if you get set back for multiple days in a row, know that at any given time, you have a choice for how you respond and how you approach your life in this particular change.
So, that’s it. Easy, right?
- Make your goals measurable. Make sure that you can put a
number on things so that you can have some sort of result that you know when you hit it.
- Get clear on the purpose behind why you’re doing this. Dig deep if you have to. Keep asking yourself, “Why?” until you get to that point, that just the light bulb goes on in your head and in your heart, and you’re like, “I have to do this now. It is important.”
- Set a deadline. Time constraints. Make sure that your goals, your resolutions are result-oriented, not task-oriented.
- Set checkpoints whenever you’re working towards that deadline to just sort of check progress, and be honest with yourself, not critical. Just honest.
- Cut out or limit your exposure to the people who can and will interfere with you achieving this goal.
- Create an environment that supports your work towards this goal and hold you accountable to it.
- Understand that forming new habits will take time. This change does not
happen overnight. You’re going to face setbacks, so don’t beat yourself up.
Thank you for reading! You can find me on the Book of Faces at @martinshaunp or @rebaseshow