Why is it so hard to stick to a New Year’s resolution? Less than 10% of us are still committed to our goals come June.
Countless people come bounding through our doors enthusiastically every January seeking to ‘drop some fat’, ‘put on some muscle’ and ‘get healthier’.
The problem that we typically encounter with such resolutions is that they are vague and not thought through properly.
What you need is a careful plan of attack designed to get you exactly where you want to be.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the 10 basic goal-setting strategies that we drill into all of our clients. If you follow these through with consistent application, then success can be almost guaranteed.
Rule #1. Be realistic with your goals
A great approach to any client-focused service is always to underpromise and over-deliver. We all recognise that to do the opposite is to create disappointment and a nagging sense of dissatisfaction. So why set yourself up for these negative and disempowering emotions by having expectations that are entirely unrealistic?
You may want a body like Brad Pitt, or the athletic curves of Lara Croft, but let’s get real for a minute. If you are 50lbs overweight and give yourself five weeks to get ripped abs or tight buns, you are quite simply setting yourself up for failure. And with failure comes disappointment, derailment, and a gradual (or swift) regression back to your comfort zone of bad habits and easy self-gratification.
Pick a goal that you know in your heart of hearts you can really achieve. And a word to the wise, if you truly believe you can do it, then absolutely you should dare to dream! I work with people who one day dreamed of becoming Victoria’s Secret girls, and now they really are – without that aim, and a tonne of hard work, they would never have achieved their goals.
Rule #2. Focus on one goal at a time
Following on from being realistic, it is important not to put too many well-meaning resolutions on your plate at once. Achieving anything meaningful requires a step-by-step process. Don’t try to lose body fat, add muscle, stop smoking, read a new book a week, and start Spanish lessons all at the same time! You will fall between multiple stools and end up achieving absolutely nothing, apart from an overwhelming feeling of failure and frustration!
Rule #3. Plan properly
Just as unrealistic, vague goals can scupper your motivation and progress, so too can the lack of clear and precise goals. Would you take a car journey to somewhere you have never been before without a map, hoping to get where you think you might want to go, and ever expect to get there? No, of course not. You would end up frustrated and lost, inevitably going back to your starting point because that’s the only place where you are comfortable and know your way around.
Now imagine mapping out your journey, drawing up a plan of where you want to go, and how you are going to get there step by step. You know which roads to take, and you know that when you reach each waypoint, you are closer to your final destination.
This approach is the only approach to take when embarking on any action that takes you out of your normal modes of behaviour. Be it a fitness regime, a career progression, or enforcing new nutritional habits (note, I do not say dieting!), you will only succeed in the long haul (the only haul worth succeeding in) if you have clear goals to work towards, and to benchmark your progress against.
Rule #4. Keep things in perspective when setbacks occur
No, I am not contradicting myself here. Just as a lack of goals will derail you, so too will being overly focused on goals to the detriment of everything around you.
One of my favourite poems is “If” by Rudyard Kipling. We would all do well to have that printed up on our bathroom mirrors, so as to remind ourselves every morning and night that a setback (a missed goal on the weighing scales, a lapse in our healthy living plan) is just a temporary, fleeting thing, and that we have tomorrow to get back on track.
In short, don’t be one of those people who is so wrapped up in their goals that at the first sign of a slip-up, they throw in the towel and revert back to their unfulfilled old selves. It truly is all about the journey, and not the destination.
Rule #5. Be patient
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and nothing worthwhile ever came easily. Take your time and remember that life is a journey and not a destination.
End of sermon and platitude.
Rule #6. Build better knowledge and understanding
You would think it foolish to try to assemble a complicated piece of machinery without a blueprint or guide, so why do so many of us set off down the path of New Year’s resolutions armed with bundles of enthusiasm but zero knowledge of how to achieve our goals?
Read up on the ‘how to’ of what you are about to do, and you will markedly increase your chances of success. Knowledge is power!
Rule #7. Stay disciplined
We live in an age of instant gratification – movies on demand, shopping at the click of a button, and microwave meals zapped and on your plate in three minutes flat.
So it would seem that the prevailing mindset is that if I want that bar of chocolate, I want it now, and why shouldn’t I have it? I can give you 100 reasons why not, starting with those love handles that sit so attractively over your belt on the back of your hips, but I am not going to be there when you’re staring at the candy counter in the petrol station. You have to want to make a difference to yourself, because, in the final analysis, it’s down to you and nobody else.
It takes discipline and strength of character to effect a fundamental change in any of our ingrained habits, but once the momentum has been created, and the sense of satisfaction and well-being becomes your constant companion, you can do it.
Rule #8. Celebrate your successes along the way
The flip side of all that discipline is that you must also acknowledge your human frailties. No one is a machine, and every one of us responds well to incentives and pats on the back.
The way to achieve your goals and feel good in the process is to break your big plan into a series of smaller goals, and each and every time you reach a mini milestone, reward yourself. How you do this is entirely personal. It could be a slap-up meal, a new pair of shoes, or a night out with the boys. The occasional planned break from any disciplined regime can be refreshing for both the mind and the body.
Rule #9. Find positive social support networks
We all need support. Remember that old saying “behind every good man is a good woman”? Well, it’s true, although perhaps I can bring it slightly up to date by stating that “behind every successful person is a positive and reinforcing social structure”. Not as catchy as the original maybe, but far more relevant to the modern 21st Century world we all live in.
Negative people suck the life from you. They don’t want you to succeed because in doing so, in daring to be different and breaking free from the regular norm, you bring into stark reality the paucity and inadequacies of their own existence. These are the so-called “friends” who will constantly question why you want to better yourself, why you work harder than they do, and why you want to exert control over your own life – be it through diet, exercise, or just general self-discipline.
We all know people like this. It’s the smart ones who jettison the negative and surround themselves with positive, reinforcing characters who want you to succeed and buy into your long-term happiness and fulfilment.
Rule #10. Get advice from professionals
If your resolutions have any impact upon your health and/or are genuinely important to you, then professional advice should be regarded as an investment, not an expense. Too many people waste too much time getting nowhere and following erroneous, if well-meaning, advice.
A good professional personal trainer can fast-track your progress and often be the difference between success and failure through frustration caused by mistakes and overly slow and limited progress. I very rarely see a new client who isn’t familiar with the gym, but I almost never see a new client who knows how to exercise and eat properly for their specific goals and physical and biochemical makeup.
Following these rules will provide you with the cornerstone for making any program, whatever time of year you decide to implement it, an absolute success. These are the basic strategies that are drilled into all our clients, and if they are followed through with consistent application, then success can be almost guaranteed.
Last year the average body fat reduction of our fat loss clients was 19lbs in 12 weeks, typically accompanied by a rise in lean body mass (muscle) for enhanced tone and shape, so that shows you how well a properly approached resolution can work!