Here we are at the beginning of February 2014. How are you doing with your freshly etched New Year's Resolution?
If you're on track, great. If not, don't beat yourself up too much.
The truth is most resolution-makers will never accomplish their goals. According to some psychology data from the University of Scranton, only 8% of people ever achieve their New Year's Resolution.
That seems a harsh reality, but I'm willing to be more optimistic. In fact, if you're feeling burnt out already, or like you bit off more than you can chew, the following ideas might give you some hope.
Most Resolutions Are Too Vague
As a fitness coach, I see this all the time. After I get an idea of what someone wants to do, I encourage them to dig deeper and get more clear on what they actually want.
At the start of a new year, many people will state their goal of "getting in shape," "eating better," or "exercising more."
While these goals are full of good intention, they're not specific, and have no clear definition.
What does "getting in shape" actually mean? How about "eating better"?
While we may have an idea, it's important to get very clear on what you want.
A better resolution would be "to cook healthy meals at home five days per week." Another would be "to meditate in silence for 10 minutes a day."
Positive intentions are great, but without a clear idea of what we want to accomplish, it's hard to stick with anything.
We Underestimate The Time and Effort Involved
Making life changes is a tough endeavour.
If you haven't been to the gym in two years, and suddenly decide to drop 50 pounds, it's tempting to adopt a maniacal workout and diet plan with the hopes of losing the weight rather quickly.
After a few days, when the soreness is setting in from hour-long workouts, it's easy to consider giving in and letting go.
When you realize that losing the weight could take six to twelve months instead of two, this exercise and diet stuff doesn't sound so glamorous anymore.
It's important to remember, if anything sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And that goes for any promises or quick-fixes you were sold as you approached the New Year as well.
Most Resolutions Have No Backbone
Many of the goals we set for ourselves are very surface-level, and hold no real weight within our lives. This is why it's so easy to let them go after we experience the slightest resistance.
If a goal is shallow, or is just a challenge between friends, it's not likely you'll want to put in the time and effort.
Ever participated in a "rapid weight loss" or "no sugar for 30 days" challenge? Most won't make it past the first week simply because there is no backbone, or no compelling "why" behind their actions.
If they do make it, the changes are not sustainable, and they return to their old habits.
If you can place great importance on the reason for accomplishing your resolution, the chances of sticking to it are much better.
Relying On Willpower Is Tough
Think about it like this. Willpower can only take you so far. After a long day of work, and tending to responsibilities, it's much easier to wind down, and talk yourself out of the new commitments you've made to yourself.
You know, the resolution you made to hit the gym right after work, or to take that 30 minute walk through the neighbourhood before dinner.
This is why most people give up so quickly. Willing yourself to make changes can be difficult if you've already depleted your willpower stores on your daily obligations.
What's the solution? How can you actually make sure you stick with something for a change?
Create Simple Habits First
Most of the goals we created for ourselves for this year are so grandiose, even the most motivated person would have a hard time reaching them.
The best way to start is with something small.
If your goal is to walk for an hour 3 times per week, start with three 10-minute walks each week.
Get up 10 minutes early, or use the first 10 minutes of your lunch break. That's all you need. It's easy to become overwhelmed by an hour, but not by 10 minutes. Everyone has 10 minutes, and if you say you don't, you're lying to yourself.
After the 10-minute walks become normal, up them to 30 minutes. After a few weeks, go to 45 minutes, and finally hour-long walks.
You must also make the habit easy, and unobtrusive.
If you struggle get out the door in the morning for a walk because you need to get dressed, and make breakfast, remove the barriers.
Putting your workout clothes right next to your bed will make it easy to put on upon waking. Also, seeing them will serve as a reminder, and nudge to get your morning walk in.
Some people set their shoes right by their bed, so as soon as they wake, they can slip them on and get out the door.
If breakfast prep is a problem, prepare everything the night before for easy reheating. If you like smoothies, it's easy to put all the ingredients together in the fridge the night before, so all you need to do is add them to the blender in the morning.
Make this process so easy you have no choice but to do it.
Create A System
Longterm goals are easy to get overwhelmed with. If you have a track record of starting strong and fizzling out, here's a reframing idea for you.
Focus on the system, and not the end-goal.
Sure, you may want to lose 30 pounds, stop eating fast food, or squat 100 pounds.
Instead of constantly looking toward the end goal, decide what it will take to get there and look no further than your task for the day.
If you fall in love with the system, rather than the outcome, you'll still get to your goal but also have the instant gratification that comes with getting something done immediately.
Losing 30 pounds, just like any worthwhile goal, will take a considerable amount of time and effort. Many people have done it in the past, so there's no reason you can't.
Step 1 is understanding it's possible. Great, we know that because it's been done before.
Step 2 is understanding it's a process, and that it will take time. No overnight transformations here.
Step 3 is deciding to do a little something each day toward that goal. What does the successful person's life look like? What did they do each day?
Step 4 is making sure you consistently do all the things that will lead to the end-goal of losing 30 pounds. That can be working out, watching what you eat, sleeping well, or preferably, a combination of all those ideas.
Once you create a system, and commit to the daily behaviours (focusing on habits), you can then progress toward your goal methodically, as opposed to creating an otherwise abstract goal, and hoping you magically hit your mark.
Don't Sweep Your New Year's Resolution Under The Rug
I know it's easier to give up, and throw in the towel, but it doesn't have to be that way. Who cares if you originally agreed to something you simply cannot commit to? This isn't a race, or about keeping up with others. It's about you, and making positive change in your life.
So if you need to backpedal slightly (or drastically) in the name of picking something small and easy to tackle, then do it. At the end of the year, you won't care about how many tiny steps it took to reach a goal. You'll simply be happy you did, and built some new habits along the way.
If you do decide to give up, you'll be back to square one this time next year wishing you'd created a system, and course-corrected along the way.
Don't be afraid to amend those impossible resolutions. Get to it, and accomplish something this year.
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