How to become the person who keeps their New Year’s resolutions
By Eric Sweeney
It’s that time of year again. That time that we say we look forward to, but secretly dread. No, it has nothing to do with Christmas music or social gatherings, it’s New Year’s Resolutions. How long did you make it on your last resolution? Two days? Two weeks? Two months? Did you quit before you even started?
It’s ok. It happens to most of us. We make big goals, and our minds make them out to be so much bigger than they are—the fear alone is enough to cripple the average person before they even get started. Then we make the problem even worse by justifying it with false conclusions like, “I’m just not the kind of person who can stick to a diet” or “the people who work out regularly aren’t as busy as I am” or my least favorite, “I’m too old to change now, it’s too late for me”.
As a fitness coach, I hear these statements all the time. A large part of my job is getting people out of their own heads, and getting them to buy into the concrete fact that change is possible for them. This is step one for every single client I have ever had, and I’m going to give it to you for free. I am going to give you the secret formula for how to become the person who keeps their New Year’s Resolutions.
Before we talk about what makes a person successful, let’s take a moment to look at what success actually is. Success is no more than the attainment of a goal, any goal. If you set a goal to walk across the street, and you do it, you were successful. So it’s not fair to say that some people are successful and others are not because anytime you do what you set out to do, you are successful.
People who achieve success do not have more time, more skill or some magical DNA that the average person only dreams of. If there is one distinct characteristic that might set apart the people who regularly experience success from those who do not, it’s willpower.
A strong will power helps you stick to your goals despite temptations, obstacles or distractions. It’s the ability to focus on the goal that’s coming, rather than giving in to immediate gratification.
Therefore the first flex in chasing your goal is to strengthen your willpower. Period. It’s the core skill to build and master that lays a foundation for all other skills. So before you jump into your resolution with both feet, start by taking reps to tone up the will. When your will is strong, you start to notice how the things you once thought were not possible, are suddenly well within your reach.
I used to think that discipline was something that other people had, and I didn’t, but that is the wrong context for a word like discipline. Discipline is a practice, it’s a religion, speaking to my crowd, it’s a muscle.
The mistake most people make with their goals is that they chase the heavy weight first, only to learn that their ability is seriously lacking. This approach doesn’t build a muscle, it breaks it. When we see willpower as a muscle, just like any muscle in the body, it’s built with consistent reps over time. One rep doesn’t make a large difference, 10 reps one time doesn’t make a large difference, but 10 reps once a day for 4 weeks, that progress is quite visible. So here is how we get started.
Keep your dreams big and keep your goals small, simple and consistent. When I say keep your goals small, I mean small enough to carry in your pocket. Pluck the proverbial low hanging fruit as they say. You just have to get going, and it’s much easier to convince yourself to take the first step when it’s a small one. If you want to increase your will power from virtually nonexistent to all powerful, start off with something easy and keep it simple.
The easiest goal to start with, whether or not your dream has to do with health and fitness, is to drink two glasses of water right away every morning. It doesn’t get much simpler than that right? But watch when you go to do this, notice how your mind and body which love the same old predictable routine may try to fight you every step of the way. Your body will say that it’s too tired. Your mind will say that it’s too busy. Your ego will say that it’s too hard. But you have the opportunity to flex your willpower and say, ‘No, we are doing this. It’s two glasses of water. It takes less than a minute and I am the one in charge here.’ Just like that, first thing in the morning, you’ve taken a step towards a stronger will and a healthier body.
When a goal is small and simple, it’s easy to reach it consistently. So try the water goal, and do it every single morning until it becomes such a habit that you do it without even thinking. This is how we build habits, with small, simple, consistent reps over time. This is how we build momentum—this is how we become the person who keeps their resolutions and does what they say they are going to do. Let’s face it, there’s no point in setting a goal to lose 20lbs, or pay off your credit card debt, or go back to school if you don’t have the will to do something as easy as drinking two glasses of water first thing every morning.
We have an awful tendency of focusing on the big things that we have very little control over, that make us feel small and powerless, the things that are plastered on the news each night. But in truth, it’s the small things that we can do every day that add up to noticeable change in our lives. It’s the little habits that will make or break you. Don’t wish for massive success overnight, it will kill you. The small, simple, consistent habits are what build the muscle capable of lifting heavier loads. If everyone in your family, neighborhood, community, society, and the world worked to lift the heaviest load they were capable of, just imagine.
I want you to keep your dreams big, but keep your goals small. I want you to achieve success in everything you set out to do, and I want to be the first person to high five you when you cross that finish line. Let’s make the world a better place in 2023, by making ourselves better people.