So You Say You Want a Resolution?
So You Say You Want a Resolution….
I’m seeing a lot of new faces at the gym right now. A little bit crowded. But I’m not worried because I know it will clear out very soon….
We have all heard the research. Depending on which report you read, somewhere between 40 and 60 percent of Americans make New Years resolutions. But six months later only ten to twenty percent of these people will consider themselves successful at keeping them.
And maybe that’s part of the problem – we’ve all heard the research. According to several studies, one of the best predictors of whether or not you will keep your resolution is your level of self-efficacy. That is, do you believe that you can do it? You hear over and over again that practically no one is able to keep up with their resolutions, so you may feel that it is almost impossible for you to keep yours up. When you think that something is impossible, you tend not to put as much energy into it… you may skip on the planning necessary…. you cut yourself a bit too much slack. After all – it’s impossible!
Self-efficacy is not just believing in yourself. When you have a lot of self-efficacy, you know you can reach your goal AND you figure out what you need to do to reach it.
For example, most people slip up on their resolution sometime in January. Yep, right in that first month! Studies have shown that there is no difference in the number of slip ups between people who keep their resolutions and those who fail. The people who are successful simply figure it was a slip up, maybe brainstorm some way to avoid it in the future, and keep going. The people who fail, quit.
So how can you be one of the successful people? There are a few things you can do to make sure you reach your goals.
First off – choose the right goal!
And yes, goals should be specific, measurable, blah blah blah… but what I mean is figure out what it is you really want. Why are you thinking about changing your life (yes, you will have to change your life) for this goal? What will be different? Why will that be good?
Let’s take “ I want to be a vegan” for example. [We can discuss the health and ethics implications of a vegan lifestyle in future blogs – let me know if it is something you would be interested in]. Do you want to start eating a vegan diet because you hope to lose weight and look better? Because it might decrease your cancer or heart disease risk? Because you feel it is wrong to eat things with faces?
There are actually some pretty interesting research studies on how successful people are at keeping a vegan diet (I didn’t just choose that example at random!). It turns out that the people who wanted to eat a vegan diet in order to enhance their appearance (because all vegans look like Gwyneth Paltrow) were the people who gave up the fastest. People who switched to a vegan diet because they thought it might prevent them from ending up in an early grave did a little better. The specter of death and all. The people who were most likely to still be eating a vegan diet several years later were the ones that felt it was morally wrong to eat any animal products. No mention in the research on their resemblance to Gwyneth Paltrow.
This actually makes me feel a little better about society in a way. Eating a vegan diet can be very difficult. The fact that people gave it up when their only goal was to look better means that their appearance wasn’t really that important to them in the first place!
Second – plan! Seriously! I mean really really plan. You are talking about changing your life. Changing the way you have always done things. Changing who you are. You need a plan! It won’t just happen by magic.
Let’s take the vegan example again. Of course you will need to change what you are eating. So that means maybe cookbooks or magazines, or at the very least reading a lot of labels. It means cleaning out cupboards. It means making time for shopping trips. Lay out all your meals and snacks for the week. But it’s so much more! Maybe you are going to make an acai smoothie bowl for breakfast. That will take longer to prepare than the coffee and donut you usually have (I almost said coffee and cigarette). So you will need to get up earlier. So you will need to go to bed earlier. And what will you say when your friends want to meet up for Korean BBQ? What will you feed guests? What about when you are traveling? You can plan for all of these things.
Third (and this is not backed by any research I’m aware of but I’m sure it’s true) – don’t start your resolutions in January. At least not in Chicago. It’s cold. It’s dark. Every once in awhile the snow melts for a few days and then it’s nothing but mud and dog poo. Just curl up on the sofa for about three months. Wait until spring – the days are longer, the plants start growing, there’s food besides winter squash and turnips in your CSA box… Spring is a much better time to make life changes. You can use that extra time to plan!
Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear from you!