Oh, the first 2 weeks of January…You are FILLED with social media gym check-ins, diets, cleanses, scales, and other bologna.  People love to “make a New Years resolution” and you will often hear “What’s your resolution this year?” in frequent passerby conversation.  Well, I have some news for you resolutionists, according to Norcross and Vangarelli (1988-89)  “Seventy-seven percent maintained their pledges for 1 week but only 19% for 2 years.” and furthermore, according to Huffpost, only 8% of people actually stick to them.  I am also confident you have experienced first hand the failure rate of people around you, and perhaps even yourself.  So, instead of repeating the same process and expecting a different result (insanity, anyone?), let’s can the old resolution mindset (I have never liked that word anyways), and instead embrace the positive “life change” mindset.  As the former tends to be restrictive and finite, the latter is meant to be incremental, flexible, and indefinite, because guess what?  A “30 day fix” doesn’t fix ANYTHING!  So, how do we go about fostering positive life changes?  I am glad you asked 🙂

Step 1: Set SMALL AND EASILY ATTAINABLE Goals Initially (incremental)

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The #1 mistake I see people make is setting ridiculously restrictive and virtually impossible goals off the bat (IMO).  “I want to cut all carbs this year”, or “I want to lose 50 pounds”, blah, blah, blah.  These goals are a mountain, when you’re not even ready to climb a mole hill yet.  So, taking the above examples:

“I want to cut all carbs this year” is better stated “I want to change 1 meal per week and make a less carbohydrate dense choice”.

And, “I want to lose 50 pounds” is better stated “I want to lose 5 pounds”.

Of course, if the end result is the original statements, you can get there, but remember goals needs to be flexible, incremental, and indefinite.  So, 1 meal per week can quickly become 4 meals per week over the course of a month, and even more thereafter.  Just as 5 pounds of weight loss extrapolated over the course of 8 months can be 50 pounds eventually.  Most importantly though, winning all of these small battles over the course of your life change will result in a positive feedback loop which will motivate you even further.  Win-win!

As you go further down the road, then your goals can become more challenging.

Step 2: Expect Failure and Resistance (flexible)

The #2 mistake I see is people expecting to make a lifestyle change practically overnight and not foreseeing the resistance and will-power challenges that it takes.

As mentioned above, setting small and attainable goals will hopefully decrease this, but you need to be flexible and expect and embrace failure and resistance.  “Everything in moderation” is another great way to think of this concept.  If you set a goal of cutting out sugar, give yourself a few times per week to satisfy that craving (be flexible), BUT incrementally reduce the amount you eat over the course of the month or even year.  I can guarantee feeding that craving initially will result in greater compliance and better results in the long terms.

Failure IS an option, as long as it’s temporary and you use it as a learning experience and not an implosion.

Step 3: Stick With It! (indefinite)

The #3 mistake is people falling for the trap of an easy solution.  The “30 day fix”, or only using certain containers for your foods (I wonder how many Swedish Fish I can cram in my sugar one… 😉 ) and other complete non-sense.  STOP FALLING FOR THE TRAPS, PEOPLE!  Anything that’s worth doing is a challenge and never easy (at least in my experience) and just like in most everything in life, the more work put in = better results.

I am not saying it’s going to be easy, I am saying it’s going to be WORTH IT!

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Make this the year to stop making resolutions and start making positive life changes!  Set goals that are incremental, flexible, and indefinite.  Start off slow, expect some bumps in the road, and understand it is going to be hard at times, but it is definitely going to be WORTH IT!

About the Author Shayne Gaffney

Shayne holds a bachelors degree in Health Science in Professional Development and Advanced Patient Care, is a USA Cycling Level 1 (expert level) Certified Coach, a level 2 certified Training Peaks coach, a USA Cycling certified power based training coach, USA Olympic Committee Safe Sport Certified, and a licensed physical therapist assistant. He is also the creator of Zwift's "Build Me Up" Flexible Training Plan. He can be contacted directly via info@gaffneycyclingcoaching.com for any cycling or training related questions.

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