2017 is upon us!
The stress of the holidays (and that god-awful election) have subsided and for a few days, we’ve floated in a peaceful “in between” space; a cozy lull before the take off of a new year. Looking forward, we’ll project loads of hope and optimism, probably in the form of New Year resolutions…. which we kinda suck at.
The stats are depressing, with only about 8% of us actually achieving long term success. That means that 92% of us are left feeling pretty lame once February hits. By then, we’re back to our overweight, undernourished, disenchanted, disorganized selves with a half (…full) bottle-of-wine-a-night habit that we don’t call a habit, but instead call “cooking”
Still. I can’t help but think that there’s something amiss with the whole resolution ritual if just under 50% of us play the “New Year, New You” game, and a mere 8% of us win.
So, as a proud member of the Other 92%, I propose that we’ve failed at achieving our resolutions year in and year out NOT because we’re lazy, misguided or incapable, but merely because we’ve been going about our “resolving” all wrong. The bullet points we excitedly jot down are often too vague to provide a stable starting point (“I want to get organized”) and are usually ideas about what we think we want, without certainty that those ideas are truly connected to our deepest, purest desires.
If we’re going to have a shot in hell at sticking with our New Year’s resolutions long enough to make them permanent-ish, it’s imperative that we A) get crystal clear on the real motivations behind our resolutions and B) once clear, make sure that the strategies for our resolutions are smart. Walk with me…
Let’s talk true motivations.
Thankfully, our friends at Precision Nutrition offer an effective 3-step method for helping us identify the values that really motivate us. All you need is about 10 minutes of uninterrupted time and something to write with.
Step 1: Make your list of resolutions. Really go for it, leaving no goal off the table.
Step 2: For every goal/resolution you write down, you should be able to answer the question “WHY?” 5 times. (For example: “I want to lose weight” 1. Why do I want to lose weight? Because I want to feel good in my clothes. 2. Why do I want to feel good in my clothes? Because when I feel good in my clothes, I think I’ll look better. 3. Why do I want to look better? Because when I look good, I feel good about myself. 4. Why do I want to feel good about myself? Because when I feel good about myself, I feel more confident. 5. Why do I want to feel more confident? Because when I feel more confident about myself, I feel more capable of getting what I want out of life.) Note: If you can’t come up with 5 WHY answers, don’t force it. Just cross out those resolutions.
Step 3: Take a look at what reasons were left, once all the “Whys” were answered. These are your true motivators; the goals that all your resolutions should be aiming for.
In our example, it became clear that our motivation wasn’t about losing weight; it was about living in a state of self-agency. If we focus only on the surface goal of weight loss, without identifying and supporting the underlying desire for feeling “capable of getting what I want out of life” we are statistically setting ourselves up for failure because we are limiting our measure of success to one extremely volatile variable (weight loss)
If instead, we stay true to the real motivation of wanting to have self agency, we will find multiple opportunities every day to succeed, versus hinging success on one thing. And with each success, our resolve will grow, begetting further success, eventually turning that resolution into another part of who we are. (And don’t worry about resolutions that didn’t make the cut; they’ll likely get worked out organically as you focus on your deeper motivations.)
When we can identify the motivation behind the resolution for what it really is, moving towards that resolution in ways that are healthy, appropriate and effective is a helluva lot easier.
So we’ve broadened our opportunities for success by getting clear on our true motivators. Now let’s get smart with the resolutions that made the cut.
Back to our “lose weight” example. Once we’ve identified the real motivator underneath that statement, we can still aim for losing the weight. But now we can do so without violating our true need, which is the desire to feel a sense of capability and self agency. Think of your true motivation as your sounding board: when crafting your plans for your specific goal, you can pose the question “Does this action/choice/method support my true goal of feeling capable in a healthy and sustainable way?” If the answer’s “no” we drop it like it’s hot and evaluate other methods that might fit the bill. But if the answer is “yes” we can proceed to strategize for goals in a SMART way. A SMART goal is one that’s Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Bound.
Specific goals are explicit and state exactly what you want to achieve. Measurable goals offer ways to gauge success, allowing you to adjust your plan as you go. Attainable goals are realistic, keeping your expectations reasonable so you can experience little wins to propel you further. Relevant goals are goals that have stood up to our 5 Why test. And Time-bound goals have set time lines.
Let’s look at our weight loss goal in a SMART way. Instead of saying “I want to lose weight”, we can state “I want to lose 20 pounds. I will measure/weigh myself every 2 weeks to gauge progress. I will shoot for losing at least 1 pound a week, ultimately losing my goal of 20 lbs. by my birthday. This method is healthy, sustainable and supports my need to feel confident and capable”. This is a SMART strategy versus adopting a strategy that involves crash dieting, obsessive exercise, and other sorts of nonsense, which are NOT in alignment with our true motivation of feeling capable in a healthy and sustainable way.
In conclusion, making New Year’s resolutions that stick past the spring IS possible. We must look inward, get honest about what we REALLY want, and then put SMART strategies in place.
2017 is going to be YOUR year. You deserve it. You’re capable. And you have everything you need to crush your goals. Go get those dreams, babe. They’re waiting for you….
P.S. I’m available to support you in setting and achieving goals through private training and consulting. I have 3 coaching slots available for the spring and I’d be honored to be of service, so holla at meJ