Resolutions and goals

Happy New Year.

Have you got a resolution?

I don’t have any percentage of how many American people make resolutions (because I’m writing this on a train with no Internet connection), but I know that most people do.

Resolutions stink.

calendarNearly everyone resolves to do better at this and to do better at that, but before you know it, December 31 rolls around and you go, “What were my resolutions this year?” Did you really accomplish any of them? Congrats, if you did. Most resolutions fall to the wayside by mid-February and become a distant memory by summer.

I have goals for this year.

“Haha, Marissa! You do have a resolution!”

Not quite.

Most people make resolutions that are nigh unto impossible. The most frequent resolution – that even I’m guilty of – is going to the gym or exercising more. Gym memberships increase tenfold right before and right after the holidays and then taper off by mid-January. By February, at least 50 percent of the people who signed up for the gym probably will not use the membership enough to make it worthwhile. Guaranteed by July – the middle of the year is the best gauge of accomplish a resolution – they don’t even go to the gym anymore but continue to pay for it because of a stupid 1-year minimum contract.

I received a Winter 2006 newsletter from my insurance company about how to keep New Year’s resolutions. These are the most practical tips I’ve found for any resolution or goal.

1. Commit yourself to the task.

“Before you join a gym or change your job, decide you’re ready to do the work it takes to make such a change. You’ll be less likely to succeed if you’re setting goals just to please your family or because it’s fashionable.”

If you’re signing up for the gym because your family tells you you’re fat, you’re gonna fail. Sign up for yourself. Establish a pattern of exercising before paying to exercise at a certain place. For example, if you do 50 crunches and 50 sit-ups consistently three times a week, the likelihood that you’d get to the gym is much higher since you’ve
already established an exercise pattern. (On the flip side, you might decide that it’s cheaper to run up and down the stairs in your house or apartment 20 times.)

I’ve signed up for gym memberships countless times but never became motivated until something hit home with me: my excess weight could trigger diabetes or heart disease, which runs in my family. Knowing that my dad died of heart disease and that being overweight was a fast track to the same end, I got my act together to lose some weight.

I’ll add that January may be the cheapest time to purchase a gym membership (i.e. “Our sign-up fee is only $20.07 for a limited time!”).  However, January also sees the most drop-offs of “resoluted” exercisers. Join a gym in the middle of the year – April, June, October – and you won’t feel the pressure of shedding the “holiday weight.” Granted, it may be more expensive during the summer – everyone wants their best “beach body” – but if it becomes a regular habit, the expense may be worth it.

2. Choose reasonable goals.
Many people make their resolutions unattainable or vague. You’re not going to suddenly exercise five days a week consistently if you’ve never consistently exercise in your life. (No, physical education and recess back in elementary school does NOT count.) Resolving to “lose weight” doesn’t mean anything: How much? 1 lb? 5 lbs? 10 lbs? What’s your target weight and when do you hope to achieve it? Pledging to lose 20 lbs. in 4 weeks is not probable. (Don’t go on the liquid diet, don’t starve yourself, don’t vomit, don’t take laxatives, and please – for heaven’s sake – do not become a heroin addict.) Shooting for 2 lbs. per week is much more reasonable. Make a habit of weighing yourself on a certain day and at a certain time. (HINT: Weigh yourself in the morning before eating; you’ll feel so good about yourself.)  And don’t be surprised if you initially gain weight at first – “I’m exercising and I’ve just gained 5 lbs? What the heck?” – muscle weighs more than fat. I heard it a million times when I started out exercising. It’s not easy to see the scale jump from 170 to 175 lbs in two weeks but after 4 weeks, I slid down to 168 and continued to decrease ever since. Keep at it; it’s discouraging at first, but perseverance brings rewarding results.

3. Reinforce your resolutions.

  • List three reasons (for each resolution) why you want to do them
  • Look at your list regularly
  • Be patient to develop them (I can’t stress this one enough.)

4. Seek support.
Tell others who can help you keep your resolution(s) in sight.

5. Strategize.
Be specific. If you want to put more money toward debt, specify how (i.e. cutting back on eating out during lunch) and when (i.e. decrease credit card debt from $6,000 to $5,500 by June of this year).

6. Monitor yourself.
Set a timetable for each of your resolutions.

7. Expect setbacks.
No one likes this, but it happens. Don’t expect to succeed right away. The only way to succeed may be to fail at first. I hate to use the cliché, but it’s apropos: Once you’ve fallen, get back up.

8. Take credit for yourself.
Acknowledge your success and reward yourself for progress (but don’t overdo it where you set yourself back!).

— The numbered headers were taken from “Ready … Set … GOALS!” by Clair Sykes.

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