The New Year is upon us— let the resolutions begin! I’m sure by now you’ve heard that New Year’s resolutions never work.  Yet the beginning of the year  seems like the perfect time to set new goals and make plans for self-improvement.  How can you resist wanting to make a fresh start with the new year?   Don’t let the naysayers discourage you because there is never a bad time to make a change. There are some great ways to help make your resolutions work for you.  If you’d like to improve the success rate of any goal, plan or resolution, follow the tips in this incredibly powerful two-step process:

 

Think Minimal First

The best part about making New Year’s resolution is dreaming about what life might be like once you reach your goal. What would you look like 50lbs lighter? What will it feel like to breathe once you are free from smoking? Can you imagine hearing the audience cheer you on as you walk across that graduation stage? All of these moments will play through your head like a movie reel, fueling much needed motivation.

Dreaming is good and gives you the reward that you are seeking in developing a new habit.  But you will quickly realize after dreaming for a bit that your life is filled with many unexpected bumps and hurdles. Tomorrow you may find yourself sleep deprived from the all-nighter you pulled with your sick toddler. Next week you may be consoling a grieving relative or you may be knee deep in water from an exploded basement pipe. This, my friends, is real life. Realizing life’s many set-backs or bumps in the road is realistic planning. So you might ask, how does this fit into my resolution planning?

Well, in order to not give up on your resolution as soon as you reach a bump in the road, you need to have a fall-back plan — a minimal goal that you can attain no matter what.  Think about your resolution and what habits you might need to develop to get there. You want to lose 50lbs and you will need to exercise consistently to make that happen. Perfect. Now think about what is the minimum amount of days you will exercise during each week. We’re not talking about the perfect amount of days or maximum hours of exercise your body can handle (you get to think maximum later).  We are talking about the fewest amount of days to keep you marching in the right direction. We know this may not be how you usually plan — you like to think of the optimal workouts and what your body can achieve.  But this minimalistic strategy is necessary.  You can still detail what you’d like to do when the days are sailing by without a hitch.    But first you need to have a minimum plan.  When a rough week hits you –  you can switch over to your minimum mode so that you can stay on track and not give up on your goal completely.

Goal Setting - Minimum Example
Ideal Goal Minimum Goal
Exercise 5 days per week Exercise 2 days per week for 10 minutes
Lose 1lb per week Maintain weight
Eat vegetarian 5 days per week Eat a salad for lunch each workday

 

Think Realistic Maximums

Now that we have established your minimum, it’s time to look at your ultimate maximum goal.  The goal here is not to pick THE perfect maximum, but to pick YOUR perfect maximum. If you are planning on dusting off your old punching bag in the basement, don’t start with Muhammad Ali’s “Thrilla in Manila” routine; begin with a workout designed for you. Be honest with yourself and establish a maximum that you can reasonably expect to honor during a typical week. A maximum should be, at the very least, enough to see a change, but not so much where the pace is unsustainable, or worse, leaves you injured.. If you have even the slightest doubt that your maximum goal is too much, scale it back. Remember, ideal weeks will come and when they do, you’ll be able to exceed your maximum goal. And when the weeks aren’t ideal, (and they  usually aren’t) , you’ll be able to continue to make progress.

Goal Setting - Maximum Example
Ideal Maximum Goal Realistic Maximum Goal
Run 5 miles-5 days per week Run 4 days per week-any distance
Sleep at least 8 hours every night Sleep 7 hours Monday through Friday
Eat 6 small healthy meals everyday Eat 3 healthy meals each day 5 days per week

 

 

This type of goal setting might feel like it’s raining on your motivation parade, but it will pay dividends and keep you on track. Because life isn’t perfect, you shouldn’t expect a perfect plan. Be honest and think minimal first, then be honest with your capacity and think maximal second. In the end, each week will have its own tailor-made plan—ideal, maximum, minimum. Bring it on, life!

Putting it all together
Ideal Maximum Goal Realistic Maximum Goal Realistic Minimum Goal
Lift weights 6 days per week Lift weight 4 days per week Lift weights 2 days per week
Lose 2 lbs per week Lose 1 lb per week Maintain weight
Read every night before bed Read 4 nights per week Read 2 nights per week