The unfortunate truth about New Year’s resolutions

12.30.14 |

The research on New Year’s resolutions is quite simple: most of them are related to weight-loss or fitness, and according to rigorous research from the University of Scranton most of them fail.

Does that mean you shouldn’t make a New Year’s resolution? Of course not! Your health is important, and there is no better time than now to start your journey toward Optimal Health. You should know, however, what pitfalls to avoid and how to set yourself up for success. If you fall into the usual New Year’s resolution traps, come February you will feel defeated and disappointed.

You can create health in your life, and that health can be lastingly vibrant if you approach the process open-minded and prepared.

The reality of most resolutions failing is rooted in the power of habits. Joining a gym and starting a diet are easy. Keeping up with them is hard. This is why: your body is programmed to run automatic routines. Creating health means reprogramming those routines to favor health over disease, but a bad day or a strong temptation can derail the best of intentions.

A few weeks ago, we talked about the power of habits in our discussion of emotional eating, and those insights apply here. Any change, health-related or otherwise, will not persist in the long term unless you take the time to understand habits and how they work.

Tips to improve your odds of success

As you read up on the Habits of Health in the above blog post and in my books, you can also use the following 4 tips to improve your odds of success.

  • Connect with a health mentor. Having someone in your life that you trust, that can hold you accountable, and that can give you practice guidance can keep you on the path to optimal health. This person could be a health coach, a qualified friend, or an engaged physician.
  • Look beyond weight-loss. Even though reaching a healthy weight is a critical part of Optimal Health, it is only one component. If you do not address other facets of your health—like your mental and financial health—problems in other areas of your well-being are likely to affect your health. For example, a negative work environment can quickly lead to overeating and lack of exercise.
  • Follow a reasonable plan. The grand promises of fad diets and workout routines may be tempting, but in practice they are rarely sustainable. Adding 250 extra steps to your daily walking routine will produce slow and consistent results, which is preferable to following the break-net pace of an explosive DVD set for a week and then quitting. Build your plan around small, manageable changes to maximize your success.
  • Failure does not mean that you failed. Setbacks are inevitable. There will come a time when you give into a temptation or miss a workout. Do not lose heart. Talk to your health mentor or coach about the challenge you faced, learn from the experience, and continue on your path to Optimal Health. Many people see one misstep as a sign of hopeless, and that’s not true! We all struggle sometimes, but the key is to start moving forward soon after you stumbled backward a step or two.

January 1st could be the beginning of something special for you. The end of the year has a way of forcing us to reflect on ourselves, our lives, and our futures. Whether you are just beginning your journey toward Optimal Health or are looking to refine areas of your health in the New Year, don’t forget the power of habits. You can defy the statistics and achieve your goals—with the right mindset.