Brand New Year, Same Ole' Me

BRAND NEW YEAR, SAME OLE’ ME: The Real Reasons You Will Fail to Follow your Resolutions

My very first ‘real’ job was at the YMCA of Athens, Georgia. I worked there while attending the college.  Each January we were inundated with the New Year’s Resolution crowd.  I suppose it is the same at every gym or fitness facility nationwide.  Members who normally exercise once or twice a week begin coming every day. And then there is the onslaught of the ambitious optimists who join in late December or early January.  For a few weeks there’s is a wait list for the treadmills and the group classes are wall to wall.

Then the inevitable happens. Gradually the wait list for treadmills dwindles and the group classes are down to eight or ten .  The whole process took about eight weeks…from the last week of December to the last week of February. As a student I never really gave it a second thought.  Seems relatively predictable. And why should it not?

Today, however, I marvel at the predictability of it. I’d love to see graphs from major fitness chains depicting the bump up in sales and member visits. I am sure it looks something like an EKG. One big bump in January followed by one more small bump right when spring starts and everyone is suddenly faced with the prospect of wearing a bathing suit to pool parties and spring break vacations. And like an EKG, it repeats itself over and over.

Now that we are  a month into the new year, perhaps you are one of those ambitious optimists who is still hanging on to your resolution.  If so, and if you are struggling with maintaining your commitment, here is the science behind what you need to do to prevent being part of the post Spring break flatline.

  • First and foremost, find a resolution buddy. Studies have shown over and over than having an emotionally supportive partners dramatically increases the likelihood of maintaining your commitment. My personal opinion is to pick an acquaintance for this role.  If you pick a good friend, both of you are more likely to say, “Wanna skip the gym and go to happy hour instead?” Your comfort and familiarity will undermine the likelihood of keeping your commitment to someone you know well.  Here’s an added bonus if your resolution is fitness related.  If that person is in better shape than you, you are more likely to exercise harder and push yourself more.
  • As with all personal development, you obviously need to set a clear and realistic goal. But that’s not enough. You have to connect that goal with a reason for its existence. Lets call it your ‘why’. Why are you doing this?  Maybe you want to be able to run and play with your kids when they practice sports this fall. Maybe you want to participate in a 10k with a family member who is attempting the same thing.  Whatever the reason, it has to be clear and tangible and have a deadline.  Just saying “ I want to be healthy” or “I want to live longer” is vague and lacks a measurable outcome.  Even if your resolution is not fitness related, your why absolutely must have a deadline and a metric that defines success.
  • Finally, stop lying to yourself to protect your precious feelings. “The gym is too crowded” “I just don’t have time” “I have too many other things going on.” Blah, blah, blah. You will find an in depth discussion on our tendency to attribute our failures to external variables in my book, Feed Your Unicorn. But for now, know this, the unconscious impulse to protect our personal identity by blaming external variables for our failures will condemn you to a life of negative thinking and negative outcomes. The train didn’t make you late and the weather didn’t stop you from fulfilling your commitments.  You and you alone are the master of your fate.  You must embrace the reality that your lack of effort is tied to the importance of your self-perception.

Now get up and go do what you said you were going to do.

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