Resolution.  Noun.  A firm decision to do or not to do something.

You’ve probably heard – and perhaps learned for yourself – that New Year’s resolutions have a dismal chance of success. We think time is better spent doing little things everyday that strengthen our resolve. That’s why we are once again using the Whole Life Challenge – the 6-week lifestyle journey dedicated to improving your health, fitness, and overall well-being — one habit at a time. (Been with us before? Join us now –  $29 Early Bird ’til Tuesday.)

We’ve witnessed countless fad diets, extreme exercise programs, and detox cleanses that seem to “work” in the short run. While many people can achieve short-term success, most people end up right back where they started. Furthermore, the yo-yo effect of such a short-term focus can have emotional and physiological repercussions.

We’ve also been in the health and fitness business long enough to know that an approach to change in this area must be holistic; exercise or diet, even exercise and diet together – isn’t sufficient to make any changes stick for the long term. We humans are slightly more complicated than that!

It’s natural to look at the beginning of the year as a time for assessing change. And goals by their inherent nature are good things. There are pretty specific guidelines that will increase your chances of both short term and long term success:

1. Know your Why  The higher the stakes, the more likely you will persevere when you hit the inevitable stumbling blocks. Your “why” (your inner or “intrinsic” motivation) is what will keep you moving forward. Ask yourself, “What happens if I am not successful in reaching my goal?”

2. Pick a Goal You Can Measure (and Not in Pounds)  “Lose weight” has proven to be a terrible goal. Consider something like “exercise 5 of 7 days each week for the next six weeks” or “follow these dietary guidelines 6 days of 7 for the next 6 weeks”.

3. Pick something that makes you feel better immediately.  We stay with things that bring us genuine satisfaction. Choosing something to do daily that both creates the feeling you seek and moves you towards your long-term goal makes the process easier and creates habits that stick.

4. Stop “Dieting” with your eating and exercise.  Stay away from the quick fixes or the short bursts of intensity you won’t maintain. It’s not practical or feasible to just avoid sugar for the rest of your life or never eat dessert again. It’s not maintainable to go to the gym 5x/week for the rest of your life. First, get smart about what you actually need to do to get what you want. Start small and build. Discover what works best for you – it’s not necessarily what works for others. Avoid dogma. Be imperfect.

5. Know Your “Then What?”
The hard truth is that living at your goal takes more work than reaching it in the first place. Most of us can stick with something for 30/60/90 days – but Then What? Goals are predicated on an end point. But with respect to our health and fitness, there is no end point. Create a lifestyle, with ebbs and flows for sure, because health and fitness isn’t a project that ends. Doing the work to create the life you want (in the body you want) is the only path to long term change.

The desire for change and the process of setting clearly defined objectives is something we all should aspire to.  Our biggest downfall is the allure of the quick fix and the immense cultural pressure to seek convenient answers. This year, try some due diligence. Commit to yourself. Be curious. Question what you think you know. Trust the process. More than anything, real and lasting change takes the courage to face yourself, and the patience to seek what works for you.

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