New Years Resolutions – Why Most Fail! Dr. Giles Warrington

144330104According to Mark Twain “New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls and humbug resolutions.” 

With Christmas over we come to that time of year when people reflect on the past 12 months and start to turn their attentions to planning the year ahead. With this comes the dreaded New Year’s resolution, dreaded because despite the best intentions the majority fail to attain the desired end results. In the words of Oscar Wilde, “Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.” 

Most popular New Year resolutions include: losing some weight, getting fitter, spending more time with the family, clearing debts, trying something new, resolving conflicts, giving up smoking and drinking less. Many of these are based on the premise that there are numerous health and lifestyle benefits stemming from enhanced physical and mental well-being.

It is estimated that about 80% of the population make New Years resolutions but on average only about 20% stick to them. It is very easy to get caught up in the hype of starting the New Year with a new target but not so easy to buy into the changes necessary to achieve the intended outcome. If you want to find the solution to willpower and commitment deficit, ask a champion. As the 9 times Olympic Gold Medallist Carl Lewis put it “there a three stages to success firstly identifying what you want to achieve; secondly establishing the price necessary to achieve that goal and thirdly pay that price – unfortunately most people only achieve two out of three!” 

So why is there such a high failure rate in the resolution stakes? There are probably a number of causative factors including: not connecting with or taking new found promises seriously; people having a superficial commitment to them rather than buying into the process; setting unrealistic and unattainable targets and choosing the same resolution each time and being unsuccessful year after year. It’s a bit like insanity – ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome!’

With 2018 upon us now is the time to make some realistic and attainable resolutions which may have a positive impact on your health and well-being, rather than those which are impractical and impossible to achieve. New Year Resolutions should be easy to follow and free of pain and misery. They might even be fun and rewarding especially if they lead to a beneficial outcome in terms of improving your quality of life.

Goal Setting the ‘smarter’ way to a healthier 2018

For many of us the desire to blow off the Christmas cobwebs and start that January health and fitness regime is made with the best of intentions. However without a clear structure or focus such resolutions are easily broken. To make a noticeable lifestyle change you need more than a desire – you need a plan. After all a dream without a plan is only a fantasy!

To turn those lifestyle and fitness resolutions into a habit requires time and commitment. A good starting point is setting a goal for yourself. Goal setting is a useful exercise that can help motive you to engage in physical activity and exercise so that ultimately you can achieve the results you want.

There are no magic cures or quick fixes to improving fitness and reducing your weight but through a few simple changes can set you on the road improved health and an enhanced quality of daily life. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is by setting yourself a few challenges through the use of goal settling.

When you set goals for yourself you should work to the ‘SMARTER’ principle:

Specific: the goal identified should be specific as possible not be too vague. For example rather than setting the goal of “I want to lose weight”, state “I want to lose 6lbs”. The more specific the goal you set, the more likely you are to succeed.

Measureable: Unless you can measure your progress over time, you will not be able to assess whether or not you have been successful in attaining the goal set.

Agreed: You must personally accept and agree the goal. This usually means you have in some say in setting the goal and it must be under your control. If it is something that is imposed on you or is outside your control you are less likely to achieve the desired outcome.

Realistic: Set goals where you see a realistic likelihood you can achieve them. Unrealistic goal are demoralising and doomed to failure. Despite this it is important that the goal set is challenging enough to take you outside your comfort zone.

Time bound: The achievement of a long term goal requires the creation of a timeline and small steps (short term goals) to achieving that target. Set deadlines and tick them off as you attain them and reward yourself when you achieve key landmarks. If you do not set target dates there is a danger that all your good intentions will be postponed or not achieved at all.

Exciting: If a goal is too easy it offers you no challenge, little motivation and consequently no satisfaction on accomplishment. It has been shown that successful people in all walks of life set challenging goals for themselves.

Recorded: It is essential to write down your goals as it increases your commitment to them and serves as a form of contract with yourself. Post your goals in a place where you will see them every day, for example above your desk or by the bed. This provides a reminder of what you are trying to achieve as it serves as a point of focus. Recording goals is also a useful way of monitoring progress and provides a useful source of motivation.

Success in implementing a new exercise regime is dependent on setting pragmatic goals and developing a clear plan of action to achieve the desired outcomes. Implement the first step and review your progress. If you are finding the going tough it may be that the goal you have set is too challenging. Don’t be afraid to revise your goal if required. By setting small goals and knowing that you can make the necessary lifestyle changes, can provide the confidence and motivation to strive for bigger goals which may be life-changing.

Dr Giles Warrington is  Head of Department and Senior Lecturer  in Sport and Exercise Physiology in the Department of Physical Education and Sports Science (PESS) at the University of Limerick.  He previously worked for 9 years in the School of Health and Human Performance at Dublin City University. Giles is also Head Sports Physiologist and Sports Science Advisor to the Olympic Council of Ireland and was Team Manager at the pre Games training camp held at Lensbury/St. Mary’s University College for the London Olympics and a member of the Irish medical team at the London, Athens and Beijing Olympic Games. Contact Giles at: view his profile on Linked In  or follow him on Twitter


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