Recently, I spoke with a friend of mine - Roland Gomez - about exercise. You may know Roland from some of my blogs. He is the super-human endurance athlete who has made being fit one of the supreme goals of his life. While we always talk about other things, inevitably our conversations will steer back to fitness of some sort.
During this particular conversation, I mentioned that I had a hard time maintaining a work out regimen once I got started. Beginning was never the problem, but following through with the routine was. I would begin, and within a few days or weeks the excuses would build, I would take a day or two off, then I would never get back out.
So Roland, who has heard this particular complaint from me before, smacked me in the face with a little bit of truth. He told me that while I had a goal, I didn’t have a goal. I didn’t quite understand it right away, but after some explanation, we were on the same page.
The problem with my goal is that it was intangible, something I couldn’t see or absolutely work towards. My goal was a number, a weight I wanted to be, and therefore didn’t have a solid deadline by which I needed to be there. Roland’s advice was to find something athletic to do, some sort of competition for which I could register, then create a workout regimen leading up to the contest. The date of the contest would be my real goal, then I would achieve my not-a-goal of a certain weight in the process.
Genius, right? Right.
Most of us will make some sort of New Year’s Resolution today. And in a few days, weeks, or months, we will break those resolutions. No one is surprised by this. We all have a sloppy history of maintaining the changes we want to employ in our life - my exercise history is a tribute to this. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. We can take Roland’s exercise advice and apply it to our resolutions.
Most of us have extremely abstract resolutions, just like I had an abstract weight goal. The most common involve health - losing weight, eating better, quitting smoking, etc. - which are all extremely abstract in their original form. Other popular resolutions involve saving money, spending more time with family, giving back to the community, finding a better work-life balance, getting organized, reading more, finishing home improvement, and many more.
While all of these resolutions are noble at their core, most of the people who make them will certainly fail.
The way to help ensure the successful completion of a resolution is to make the second goal, the real tangible goal. In the weight loss/fitness goal arena, registering for a competition gives a solid date you have to work for. For other resolutions, finding ways to interact with them tangibly every day will help guarantee that you will achieve change. Make a list of everything you can do to reach your goal, figure out how to incorporate elements from the list into your daily life. Build a routine with weekly and monthly check-points. Set larger goals and craft your resolution curve to crescendo towards these. By the end, you will get much closer to accomplishing your desired change.
Sure, cold-turkey works for some of us, but there is a reason 12-step programs are effective. Most people need to gently install change one facet at a time. Holding to the high-pressure of an instant change overwhelms us, leading to failure. Instituting the steps, the smaller goals that lead towards our large resolution, shrinks our mind’s impression of the work-load. We will achieve this time rather than pushing the boulder up the hill, only to let it roll back down again.
So, good luck to all of us as we proceed in chasing down those resolutions. Hopefully this year we will not feel so overwhelmed by the magnitude of our choices as we advance step by step.
Happy New Year 2012!