I won’t lie, when I found out my article this month was to be published on New Year's Day, I was pretty excited. No, I wasn’t excited because this was my chance to write about 10 things to make you fitter, stronger, leaner, or (insert random desired exercise-outcome related word here). Instead, I was excited because I knew it was my chance to spread some frankness on a day filled with a zillion articles about ways to make New Year’s resolutions that nearly no one will keep.

I think New Year's resolutions are BS. I also think New Year’s Day is the worst day of the year because:

  1. The gym is packed with a bunch of people that don’t hang around past February.
  2. There are a zillion articles published on making fitness-based New Year’s resolutions, yet they don’t seem to be effective at helping people stick to them.

Now, let me clarify. A bunch of people wanting to make resolutions to train more, and a bunch of articles telling them to do so, does not annoy me. What does annoy me is the fact that, despite the large number of people who start the year with fitness/training resolutions and the number of articles about this topic, nearly 80% of those people still manage to fail to stick to these resolutions long-term. I hate watching people set goals that they fail to accomplish. And that is why I really dislike New Year’s resolutions and New Year’s Day.

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Here is the thing: if someone wants to make a resolution to change something and have it stick, then his or her motivation to do so can’t just be the fact that it is the beginning of the year. I mean, think about it: on New Year’s Day a bunch of people set out making resolutions to train more, eat better, etc., and then just assume these resolutions will stick because it is the beginning of the year. Statistics show that the majority of people don’t stick to these resolutions, which clearly demonstrates that the start of a new year isn’t the best driver to help people stick to their resolutions. This is why it is important to understand the things that drive change and thwart its progress if you want to make New Year’s resolutions that stick.

New Year's Resolution on Blackboard

To have lasting resolutions this year, you will need to be able to do a couple of things. More specifically, you will need to be:

  1. Self-motivated and disciplined
  2. Capable of handling failure
  3. Able to check your ego

1. Self-Motivation and Self-Discipline

Your New Year’s resolutions are your own, meaning barely anyone else will care if you succeed or fail at them. Let’s say your resolution is to get “leaner.” What will you do on the last week of January when it’s freezing cold outside, you’re running low on sleep, and you’re feeling pretty burned out in general? When that time hits, you know that you won’t be disappointing anyone if you don’t make it into the gym. Which begs the question: will you make it in? If you’re not self-motivated to make that resolution a reality, my guess is you likely won’t. Why? Because when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, you are the only thing that makes your resolutions transition into a new lifestyle. To make resolutions stick, you are going to have to be highly self-motivated.

Resolution Hack: One trick that can help your self-motivation and your ability to make your resolutions stick is to set short-term goals. Instead of saying, "I am going to get leaner this year", make the goal of hitting the gym a certain number of days a week, or accomplishing a certain feat (decreased body fat percentage, increased bench, etc.) each month. Thus, your motivation for continuing this resolution will increase as you get the high of accomplishing each small goal along the way. Short-term tricks like this help you to train your trust in your own abilities to stick to this resolution and ultimately help you stick to your resolutions long-term. 

2. Ability to Handle Failure 

In that above resolution to get “leaner”, there will eventually be a day where you fail to execute. Perhaps you eat a jar of peanut butter one night or go on vacation and take a week off the gym. When making a resolution, it is inevitable that you will eventually face failure along the way. Whatever the situation or obstacle is that prevents you sticking to that resolution, recognize that it might result in failure, and learn how to be okay with that. To make resolutions last, you can’t let a single or even multiple sets of failure be your unraveling. Instead, you have to recognize that failures are part of the resolution process and embrace them.

Resolution Hack: Start to view your resolution failures as mini obstacles you need to overcome on that path to making your resolution a reality. Think of them like you would think of the failures that occur when you are training to hit a big weight in the gym. Although you might fail here and there, know that the combination of failures and mini PRs (in iron and resolution training) will eventually result in accomplishment.

3. Ego Checking

There can be many reasons to make a resolution to get leaner, fitter, etc. However, in the process of executing these resolutions, you will be constantly evaluating your efforts. While some people do this using quantifiable metrics, many will do this based on their own perception. The latter can be problematic since these evaluations are often driven by one’s ego. As Ryan Holiday said in his awesome book Ego is the Enemy, “If ego is the voice that tells us we’re better than we really are, we can say ego inhibits true success by preventing a direct and honest connection to the world around us." Thus, if you use your ego to evaluate your resolution success, you might actually be inhibiting it.

Your ego can be a hell of a trickster. It can tell you that you deserve to take time away from your resolution to go to the gym more because you have been doing such a good job lately. It might tell you that you are the most jacked person in the gym and don’t need to continue aggressively pursuing your New Year’s goal of being a fitter version of yourself. But ego is cheating you and your ability to evaluate your resolution success by telling you that you are awesome.

Resolution Hack: Don’t let ego measure your resolution success. Instead, set resolutions, use quantifiable metrics to measure your progress, and determine success as progress towards reaching your potential that is relative to your best and not anyone else’s.

So this year, don’t make BS resolutions that won’t stick. Figure out exactly what it is that you want to improve, make a plan, stay humble, and get aggressive in your pursuit of it so you can kick the New Year’s ass.