Using the Snowball Effect

It's the start of the year, which means that everyone has made their New Year's resolutions to change their lives for the better! New Year's resolutions are something I've never really understood. Why do you have to start on January 1st? If you're serious about your goal/resolution and are committed to it, I bet you didn’t think of it on a whim on December 31. So why are you waiting until the first of January to get started on it? I guess you really aren't that serious about it or motivated enough to achieve your goal/resolution. There isn't any time like the present to get started!

The second thing I don’t understand about resolutions and where I think most people set themselves up for failure is that they bite off way more than they can chew, at least at first. Remember, you give a newborn baby food and build him up to eating normal food as he develops and grows. You don't just give a baby a steak and say have at it! For example, up until January 1st, you're a couch potato and you don't train on a regular basis. So you decide that your goal is to get your body fat percentage below 20 percent, thus you make your New Year's resolution to go to the gym and exercise four days a week doing an upper body/lower body split. Really? You're going to go from never going to the gym to going four days a week? Realistically, I don’t see that lasting more than a couple weeks. As a matter of fact, it's February and you probably already quit any New Year's Resolution you set. You bit off more than you can chew…at this point.

The Snowball Effect

Enter the snowball effect. I first learned about the snowball effect and used it when reading Dave Ramsey’s book The Total Money Make Over. “Really, it's just commonsense, but commonsense isn’t always very common today." In the book, Dave Ramsey recommends using the snowball effect to pay off your debts. You write down all your bills/loans from the smallest amount to the greatest amount, ignoring interest rates, and pay them in this order. Thus, you pay the smallest one off and get the ball rolling, building momentum, plowing through eliminating your debts and paying off one bill after another. Another useful analogy is when you have a list of things to do. You finish one, check it off, and get pumped to move on to the next thing on your list.


The snowball effect can just as easily be applied to training goals or your New Year's resolution and is especially useful when someone decides to start training from a sedimentary life. Going back to my previous example of biting off more than you can chew with going from never training to training four days a week, you're probably better off using the snowball effect. Start off by dedicating yourself to training two days a week. Make it a habit, build your snowball, and start training three days a week. After you have dedicated yourself to training three days a week and have built it into your routine, finally make the step to training four days a week. Start small, get the ball rolling, and build yourself up in baby steps. It's much easier than trying to make one gigantic leap overnight.

All You Need is Time

The other big thing is time, something many people forget when it comes to making New Year’s resolutions and setting goals. If your goal is to lose weight, it takes time. If you want to add twenty pounds to your bench, that also takes time. However, people want things now. They want the changes to occur overnight. Personal improvement and health changes aren’t as quick as the instant response and feedback that we're now accustomed to in other aspects of our lives. To achieve your goal or your New Year’s resolution, you will need more than to merely come up with your goal. You will need time, dedication, accountability, and hard work.

A common standard is that it can take up to thirty days to make or break a habit. Using the previous goal of training four days a week and the snowball effect, you would reach your goal of training four days a week in March if you started in January. Using this approach and reaching your goals in baby steps is a much better approach and gives you a better chance for long-term success than attempting to make one huge leap. Once you hit March and are routinely training four times a week, have you achieved your goal or have you changed your life?