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Why New Year’s Resolutions Almost Always Fail But This Won’t!

As I sat down this morning to prep for my coaching tip of the week it occurred to me that I’ve yet to really talk much about the subject of New Year’s resolutions and why they almost always invariably fail to work.

Seeing how we’re entering into the fourth week of the new year, the time when a lot of the “falling off the wagon” starts to happen with diet and workout resolutions, I guess now’s a good time to talk about it.

While it probably doesn’t come at a surprise that resolutions don’t work very well, I wondered if my clients and followers fully understood why? And even more importantly do they really know what does work?

For starters let’s briefly discuss the inherent problem with resolutions of any sort. This will only take a minute as the very nature of a resolution is destined to fail from a psychological standpoint. The objective or goal of the resolution doesn’t matter much although we’re primarily talking about things related to weight loss and fitness.

So what is a resolution in the first place?

A resolution is nothing more than a stated intent, be it verbal or written, to make some change.

While there’s certainly nothing wrong with that as it’s a great starting point, there’s no real power in a resolution itself to carry out change. There’s motivation and some declared intent that this year “I’m going to <fill in the blank>.”

Ok, great now what?

If you think I’m going to go into a lecture about having a plan, writing down your goals, having accountability, and all that other stuff, think again. While all that is inherently valuable, it’s not the PRIMARY reason I believe people ultimately fail to reach their goals.

The REAL reason that resolutions resoundingly fail on people is because…

They do nothing to program your subconscious mind to make the goal “so” by having a clear purpose combined with a strong emotional driver or passion connected to your thoughts.

Say what? Stick with me I promise this will make sense by the end.

This is how things typically work with those New Year’s resolutions. You start off with high levels of motivation and probably a plan of some sort. “I’m going to go on such and such diet, start working out so many times per week,” or whatever. You may even mark a date on the calendar for when you’ll achieve your goals, rearrange your schedule to fit in time for exercise, and all that stuff.

That’s all fine and dandy, and don’t get me wrong these actions or directives are helpful, but invariably many people find themselves doing great for a few weeks or so, then slowly they fall back into old habits and drift off track.

So what in the heck happened?

This same scenario plays out time and time again, year after year, even with those who have lots of motivation and the best of intents. Far too often people will blame themselves for not having enough discipline to follow through or make up any number of excuses to rationalize the failure.

Let’s talk about that discipline for a minute.

I’ll tell you straight up that I don’t believe a lack of discipline or willpower has much to do with the failure. At least not like you may be thinking.

You see I don’t believe discipline is necessarily something that one forces on him or herself, but rather it’s a byproduct of having focused intent, passion, and purpose.

In other words, discipline comes easily when you want something bad enough and think about it often. As human beings we tend not to do well with trying to conjure or force ourselves to do most anything, at least not for very long. But yet there always seems to be sacrifice, hard work, practice, and sustained effort in getting good at something or achieving a worthwhile goal.

While you can eventually come to enjoy the “work” or practice involved, I don’t believe people necessarily start out loving the process, as it’s more being fixated on the goal. Pushing yourself for hours in the gym each week, repeating a guitar cord over and over again, or whatever, it’s all practice and sacrifice necessary to get or be “better” at something.

The discipline sort of comes from doing it over and over because you really want something and it tends to consume a lot of your thoughts.

So how do you come to enjoy and look forward to exercise, a new diet regiment, and the like? Truth be told I don’t know for sure that you will. But chances are that you will to some degree as these things continue to become a sustained part of your lifestyle.

Let’s face it, the more time you spend with something, getting better at it and seeing the benefits, the more you’re going to enjoy it.

When you first start to exercise it’s no fun, come on now seriously. You’re probably no good at it, you move awkwardly, feel sore most of the time, tire easily, etc. But then after a while you start to get good at it, the soreness goes away, you see and feel yourself getting stronger, have more energy, and all of a sudden you’re like “hey I kinda like this.”

Even still, it won’t necessarily be the passion for the “actions” you’re taking that carries you onward as it will be the passion for the end goal or big picture.

A personal story to help connect the dots…

Let me share a little story with you about this that comes from a reflection on my own beginnings with working out.  A lot of people will ask me if I’ve always been a workout fanatic, and the answer is yes, but it’s not like I just woke up one day that way.

My earliest memories of working out in the basement as kid, wanting to be in the hay wagon on the farm so I could lift those heavy bales of hay, all that stuff, had nothing to do in the beginning with passion for the “work” or working out part as it did passion for my “goal.”

You may laugh at me, but honestly the primary “goal” that drove me as a kid to want to get stronger is I wanted to beat my dad at arm wrestling!

I’m not joking and I know that may sound silly, but it’s true. I guess you can say I grew up idolizing my father in a lot of ways. He had a muscular build with broad shoulders and big arms and as his little follower I wanted the same.

I can remember sitting on bar stool in the basement where inevitably the weekend afternoons of farm work would end with him and his friend Bill sharing a few Old Crow’s and 7-up (that’s cheap bourbon in case you’re going huh?) before heading home.

I’d sit up at the bar with them drinking my little glass of pop and listening to their old stories. Then the challenge would come out. “So you think you’re strong boy, let’s arm wrestle.”

I’d eagerly accept the challenge and prop right up at the bar with my skinny little arm ready to put Dad down, only to find myself flailing around with legs kicking wildly about pulling against what seemed like an immovable object at the time.

That didn’t keep me trying though and I would look forward to the next weekend, and the weekend after that, and on and on until one day I could beat him on his challenge.

So basically my big goal was to beat Dad at arm wrestling. Every time I went out with him to cut wood and do other farm work, or crank out some push-up’s at night, or lift those weights in the basement, I kinda embraced it because I knew it would make me stronger.

I thought about it a lot and kept telling myself, “one day you’re going to be stronger than the old man.”

And low and behold that day eventually came and I finally beat him! All the hard work had transformed that skinny arm into a more muscular arm that could give him a run for his money.

It by no means happened overnight, but I just kept thinking about getting stronger every day and by my “actions” that’s exactly what happened. And it wasn’t like now that I could beat Dad at arm wrestling the game was over and there was no more purpose.

I had come to enjoy the work, the working out, and I liked what it gave me in return. The “purpose” or the goal changed over time with things like wanting to start varsity football as a sophomore in high school, later making it a goal to make it on a division I team in college, etc.

The point is the passion came in the early going, not from necessarily loving the work or working out, but rather from what it would help me to achieve.

I focused on the end and not the means. Over the years the passion for working out just kept growing along with it my desire to learn about nutrition and how the body worked. But oddly enough it all started with simply wanting to beat Dad at arm wrestling down at the basement bar.

Naturally, not everyone is going to have the same ambitions or passion with fitness, but that’s really not the point. What I wanted you to see is that it’s the PASSION for what a certain set of disciplines or actions can provide you in the big picture.

You want to transform your body this year and lose a certain amount of weight, perhaps do some activity or sport you’ve been longing to do, get back into a two piece bathing suit, you name it.

Whatever the “it” is you’ve GOT to get passionate about it. Want the “it” badly and think about it often. That my friends is what truly programs the subconscious mind and gets things done!

That’s what drives you onward day after day and week after week doing whatever it is that’s necessary to reach your goal. When you’re tired and don’t feel like it, when everyone else is going to happy hour or whatever.

It’s not enough to simply write down some intentions on a piece of paper, join a gym, start a diet, and push yourself to stick with it. That doesn’t work.

What DOES work is getting emotionally charged about something, wanting it badly, and thinking about it often. Using visualization and imagination to vividly see what the end goal feels and looks like is a very powerful tool. I highly recommend it because I flat out know it works.

It worked for me as skinny little kid when I knew nothing about it. I just knew I wanted something and the passion for wanting that “something,” turned into passion for the work that led to it.

Now you might not ever find yourself wanting to be a coach, fitness trainer, or anything like I ended up doing, but I can assure you that if you want the “goal” bad enough, the work and sacrifice will take care of itself. You’ll find yourself just doing the things that get you closer to that goal naturally.

In other words, you’re not fighting against yourself anymore with not having that Big Mac or whatever, but rather finding it easier and easier to walk AWAY from it because it’s not helping you get closer to your goal.

The working out, watching what you eat, all of it is just a means to the end with getting back into that size 2, rocking that two piece bathing suit, getting back to playing that sport, or whatever.

Focus on the END and not the means. That’s the best piece of advice I can give you when it comes to goal achievement.

Think about that end morning, noon, and night, and everything else will take care of itself.

Special thanks to my father, “Hondo” (yes that’s his nickname, not a birth name) who somehow planted a seed with the simple challenge of an arm wrestle all those years ago. Oddly enough that’s what started it all. Thanks for all the times I couldn’t put that strong arm down and not just letting me win.

You taught a young boy the invaluable life lesson that if you want something you’ll have to work for it and make some sacrifices. That young boy who’s now a man is trying to inspire, encourage, and lead others with that same philosophy.  Love ya Dad.

In closing…

Hopefully you’ve found a bit of helpful information in this post or perhaps a new outlook on things. You can do whatever it is you set your mind to if you want it badly enough and think about it often. Then just go do the work, do the “actions” side of the equation, and one day you’ll wake up and realize you’re there.

If I can help you with setting that plan, providing the accountability, and all the things that a coach can provide, I’m happy to be at your service. Sometimes you just need someone to be by your side and that’s what I set out to do all those years ago with starting Shaping Concepts.

If you’re a client, thanks for being a part of the family, if you’re not just know we’re here to help and will welcome you in at any time we can be of assistance.

And oh yeah, if you’ve got an experience of your own you’d like to share on this subject or would like to leave a comment feel free to do so below. This is an open forum blog.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. With a staff of over 10 certified fitness professionals, Shaping Concepts provides fitness consulting in Charleston with a specialty on weight loss and body transformation. See our success stories from numerous Lowcountry residents then sign up for a no-obligations consultation today.

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