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The Joke We Call New Year’s Resolutions

I ran into a friend today at a local Charleston gym where I got to use the sauna and take a shower after my daily workouts.

In passing conversation he mentioned something about New Year’s resolutions and it got me thinking.

I wanted to share with you why I believe traditional New Year’s resolutions are a complete waste of your time…And what you should do instead if you’re serious about seeing a significant change with some area of your life for 2011.

While the holidays are great, this is a time a year that throws a lot of people into pitfalls with their fitness and weight loss goals.

I don’t think it’s just one thing that does it but rather the combination of travel, spending time with family, holiday parties, stress, and the tendency to over-indulge with food and drink that causes a lot of people to get off track.

Not that any of these “excuses” are justifiable as everything in life is about decisions, but never-the-less, this is typically what happens.

Let’s see if this sounds familiar…

“Well since I already messed up with (fill in the blank), I might as well have another (fill in the blank) and wait to get back on my diet and working out until after the first of the year.”

It’s obvious a lot of people think this way as you could shoot a cannon through most gyms and health clubs and not hit anyone this week between Christmas and New Year’s.

And we all know what it will be like next week with the first of the year…after everyone feels guilty and rushes in to the gym to make good on their resolutions.

Stick around about 4-6 weeks though and you’ll be able to get a parking spot again, no question about it.

I’ve always said that this whole phenomenon with the mad rush of people flooding into health clubs at the beginning of EVERY year and the corresponding exodus a matter of weeks later should be a case study in human behavior.

From my experience, less than 10% of the population actually make good on their New Year’s resolutions…

And those who do are taking a completely different approach!

Not only did they probably make a plan BEFORE New Year’s Day they were also likely to practice goal setting much differently. I’ll explain in a minute.

It just amazes me that a strategy that works so poorly gets repeated by some many people, year in and year out. Study some human psychology and you’ll find we actually do quite a bit of stuff like this.

I don’t know who it was that said the human race behaves a lot like sheep, but he or she was on to something.

In short, this whole idea of New Year’s resolutions and the way we typically carry them out is essentially worthless because they’re doomed to fail. 

Here’s why…

New Year’s resolutions are often void of a clear long-term objective, emotions, and a plan for getting there.

If you just say to yourself, “this year I’m going to start exercising and lose weight,” I can pretty much guarantee you’ll end up in the 90% category with the people who drop their resolutions.

How do I know this?

Because of two reasons…First, you never provided your brain with a clear target. You just said I’m going to start doing “X” so “Y” can happen. Well what in the heck really is “X” and “Y?”

You have to clearly define these things so your brain knows where you’re going. Subconscious thoughts are extremely powerful as we pretty much are what we tell ourselves we are.

For example, if you’d tell yourself you’re fat chances are you’d continue stay fat. Without going too deep into this part of it (we’ll save it for a later discussion), just know this is part of the equation.

It’s something I like to really address in my Charleston weight loss programs because I know very few programs ever even touch on it.

Second, because you’re relying solely on intrinsic motivation to “try” and get something done. There are no action steps, new habits, or routines.  

Try not…do or do not, there is no try.

Trust me when I tell you that you should never use the word “try” in your vocabulary. And I mean ever! You tell your brain that you’re going to “try” to do something and that’s exactly what you’ll program it to do.

One of my favorite quotes of all time (and this may be a little surprising) is from the movie “The Empire Strikes Back” where Yoda tells Luke Skywalker “No! try not…do or do not, there is no try.”

I found a video clip on Youtube of this scene that also includes some other very insightful ”words of wisdom.”


I love that! Who would’ve thought such great wisdom could come out of a science fiction movie? Yoda had it point on though…this is the gospel truth.

I want you to compare our initial vague resolution of “I’m going to start exercising and lose weight” to something like what I have below. I’m speaking from a woman’s perspective in this example but you’ll get the idea either way.

2011 Objectives

I’m exercising 5 x week, Monday through Friday at 6:00PM with each session lasting no more than 30-50 minutes. I’m doing weight training on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 30 minutes with (my personal trainer, friend, training partner, class, fill in the blank) followed by 20 minutes of cardio. On Tuesday and Thursday at 7:00AM I do 30 minutes of cardio.

I go to the grocery store on Sunday afternoons now to buy food for the week and prepare meals in advance. I write out what I’ll have for lunch and dinner in advance in my journal for each day of the week and prepare accordingly. I leave very little to chance and I practice routines instead of decision making.

Instead of sitting down in front of the TV immediately after work, where I used to have the habit of snacking on junk foods, I now take the dogs for a walk around the neighborhood for a one mile loop. This provides me with a new routine to specifically take up the exact time where I used to be vulnerable with a bad habit.

I feel strong, I feel sexy, and I have energy like I haven’t felt in years.

I’m wearing my favorite size (fill in the blank) jeans again with that sleeveless black and white top that shows off my toned and firm arms. I have a (fill in the blank) inch waist and weigh (fill in the blank) pounds. As a reward to myself I’m on a Caribbean vacation with my (fill in the blank) and we’re walking to dinner just as the sun sets over beautiful crystal clear blue waters….   

See the difference?

If I was doing this for real (which I do by the way) I would write this out in detail and clarity being as descriptive as possible. Not something you do in five minutes over a cup of coffee and call it your “New Year’s Resolutions.” 

Here are the main tips and take away lessons.

Resolutions don’t do crap, actions produce results!

You must have a plan for how you plan to accomplish your objective. What specifically are those plans and what specifically are the desired outcomes. Give your brain a clear target!

Speak in the present tense, like you’re already there. The last part where you talk about the outcome is very important. Paint a clear picture and provide emotion so it comes alive.

Write it down on a piece of paper and read the last part (the outcome) two times or more each day. I recommend reading it first thing when you wake up and last thing before going to bed if nothing else. Make it a habit and stick to it! This doesn’t work if you occasionally glance at it.

When you’re done reading it, close your eyes and visualize everything in great detail as much as possible. Dream and imagine it like you’re already there. This is how you program your subconscious mind.

If you think this stuff doesn’t work, I’ll challenge you to do it for a mere thirty days and assess the impact on your life. I’m telling you this is the secret to sticking with habits and routines that provide the actions the produce your desired outcomes.

Has nothing to do with what you think to be will-power, discipline, and motivation.

Here’s the bottom line…resolutions are weak attempts at change done mostly out of guilt without clear commitments and plans.

That’s why resolutions don’t work!

The basic intrinsic motivation that spurred you to start something new quickly wears off and you fall back into old habits.

We all like to slip back into the comfort zone of old habits so you must program a new “normal.”

A lot of self-help experts talk about writing down goals this time of year, and while this is an important first step, if you don’t have a plan and practice visualization it’s just worthless ink on paper.  

You could write down “I’m going to lose 20 pounds” on an index card and read it everyday but the odds are you won’t get anywhere with this strategy.

That’s what I call a “dead goal” or resolution. There’s no life in it, no emotion, no action, and it means absolutely nothing to your brain. It’s merely a statement.
It’s not the same as programming your subconscious brain with mental pictures and visual imagery along with having a specific plan of how you’ll do “X” to get to “Y.”

Final thoughts…

Instead of taking this week as a complete bust like most people do because of the holidays be different and start setting your goals now for next year.

Write down in detail what you’re going to do and how you’re going to get there. Make your mind up what you’ll commit to doing and how important it is to you. This isn’t rocket science if you really think about it.

If you want something bad enough, and focus on it often enough, you’ll discover what changes you need to make to create your desired outcome.

Sure you can have a nice meal on New Year’s Eve and enjoy a few libations to celebrate if that’s your thing, but over-indulging with food or drink is for amateurs.

I mean seriously, if you really wanted to lose weight and you were motivated to change your life you wouldn’t kick it off by going on a binge.

Seems to me you might want to start getting ready. That means prepping and preparing, not blowing it out.

While you might not be in the gym this week, take a brisk walk every day if nothing else. I don’t care that you’ve got family in town or you’re traveling, whatever.

If you tell me you can’t take 30 minutes out of your day to go for a walk outside, I’ll believe you.

I’d also know where your priorities were at and how important some things are to you without you saying another word. Not judging, I’d just be observing the obvious.

Everybody makes their own decisions in life, especially when it comes to how you take care of your body. I’ve found people who make excuses for why they don’t exercise are doing so to try and rationalize the reasons (for you) while getting themselves to feel better about their own decisions.

If you really wanted to exercise because it was important to you, you’d find a way. Let’s not kid ourselves.    


At the end of the day that’s all it comes down to. Take a look at what’s driving your decisions and how it’s affecting the direction of your life.

If you’re not happy with your energy, weight, appearance, or any part of your health and wellness let’s get ready to make a change next year. I’m here to help you in these areas whenever you’re ready.

There’s some really cool stuff coming out the first of the year at Shaping Concepts. Be on the look out this week for an email about specials we’ll be running and the official start date for the 2011 Charleston Biggest Loser Contest!

Talk to you soon- Shane

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. You can receive a FREE, no-obligations trial of his Charleston personal training programs and experience the Shaping Concepts difference for yourself.

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Category: Shane's Commentary.