Focus: Creating lasting habits, setting goals, not getting overwhelmed by the new year
The fireworks have burnt out, the lights dimmed and you’re nursing the first grade A hangover of the year. Every January comes filled with a mixture of hope and the weight of previous years expectations, forgotten dreams and lost adventures. However you tell yourself this year will be different. This year you’ll make the changes you didn’t five years ago. For some of us it’s to travel more, others to pick up a new hobby but more often than not it’s to lose weight, build muscle, go to the gym or quit drinking. Maybe this year will be the year you get a fringe. You’ve tried before – vowing to stick to New Years resolutions, January fad diets, 30 day challenges; but nothing has stuck. Who on earth do you need to ritually sacrifice to make this year be your year?
Well first of all put down the scissors, no good decisions have been made on a hangover. Set a goal. Goals can be a simple word or phrase or be a huge map for success but understanding what it is you actually want provides you with a focus. Goals should be specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time dependent. Having a specific goal such as “I want to build muscle” rather than “I want to look different” gives you a place to start and a direction to follow. Putting some numbers on this will make the goal measurable. For example, saying “I want to build 3 kg of muscle” will now give you an end-point and a target to work towards. This will help you measure your progress over time and allow you to set check points.
Make actionable steps to achieve your goal. This will come in the form of creating long term daily habits – small events that you can accomplish regularly and with ease. Daily habits work to build a routine and if you stick to a routine long enough you will soon see progress to your goal. Keep your goal relevant. Your goal should align with your values and long term objectives. Adding 3 kg of muscle is awesome if you can dedicate the time to it, but make sure you don’t overset yourself so that you lose the other parts of your life you enjoy.
Finally, set a time domain. It’s really easy to say “I’ll start next week” if you know you have all year to relax, and then put in a frantic shift in December. 3 months is a great time frame to work within. Long enough that you can make changes but short enough that you won’t be left feeling like this goal is taking forever. The important thing to consider is to make the goal achievable. Adding 3 kg of muscle is something that with consistent effort is possible to achieve. Waking up and saying I want to look like Ronnie Coleman next week may require a small amount of wizardry.
The secret to creating lasting habits is to just begin. You don’t have to jump in with the most meticulously thought out workout split, or the perfectly calculated macros. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You just have to start. So start small. If your goal is to exercise more, first make sure you stick to the habits you already have. If you come to Crossfit 3 times a week try and keep that routine going before adding anything else. It can be really easy to get ahead of ourselves and jump in head first but get completely overwhelmed and end up losing our normal routine. Next you could add a short walk into your daily routine one to three times a week. This will get you out and about and allow you to take some time for yourself without it feeling like you’re adding too much. Finally, if you are able to keep that habit for a month then look to maybe increase your class from 3 times a week to 4. These changes can take a while but by adding one small layer at a time it is easier to turn them into lasting habits you can keep up for the whole year.
Habits should be sustainable. If a habit can only be maintained for 1 month with maximum effort it probably won’t lead to lasting results. At some point the habit will become too difficult and we will fall off the wagon or burn out sooner or later. This is why we often yo-yo around with diets or start off strong with a gym routine before February rolls around and we just have random money leaving the bank account each month. Habits such as eating breakfast each day are much easier to stick to than launching in with weighing out every gram of food that is going to enter your body. Make sure to stick to one habit at a time for a length of time. 1 month is a great time period to see if you can stick to the change – then you can layer on top.
Just like how Sherlock would’ve been nothing without his handy Dr. Watson, you too need a right hand man or woman to help you through. When making any changes in life you need a hype man. Some days are going to be tough, while others are going to be easy but having someone there to keep you accountable will see you stick to your plan and achieve your goals. A support buddy can take the form of a friend booking into all your CrossFit classes with you, a partner who cooks with you every night and helps make sure you eat your veggies, or a coach who calls you and talks you through your week’s challenges and successes. It doesn’t matter who it is but what matters is that you have someone who is going to help you stick to your goals. When sitting down and deciding what you want to achieve it is often worth talking it through with someone and asking them if they can help you. A problem shared is a problem halved after all.
The new year is an exciting time for all of us. It can be a clean slate to begin anew or a springboard from last year’s successes. It is a great time to set goals for yourself and be honest with what you want to achieve this year. Take this time with both hands and enjoy it but try not to let yourself get overwhelmed. If setting goals and making resolutions stresses you out, ask for help. Friends, family and coaches can all be a part of “Team You” and help you navigate this tricky time of year. New year, new me doesn’t have to be some cliche you throw around mockingly – it could become a reality.