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Make a Resolution to Act, Not Just Talk

Every new year, millions of resolutions are made, and within a couple of days, they’re either broken or forgotten. Why is this? Do people not want to make good on their resolution? Do they not want to improve their situation? That’s not it. They do want these things. The problem lies in the path to improvement.

Resolutions are words. People think by making them, that’s all they really need to do to turn things around. Just say, “I will eat better.” Poof, you’ll never crave the wrong foods or eat unhealthily again. See, the trick is, you actually have to make the right choices to back up your words to make it so. Same goes for the all-too-common and all-too-often-broken “I will work out regularly this year” resolution.

We seem to think that saying something is enough – as if it’s the entirety of action needed to succeed. In fact, this is a really crucial piece of the puzzle, but we do it wrong, and we don’t recognize what other pieces of the puzzle we need to look at along with this one.

We often make resolutions privately – not even telling our friends, significant others or family. That means no one else expects anything of us. We have no social pressure in place to help push us. This is one of my 10 Principles – Go Public (it’s #2, actually, so it’s super important!). Telling others about your goal puts some pressure on you to deliver it. That pressure helps keep you honest about keeping up with it as few people want to be judged, and no one wants to be judged a failure. The louder you are about your resolution, the better. Tell people, post it on social media sites, put it on paper and tape it to your fridge/cubicle/face…ok, don’t tape it to your face, but the more places and ways you put it out there, the better.  There are also sites that let you put money on it – who wants to be judged a failure and have to pay out of pocket for it?

Next, you need to see these words as a first step, not the only step. Whether you go public or not, you need to use the words as the catalyst to build an action plan. If you’re going to work out more, how will you do it? What changes to your schedule will you make so you can work out? Who in your life do you need to support this activity so they can help you make it happen (e.g. flexibility in your work schedule, splitting or adjusting child care responsibilities with your partner so you can get a run in each morning, etc). Get creative on the action plan – so many people join a gym and stop going. Maybe the gym isn’t your thing. Is there a workout DVD you can buy to use at home? Do you enjoy the outdoors more and would benefit from biking, running, jogging, etc outside (bonus – many of these are free or near free, which lowers the barrier to getting into it).

Once you have a plan of attack, you need to build reinforcing measures of success into the mix. How do you know if you’re succeeding without a benchmark and way to check progress against that benchmark? So, figure out what the overall goal is as your first step. If that’s really big or profound, what interim goals can you set so you aren’t demotivated by the size of the overall goal? For example, if your goal is to lose 30 lbs, take it month by month, and aim for 3 lbs per month – much less scary to many people.

And once your goal is set, you need to know how to measure it and start doing just that. My first principle is “Track It”. Get a spreadsheet, piece of paper, our ad-free trackbodi.es or ad-supported trackbodi.es free iOS apps. You can’t know you’re hitting your goals if you’re not measuring against them, so track ’em, and get there. And don’t be afraid of failure, but don’t let yourself off the hook if you do fail to meet your daily goal (e.g. get to the gym today, do 30 minutes of cardio today). One thing I insisted on as a feature of trackbodi.es is for the app to color-code your performance against your goals, including a strong red color when you don’t hit your goals.

This gets at the idea of ‘gamification’ – a fun way to play with your goals and tracking of them. It’s something I’m a huge fan of. It’s all about using metrics and performance as a real-world game. The rewards and competition of it become self-supporting, and will help drive you to do better. This is the concept behind Nike+. You can read my review of the Nike+ FuelBand and Nike+ GPS Sportwatch, which both live and breath gamification. (By the way, if you’re on Nike+, friend me up! Same goes if you use dailymile.com.)

So, don’t just say “I’m gonna do better next year.” Actually do better. Actually enlighten.your.body.

About bryan falchuk

bryan falchuk is the founder of newbodi.es, a certified personal trainer, behavior change specialist and the best-selling author of "Do a Day". bryan coaches people on their whole health - the physical, mental and emotional combination of wellness that we need to thrive and change our lives.

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