Did you make a resolution for this New Year? If so, you’re not alone. But did you make the right one? Just like making a wish in a fairytale, setting a resolution you can stick to comes down to wording.
When setting goals and making promises (both to yourself and others), it’s important to be specific. Stay away from subjective, amorphous goals, like “fitter,” or “thinner,” or “stronger.” How will you know that you’re fit, thin, or strong enough? Who gets to judge when you’re finished? Set a specific goal, like “By February, I’ll be able to run a 5k.”
Notice how February is next month? That’s because smaller, short-term goals are far easier to accomplish. Instead of setting a resolution that takes a year to accomplish, think about setting goals that take a month. These can then be broken into weekly goals, like “I will attend two new classes this week,” or “I will ramp up the incline on treadmill this week.” Small, subtle changes to habits are how major changes happen over time. That’s why Jerry Seinfeld’s “don’t break the chain!” technique works. Moreover, the confidence you’ll gain by accomplishing something quickly will give you the courage to tackle more challenges throughout the year.
And why do we need that confidence? Because willpower — the true grit it takes to get what we want — lives in the brain. And the brain is like a system of roads — and some of those roads are really ruts. Dr. Kelly McGonigal, author of The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, explains as much in this video:
Simply put, your willpower is just as vulnerable to outside stresses as the rest of your body is. If you’re sick, or under-nourished, or not sleeping well, you’re not going to make healthy choices or be able to make and stick to a plan of action. That includes your fitness goals (and all other goals, whether it be saving for retirement or making new friends). Think of willpower like a power meter in a video game: every choice you make lessens your decision-making power for the day. That’s why it’s easier to make a decision that serves your goals in the morning, like getting up early to head to the gym, but harder to make similar decisions at the end of the day when you’re tired from work and other obligations. Saying “no” to a sugar-loaded latte in the morning than saying “no” to a dish of ice cream at night.
This is why the folks at The Agenda have written the best resolution yet: get more sleep.
Yes, more sleep. I know this may seem like a cop out or a resolution for the resolutely lazy, but sleep matters. Sleep is connected to learning and memory, and, according to psychologist and sleep expert David F. Dinges, a sleep deprived person can experience apathy, flattened emotional responses, slowed speech, impaired memory and an inability to be novel or multitask. Sleep is intimately connected with quality of life, which all New Year’s resolutions are in the business of making better.
With that in mind, get off the Internet and go back to bed!