It’s that time again! The end of another year has passed.
How was it for you?
With 2016 just rounding the bend, now is a great time to consider the new year through the lens of memories made and lessons learned. How’s your health? How’s your body? Do you feel good? Have you overcome anything taxing this year and learned from it? Are you waking up with energy and purpose each morning? Are you ready to take on something new?
What do you really want your life to look like in 2016?
There are so many questions to ask, and no one can answer them but you.
Even after you answer those questions, there are literally an infinite number of paths you can decide to go down. With that in mind, how can I presume to help you set your goals?
Well, I’m going to go out on a limb and make a pretty grand, audacious assumption.
Regardless of where you are in life, where you’ve been, and what you want to accomplish in the future, in 2016 I know you want to be the best version of yourself.
Like standing at the base of a perfect climbing tree, facing the new year with self-improvement and self-actualization on the brain is both enticing and looming all at the same time.
As we greet the climbing tree that is 2016, let me do a “branch check” with you. Here are 6 considerations to help you rethink and hone that New Year’s resolution for the best possible results.
Weigh Quality vs. Quantity.
The end game for health goals really falls into 2 categories. You’re either striving to create quality of life or quantity of it. In other words, is your goal to live as long as possible? Or is it to increase your lifespan? If you’re like most people, you want something of both. How that plays out ends up being more personal, however.
In a recently popular song, the artist laments “Everything that kills me makes me feel alive.”[i] Unfortunately, many of the things I’ve found make my life feel fuller (e.g. cheesecake, rock climbing, my son) will also likely shave some years off of the time I have here. On the other hand, apparently eating only ½ of my caloric need per day could lengthen my life by up to 20 years, [ii][iii] but do I really want to live to be 110 with little energy to do the things I love because I don’t eat much? I don’t think so. Some things are worth giving up for good health, and other things just aren’t.
Luckily, healthy exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle habits all generally increase both. But what about when everything doesn’t line up neatly?
Maybe in order to live a longer and fuller life, you want to lose 20 pounds, but 2 glasses of wine per night also helps you live life to the fullest. What to do? You really want to lose 20 pounds, but on that journey the extra calories from the nightly wine appear to be sabotaging your efforts.
While other people might have strong opinions about this, there’s no ultimate answer. It’s a question of balance in your priorities—a balance that you yourself define.
Consider what trades or compromises you’re willing or ready to make in your attempt to balance quantity and quality. When you do this, you’ll have much more direction and a more attainable goal for yourself.
Just because you aren’t ready to give up your wine doesn’t mean that you can’t trade 6 hours per week of television for 6 hours per week at the gym. Just because you like to eat dessert when you go out doesn’t mean you can’t limit yourself to going out once per week.
Fitness and health goals are about the give and take. Consider carefully what you’re willing to give and what you need to take or hang onto. Negotiate a better deal for yourself in 2016 than you had going in 2015.
Enlist Any and All Social Support.
Who’s your biggest fan?
I hope someone special came to mind just now. Whomever you’re thinking about, take the opportunity to share your goals with him/her!
You want your biggest fan to be able to cheer your successes and commiserate with you on your setbacks. Be sure to differentiate “friends” from “accomplices.” As Al Switzler says in his TED talk “Skillpower vs. Willpower”[iv], “Friends are people who help you. Accomplices are people who help you…get into trouble.”
And in general, human beings are natural show-offs. With a few exceptions, we perform better if we think someone’s watching.[v]
If you feel you have no one in your corner, stop with the self-actualization thing and fill your need for relationships first. That’s a rung lower on the hierarchy of needs.[vi] It’s hard to be the best version of yourself if you don’t have at least ONE good friend to back you up. That doesn’t mean stop coming to the gym. It just means that your best investment in reaching your goal this year is to meet someone worth knowing in yoga class.
And what if your “biggest fan” is less of a help than he/she could be? Hubby came to mind, but he’s already told you he’s not giving up ice cream or getting up early to work out with you. Well, you can’t make people change, but you can look to other friends—or professional trainers and coaches—for encouragement, which leads me to the next point….
Know the Real Role of Professional Support.
A coach is someone who motivates you, encourages you, helps you develop a plan, and keeps you accountable. BONUS: we’re especially helpful when you’re running low on motivation.
Coaches can’t make you change for the better if you don’t want to. If you DO want to, and you place yourself in our hands, we are a living, breathing, and (my clients would say) relentless reminder of your commitments to yourself. Also, we believe in you.
Coaches are like caffeine. They’re a daily, weekly or even monthly shot of uplifting energy from an outside source that opens your eyes to what you can be and helps you stay committed to your process. The most talented, driven, dedicated and consistent individuals have mentors and coaches. Ask any of them, and they’ll tell you they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Heck, Even Kobe Bryant has one. (Well, had one. Sad year for the NBA…)
Don’t hire a coach to back you up. That’s what friends are for.
If you’re really serious, hire a coach to pull you forward—sometimes kicking and screaming if necessary.
Don’t Discount the Fun Factor.
Whatever you do with yourself this year needs to be enjoyable.
I’m not saying you have to love every second. The fact is, even I hate burpees. But I love going to Boot Camp and trying to out-burpee the guy next to me. Competition is fun for me. I seek it out.
What do you like to do that’s healthy for you? Do you enjoy cooking new recipes? Do you like going for walks? Do you like dancing?
I always tell my clients that in order for a program to be doable, it has to be at least 50% what is fun and 50% what works but isn’t so fun. For some clients, fun needs to be 90% of the equation for a while before they’re willing to do more that they don’t want to. Whatever that number is for you, the higher the fun factor, the more likely you’ll stick to it all year—not because you have to, but because you WANT to.
If you can do other things for the sheer sake of health, fitness, performance, weight loss, etc., that’s icing on the cake.
Find something fun to incorporate a few times each week. It’ll make a bigger difference than you think!
Harness the Power of Novelty.
Take care of your brain in 2016, and capitalize on its love of novelty.
The best way you can do this in the exercise world is to learn something new. The possibilities are endless: cha-cha every Wednesday night, flip turns in the pool, Olympic lifting, Pilates, handstands, obstacle courses…whatever floats your boat.
And don’t forget to track your progress to see what you did! A neat example of this follow-through is the “giveit100” website. It challenges people to choose something they want to get better at and practice it every day for 100 days. You track your progress by taking videos of the practice and posting a short clip each day for 100 days.
A woman relearned how to walk in 100 days, a man touched his toes, a woman mastered a dance, etc.… [vii] Consider what would keep you motivated for 100 days.
Anticipate Your Obstacles.
Picture this. One year from now, as 2017 rolls in, you look in the mirror and reflect on yourself and your life. What’s different??
What if that happened? What if you don’t reach your goals in 2016? What would be the thing(s) that got in your way?
These are the obstacles or challenges to reaching your goal.
You should know that human beings are really good at imagining possibilities but pretty blind to potential pitfalls, since we attribute failures to external factors.[viii] In other words, when imagining the future we’re better at being positive than negative. As a result, we don’t naturally anticipate our own actions that will lead to negative outcomes. Then when we face those struggles without any sort of preparation, we tend to fall flat on our faces.
Since falling down and getting back up is hard, time-consuming, and often de-motivating, the best thing you can do is identify your biggest obstacles RIGHT NOW before they catch you off guard. Be honest with yourself even though it’s hard.
“Alex, making sure there is good food available and time to prepare it is going to be my biggest obstacle. When I’m in a rush and there’s nothing easy and good to eat nearby, I settle for less than quality. Then having done that once in a day, I write that day off as ‘bad’ and let loose on whatever I want since the day is already shot.”
That’s a real life answer to the question: “What will likely get in my way?”
Knowing this will be an obstacle, that person could claim Sundays as “grocery days” when they religiously buy all the good food they need in the week, prepare it to make it convenient, and voila!— obstacle negotiated.
Identify your obstacles in 2016. Be honest. Create a realistic way forward.
As the saying goes “prior proper planning prevents poor performance.”
2016 is going to be a fantastic year. Get ready for a great climb!
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[i] One Republic. “Counting Stars” [ii] Mattson, Mark P. (2005). “ENERGY INTAKE, MEAL FREQUENCY, AND HEALTH: A Neurobiological Perspective*”. Annual Review of Nutrition 25: 237–60. doi:10.1146/annurev.nutr.25.050304.092526. PMID 16011467. [iv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TX-Nu5wTS8&spfreload=10 [v] Vander Linden, Sander. How the Illusion of Being Observed Can Make You a Better Person May 3, 2011. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-the-illusion-of-being-observed-can-make-you-better-person/ [vi] McLeod, Saul. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs . published 2007, updated 2014 . http://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html [vii] https://giveit100.com/ [viii] B.R. Schlenker and R.S. Miller, Egocentrism in Groups: Self-Serving Biases or Logical Information Processing?” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 35 (1977): 755-764.
[i] One Republic. “Counting Stars”
[ii] Mattson, Mark P. (2005). “ENERGY INTAKE, MEAL FREQUENCY, AND HEALTH: A Neurobiological Perspective*”. Annual Review of Nutrition 25: 237–60. doi:10.1146/annurev.nutr.25.050304.092526. PMID 16011467.
[v] Vander Linden, Sander. How the Illusion of Being Observed Can Make You a Better Person May 3, 2011. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-the-illusion-of-being-observed-can-make-you-better-person/
[vi] McLeod, Saul. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs . published 2007, updated 2014 . http://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html
[viii] B.R. Schlenker and R.S. Miller, Egocentrism in Groups: Self-Serving Biases or Logical Information Processing?” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 35 (1977): 755-764.