How To Set New Year’s Resolutions – Are They A Load of Crap?

I’d like to suggest a few New Year’s resolutions for some of you people. I’ve got mine down already and I will tell you later in this post.

I don’t usually set New years goals but I realized something this year. Setting goals is a MUST.

You see, I’ve been telling my clients to set goals for years but my goals were always set for me by my coach or trainer. When I was competing in Tae-Kwon-do and boxing my goal was to win my next fight and do my best not to get beaten up. They didn’t always work out for me but they kept me on the straight and narrow.  When I stopped competing in 2010 I had nothing to train for. No goals. No direction.

So for over a year my training became very stagnant. I was training for the sake of training. I had a couple of niggling injuries and I was getting fed up with it.

So last year I set these small goals:

-Fix my shoulder

-Squat 204kg (214.6 kg as of December 2013)

I told myself if I could do that I’d be happy.

Since then I’ve put 27kg on my squat and my shoulder is completely pain free.

So how do you set goals? It can be harder than you think.

A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail, despite the fact that 52% of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning.

Do you want to know why?

Lets say you set a goal like ‘lose weight’. You are almost certainly going to fail. In college we were told to set goals using the S.M.A.R.T system to avoid failure.

S- Specific – Your goals must have specific numbers attached to them. I.e. lose 10 lbs, drop a dress size or drop a jeans size. NOT simply ‘lose weight’.

M- Measurable – i.e. ‘I want to feel better’ would not be measurable. Feeling better is measurable when you decide that you are going to be drinking less Gaviscon and not falling asleep at every opportunity because you are run down.

A- Attainable – Saying you’re new years resolution is to become a millionaire or get taller or stop going bald is not attainable so forget about it. (No short or bald jokes please).

R- Realistic – This is similar to the above point but once you’ve decided on something that’s attainable like ‘lose 50lbs’ be sure to set a realistic time frame around it. Losing 50 lbs in a week isn’t exactly realistic unless you plan on getting your leg amputated.

T- Time Constrained – make sure you set restrictions on how long its going to take you to reach your goal or you will instinctively drag it out. Set milestones such as: By my birthday I will lose XXXlbs and by my holiday in June I will fit into a size 10 etc.

In the study I mentioned earlier. The people achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting, (a system where small measurable goals are being set; such as, a pound a week, instead of saying “lose weight”).

Another 10% more people succeeded when they made their goals public and got support from their friends.

Make it public

People don’t make things public because they are afraid if they fail they will look stupid. There is not stronger motivator than proving some spiteful person wrong. If there is someone you know that would love to see you fail, use that as a motivator. Prove them wrong. Show them you can do it and they cant. The only logical reasons they could have for hoping you fail are

1. They don’t like you or

2. They are jealous that you might succeed and they can’t because they are too afraid to try.

In case you think I’m making all of this up, here’s my source:

Source: University of Scranton. Journal of Clinical Psychology

Published: 12.13.2012

Here’s a list of the most popular resolutions for 2012.

Don’t fall into the trap of making a generic new years resolution like the list above. Think of something you haven’t already tried and failed to do. Think of something new. It can still fit into the same category but try and make it more specific like we talked about earlier.

Try something new.

Basically, go check out something outside of your comfort zone. We all get so locked down in what we already know or we already like that we end up shutting ourselves off from a lot of great things that we might potentially like doing. I.e. If you are a ‘cardio’ person. Try something different. Do boot camp or lift some weights. Plus, picking up a dumbbell is a hell of a lot easier to manage than most New Year’s resolutions like quitting smoking or drinking and its more fun.

Get ready for disappointment.

For me, 2012 was a pretty great year, and 2013 looks like its going to be even better but I do think we all need to be ready for the ball to drop at some point. If it happens, pick it up and keep playing. Don’t give up like a little girl. If you set a goal to lose a couple of pounds and you eat some crap on the 4th of January, don’t say

‘ah screw it, I’ve made a mess of this, I’ll start next year’.

That’s a ridiculous mentality to have. If you screw up, admit it to yourself that you screwed up but then take steps to avoid the situation that made you screw up in the first place.

What are the best New Years resolutions to have?

This post was eventually going to get to the point that fitness is good for you. If you have a fitness related goal, go get it. You’ll enjoy the process. You have to enjoy it. It’s science. Exercise releases endorphins, which make you feel good. It’s physiologically impossible for you to not like exercise. If you don’t enjoy exercise, chances are you’re doing it wrong.

Don’t be intimidated by gyms, bootcamps or personal training. Don’t try and wing it yourself either. It won’t work. Get a friend involved and then it’s harder to talk yourself out of it when you’re tired some day and making excuses.

Here’s a little tip.

Write down two specific goals that you want to achieve and set time constraints.

1. January (eg. Lose 5lbs and start training)

2. June (size 10 and stronger)

3. 2013 (wear a bikini or something)

This may be a little biased considering my back ground but the evidence is in for fitness. Regular exercise has been shown to have more health benefits than anything else known to man. It’s been shown that it reduces the risk of some cancers, increases life expectancy, enhances mood and lowers blood pressure. In short, exercise keeps you healthy and most importantly makes you look better naked.

I hope this helps you not make a balls of your New Years resolutions.


Bryan Kavanagh BSc CSCS



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