New Year’s Resolutions: It’s OK to think small

80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by February. Maybe it is time to take a different approach? Kate Cracknell, from Aspria, gave me some tips.

New Year’s Resolutions. They’re a great idea in principle – a chance to re-focus on our goals and commit to our wellbeing. But let’s be honest: how often have you stuck to your New Year’s Resolutions for more than a couple of weeks?

Here’s the thing: we tend to see New Year as a time to set life-changing goals for ourselves: going to the gym every day, giving up alcohol, losing 20 kilos… And the problem with setting life-changing goals is that it takes serious, sustained commitment to stand any chance of achieving them. That isn’t always much fun, so we struggle through a few weeks and then, inevitably, end up right back where we started.

So, what’s the answer?

One thing all the experts agree on is the importance of setting realistic goals. If you tell yourself you’ll come to the club five times a week, you’re setting the bar very high – possibly too high. If (when) you don’t make it five times – even if you manage three visits – you’ll feel as though you’ve failed and will lose your motivation, in spite of the fact that three club visits a week is still more than many (even most) people achieve. If you feel you’ve lost your mojo, by all means use January 1 as the catalyst to re-start your wellbeing journey.

Do you agree with the quote:  “something is better than nothing”?

US-based behavioural change expert Michelle Segar PhD published a book a few years ago called No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness. In it, she very rightly maintained that the 10 minutes’ exercise you do is far better than the hour’s exercise you promise yourself you’ll do but don’t get round to. So indeed,  doing something is better than doing nothing. Equally, it’s important to recognise that lower intensity exercise also counts. You don’t have to sweat on the treadmill all the time: activities such as walking on the treadmill, yoga, pilates and stretching play their part too.

And if I can’t make it to the club?

So, on the days when you can’t make it into the club, just get moving somehow – even if it’s just a 10-minute walk at lunchtime. Building activity into your life in manageable chunks will eventually lead to what Segar calls “a lifelong partnership with exercise”, both at Aspria and elsewhere in your daily life; punishing yourself for not making it to the club will just reinforce a sense of failure and hold you back from being active at all. As Segar says: “Fitness is a lifelong learning process, not a target you have to hit.”

The overall learning? Don’t try and change the world in one day. Starting small is just fine – and that’s the advice I’ll follow in 2019.