Why Your New Year's Resolution Sucks

01/09/2018

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Seriously, guys. We go through the same song and dance every year. If you're still making New Year's resolutions, you're behind the curve. I've said this before and I'll say it again - there is nothing about the new year that has any bearing over your life beyond the power you give it. So many people are slaves to imaginary masters, and the new year is one of them.

I'll be the first one to admit it - making New Year's resolutions feels good. It gives you an attitude of hope and optimism; one that makes you think, "I'll definitely do it! This will be my year!"

Sure, New Year's resolutions seem like a good idea. A fresh start. A clean slate. What could be a better time? The answer to that question is literally any other time of the year. Think about it. You've had an entire year to start on a project, or take steps to achieve a goal. The only reason you might want to start on January 1st is for a convenient timeline, but that's not that compelling of a reason.

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If you've waited until the new year to try and start moving toward a goal, you're too late. What that tells me is that you were making so many excuses during the year that it never got done. I know how this sounds. It sounds harsh. It sounds unfair. I know. Things get in the way. But that's just the thing: things always do get in the way, and they always will. There will never be a "good" time. If you think your resolution will be any different simply because you made it during the New Year's frenzy, you're only fooling yourself.

The most well-intentioned aspect of New Year's resolutions ironically happens to the the most damaging, and that's that people believe there has to be a drastic, immediate change in their lives in order to improve it. This is compounded by the fact that so many New Year's resolutions are seemingly simple, yet impenetrably vague. For example:

"I want to read more."

This one seems easy, doesn't it? However, this is exactly the type of resolution that falls by the wayside. There's no planning, purpose, or metrics by which we can measure this resolution. It's not fitness related per se, but people often make similar resolutions in regards to their health/fitness/etc:

"I want to be healthier!"

"I want to be more active!"

"I want to lose weight!"

"I want to gain muscle!"

These are all great goals to have, and I would never cast aspersions on anyone just for having these intentions. The biggest problem with these statements, though, is that their vagueness makes them impossible. Here are two reasons why vague resolutions like these will get you nowhere:

1. There is no plan.

You can bet that the first thing I would ask someone with one of the above resolutions is "How are you going to do that?" If they can't give me a definitive plan for how they're going to approach it, it's not going to happen. As cliche as it is, failing to plan is planning to fail. This isn't to say that you need a 365 day Excel spreadsheet detailing every single minute of every day of the year (although that would probably yield better results if it were possible). What I'm saying is that merely wanting "x" (health, fitness, etc) is completely worthless if you have no idea how to get "x". A good framework for this is SMART goals, which are even being taught in school now. If you can't go through each letter of the SMART mnemonic (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) for your specific goal, something needs to change. #2 and #3 stem from this lack of planning.

2. There is no room for error.

If you were to organize a plan for yourself and set out to follow it as best you could, you probably still won't nail it 100%. That's fine. Provided you laid out a plan - SMART or otherwise - even if you only succeeded in following 20% of it, you can measurably state that you at least accomplished 20% of what you wanted to do. With no plan, throughout the year there's no way for you to accurately determine how you stacked up, no matter how short of 100% you fell. This results in stagnation and ultimately failure with no recourse.

3. There is no progression.

No progression scheme means no chance for improvement. Some peoples' resolution "plans" include requirements like:

Run two miles every day.

or

Work out five days a week.

Now, if you're starting from 0, or close to it - which many people are - what makes you think you can just jump up to 100? Part of planning is recognizing your starting point. With that said, start small. If your goal is going to span a year, then you have time to work up to it. For the above examples, that might mean running just half a mile every day, or working out just one or two days a week for the first couple months. Write out a plan that has you ramping up to your goals by the end of the year. If you can do a little bit, then you can soon do a little bit more. I've heard this called incremental commitment, where you gradually increase your level of effort, and therefore commitment. The most important thing that incremental commitment instills is discipline. Being consistently successful in small things is what builds your capacity to be successful in increasingly daunting tasks. So, while running two miles every day or working out five days a week might sound like a long shot now, progress in a way that makes it doable in a year.

So, if you are going to make a New Year's Resolution (or set any year-long goal), you need to approach them differently. With the typical vague "resolutions" that people make, there are no actual goals to achieve. Instead of aiming for the end of the new year as the finish line for the goal, people treat New Year's resolutions as if they should already be achieved by day one. In other words, people approach resolutions like this:

"On January 1st of 2018 I will start being fit."

This is exactly the kind of statement you need to avoid. Instead, you really should be thinking about them like this:

"I have until December 31st of 2018 to measurably improve my level of fitness."

With this resolution the question of how naturally follows, so we can now move forward and find and/or create a plan.

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To be honest with you, it takes time and effort to draft out your year (and yes, you should be planning your whole year) in order to make any significant change, but that's how it should be. Attempts to make big changes with quick fixes will inevitably fail. This is why the first step in making any resolution should be research into the factors that will be responsible for your progress. This first step of planning.

"Research" could mean either research into a new topic or performing research into your own life. For example, an example of the former might be finding online content (e.g. articles, videos) about how to acquire a new skill, like practicing yoga as a beginner. An example of the latter would be evaluating what you spend your time doing every day to see where you can block off time so that you can read/exercise/etc more. Most resolutions will involve both types of research.

Once you've done your research, you can now organize steps you need to take or phases you need to implement. If you're picking up a new skill or working toward a new goal, separate your year into three or four phases (three or four month blocks), with smaller sub-goals at the end of each phase to act as milestones. If you want to read more, this could mean setting aside an hour a week for the first few months as your first milestone, then increase to two hours for the next few, then three, etc.

In any case, think of the things you'll need to do every day in order to guarantee your success (you should have encountered these during your research). These are the things you'll need to include in your plan, and don't forget that they can and should change as you make progress.

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Once you've done your research and organization, the only thing that's left to do is execute. If you've set up the research and organization correctly, then the execution should be essentially be a turnkey process. Note that this doesn't mean the process will be easy, just that it will already be laid out.

If one of your goals for 2018 involves building muscle, losing fat, looking great, or all of the above, I'm proud to say that I have the definitive solution for you - FLUX, my flagship online educational course for efficient evidence-based muscle hypertrophy and fat loss. With FLUX, I've already made the plan for you. I've already researched the training and nutrition variables that cause both muscle gain and fat loss so that I can pass it on to you with instructions for what to do in and out of the gym. I've also already outlined the organization for you with a unique phasic model. All that's left is for you to execute. If you've struggled before, but you're serious about making 2018 your best year yet for muscle gain and fat loss, I strongly advise you take advantage of this opportunity as class sizes are limited. Check to see if FLUX is open for enrollment ASAP.

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