Let’s be frank: Now is about the time that many people quit or lose track of their New Year’s resolutions. In fact, 80 percent fail by February. In a recent poll, 22 percent of people said they believe it’s okay to quit by the end of this month. While this may sound somber, there is one sure-fire way to stay committed. Whether your goal is to drink more water, eat healthier, or exercise more often, you can stick to it by checking in with yourself and knowing where to go from there. To help explain, we spoke with four Aaptiv trainers about effective and possible steps that you can take to set your goals straight—step by step.
How to Check In
Reevaluate your goals.
The biggest move that you can make in maintaining your beginning-of-the-year goals is to check in with yourself. Far too many people let their goals fall to the wayside with little to no notice or importance. “You should always be assessing and reevaluating your goals. What’s working? What’s not? How do you feel? Is progress being made?” says Aaptiv Trainer Amanda Butler. It’s paramount that, while doing this, you reevaluate the goals you’ve made to make sure that they’re doable and not intimidating. It’s likely that you set a large, lofty resolution amidst all of the excitement (we can relate). So, if that’s the case, you need to pause and reflect on if you’ve been able to take steps in achieving your goal thus far.
“Reevaluate your goals to make sure [that] they are realistic,” encourages Aaptiv Trainer Rochelle Moncourtois. “If you set goals that are too far out of reach, you could be setting yourself up for failure or disappointment,” she says. It’s more than okay to look back at your goal, realize it may be long-term, and adjust accordingly. In fact, it’s highly encouraged! This is not a defeat, it’s simply a step in the right direction.
Celebrate small victories.
When you’ve set a large goal, it can be difficult to take note of the small achievements that you’re making towards that goal along the way. While they might not seem as exciting as the end goal, they’re key when it comes to checking in, staying motivated, and ultimately achieving your resolution. “Sometimes the change is not immediately apparent, as in physical or tangible,” notes Aaptiv Trainer Mary Onyango. “Rather, the change can be emotional. Ask yourself if you are happier or less stressed in your daily routine or with people. These are signs that you are on the right track,” she adds.
During your check-in, evaluate any small differences that you’ve noticed in your day-to-day life since you began working towards your goal. “Are some of your daily tasks easier? For example, not getting breathless when you walk up steps or run for the bus. Maybe getting out of bed, standing up, or carrying your child or the groceries has become easier,” Onyango says. After all, the point of setting health and fitness goals is to create a positive change in our lives. Noticing that change in your daily experiences is extremely motivating and kind of a big deal. “Recognize and celebrate the baby steps,” she adds.
Consider your environment.
Often times when we decide on goals and resolutions, we don’t consider the factors around us that can make achieving them easier or harder. Among the excitement of the new year, it’s all too easy to think anything is possible. “I have seen clients set goals for themselves without considering their husband, kids, and job. Once they realize how hard it will be to maintain, they give up,” says Aaptiv Trainer Jaime McFaden. Rather than realize these things and let it get you down, you need to consider them when creating your goals. If that means re-adjusting your New Year’s resolution in order to accommodate, then go for it. Make your resolution work for you just as much as you work for it.
On the flip side, your environment and what you surround yourself with can have a positive impact on your progress. “I am a very goal-oriented person. I have vision boards, journals, positive sayings, and mantras. The energy you are around is also very important,” says McFaden. Even something as simple as writing out your goals and jotting down reminders in your calendar is an effective visual form of encouragement. Surrounding yourself with an inspirational environment—be it vision boards, a supportive group, or the like—will only ever help you, never hinder you.
How to Keep Going
Make it smaller and simpler.
Remember everything we’ve said about big, lofty goals? Well, those can be quite intimidating. They may not appear so while you’re celebrating the year to come (and sipping some bubbly), but once you’ve settled into putting the work in, that big goal can become discouraging. “We all feel good when we reach goals, so instead of setting a huge goal for the year, set yourself smaller goals that you know you can reach. One step at a time, and before you know it you will have reached the bigger goal,” advises McFaden.
Aaptiv Trainer Meghan Takacs agrees, telling us, “I start by setting really small, obtainable goals, and then use the momentum from achieving those to set bigger, more aggressive goals.” Are you seeing the pattern? In many cases, it’s more effective to set small goals that may contribute to an overarching goal you have. If you’ve already decided on a big goal or resolution and find yourself getting discouraged, break it up into smaller steps. The achievement you feel from accomplishing each one will push you closer to your ultimate goal.
Butler puts it best: “Meeting small goals leads to the big goal without feeling so overwhelmed by it.”
Try something new.
Sometimes, you get tired of the goal that you’ve set for yourself and are, simply, over it. This is totally fine! But, what you need to ask yourself is if it’s the goal you’re not into anymore or the method you’ve chosen to achieve it. For example, if you set the goal of exercising more this year and have run on the treadmill every other day to accomplish that, you’re going to get sick of the treadmill. Come up with other ways to accomplish your resolution, rather than giving up on it as a whole.
“If you find yourself falling off track, try something new,” Moncourtois says. “Try to mix up your goals that involve different forms of workouts. This way you’re always trying something new or performing brand new exercises.” Not only does this make working towards your goals more exciting, but it’s also physically good for you. Whether it’s trying a new workout or getting creative with eating healthy foods, your mind and body will thank you for it.
Think of it as a lifestyle.
It may sound backward, but putting a large focus on completing your resolution might be its very downfall. This is because it puts the emphasis on rules and expectations, rather than what you want to accomplish and feel for yourself. “I feel like health should be an anytime, anywhere thing,” notes Takacs. “It’s like focusing on making progress without weighing yourself every day. Taking the pressure off of cliche trends and strict regimens allows you to make a routine out of creating a lifestyle, not by rules and regulations.” By all means, make goals and resolutions (if that works for you, we completely encourage it)! The key to having longevity, though, is by shaping those goals into a lifestyle. “It’s going to take time and discipline,” Butler states. “Discipline kicks in when motivation isn’t there. Keep moving forward.”
How to Get Back on Track
Ask yourself why you started.
So, you’ve already gotten off track with your goal. No worries! Sure, 80 percent of goals fail by February, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t pick it back up and keep going. When you’re at a crossroads and have the option to quit or continue (and you always have the option), it’s important to ask yourself why you started in the first place. “The biggest question I have my clients ask [themselves] is why. Why are you setting this goal? What does it mean to you? Are you 100 percent sure [that] you have the time, energy, and motivation it takes to reach that goal? I want my clients to dig deep internally. If they can’t answer in depth ‘why,’ chances are the goal will disappear,” explains McFaden.
If you can answer questions like these, odds are this goal is important to you. From there, you need to find a new way back to it (refer back to the points above). If you can’t answer these questions, that’s also fine! At any point, feel free to scrap goals you’ve made if they aren’t working for you. Make new ones. Don’t get stuck on the fact that something didn’t work out for you. Instead, focus on moving forward with something else.
“You have to be strong enough to find meaning, other than physical rewards, from working out,” Takacs says. “As in, you work out to alleviate stress or battle depression. Things like that. And, soon enough, if you are working out for those reasons, your body will crave it, because it improves your quality of life mentally and physically.”
Just do it.
The negative emotions that come with losing track of progress or “failing” at a goal can be crushing, but there’s always the opportunity to jump back in if you allow yourself—it really is that simple. “First, accept the fact that you will fail in one form or another. It’s part of the growth process. It’s how you build grit,” says Onyango. “But, don’t beat yourself up. Being hard on yourself is self-defeating and will set you back even further. Have fun with progress and don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s less stressful.”