The first couple months of the new year are a time when I roll my eyes a lot (in my head — I’m too polite to roll them in real life).
Every year, the same thing happens at the gym. It gets flooded with new people. Parking gets harder. Unused equipment is scarcer. People are proud to tell others they are just getting started.
But 2 or 3 months in, they show up less and less and never show up again.
While this happens, throughout the year, it is especially pronounced around January 1st because this is when New Year’s Resolutions get made.
If you’re not familiar with this American tradition, this is when people reflect back on how bad they did the year before and then set big goals so that this doesn’t happen again. Unfortunately, as the cliche goes, the majority of them end up giving up or failing their goals.
I’ve seen the same process play out so many times every year that I have given up hope for the masses.
Even in the last year, I have met a few people at my CrossFit gym who have told me about that they’ve just started working out and they’re committed. I usually ask them why they started and a sense of dread starts bubbling up when I ask this, especially if it’s near January.
The answer is usually, “Because it’s a New Years Resolution” or “I’m doing this New You Challenge I found online.”
They look at me as if I should be proud of what they said but I have to hold back my natural reaction to wince because that is usually a sign that they won’t follow through or stay at it.
Sure enough, many of them disappear, never to be seen again.
I want to introduce a new way of sticking to your New Year’s resolutions.
This video does a good job of illustrating how:
Let me break it down for you:
The Problem with New Year’s Resolutions
Your first mistake is even setting New Year’s resolutions. The time frame is too long.
Most people are gung-ho but fizzle out by March or early April. Then, they give themselves more than 6 months to do nothing until they’re reminded again in January.
Years ago, I watched an interview of the Kong Pham, CEO of Jump Cut Studios, a multi-million dollar company in the YouTube entertainment and education space. He says he doesn’t like New Year’s resolutions and doesn’t even make them. Instead, he believes you should always be setting goals and achieving them right now in the present no matter what month or day of the year it is.
Second, people drastically overestimate how much they can accomplish in the short-term.
Take muscle gain as an example. People have told me that they want to gain 60 pounds of muscle in a year and will complain that they only gained 3 pounds of muscle in a month. But the truth is that these are horrible ideas.
One of my favorite bodybuilding YouTubers, Matt Kido a.k.a. Gokuflex, explains this well in many of his videos…
Gaining 3 pounds of muscle a month is 36 pounds a muscle a year, which is a lot.
“Don’t be frustrated with small progress. Only be frustrated with no progress.” -Matt Kido
To put this in perspective, Matt has been working out for over 13 years. In that time, he’s only gained about 51 pounds of muscle but have gone from skinny to the most shredded Asian man I’ve ever seen.
That’s only about 3 pounds of muscle per year, much less than what people expect. I would be happy with 3 pounds of muscle gain per year if I could eventually look like Matt.
Just like Matt and Gary Vaynerchuk, I always preach consistency and patience on the decade level. Don’t believe the false marketing hype that you can “gain 30 pounds of muscle in 2 months.” It’s a lie.
Do This Instead…
Try these simple steps instead of this ridiculous one year goal-setting program they call “New Year’s resolutions.”
- Get specific. Rather than some vague goal, like “I want to be more muscular and rich”, how about “I want to gain 10 pounds of muscle and earn $75,000 a year by the end of this year.”
- Choose up to 3 goals. Any more spreads your time, energy, and accountability too thin.
- When deciding on a reasonable goal underestimate your short-term goals (anything under a 3 year time frame) and overestimate your long-term goals (anything over a 5 year time frame). Why? Because we tend to drastically overestimate what we can accomplish in the short-term and underestimate what we can do in 10 years. For example, building muscle is a very slow process. You’d be lucky to build 5 extra pounds in a year, unless you’re a complete beginner or cheating with steroids. Don’t believe the scams that promise “60 pounds in 4 months.” But in 10 years, just 35 pounds is doable and can make you look massive.
- Check in on your goals at least every month. Re-calibrate and set new goals every month, if not every week. You should not stop checking in on yourself and pivoting because it’s no longer the start of the year.
- Step away from looking at goals once a year. You can still do this but focus on smaller goals.
- Use the motivation you have at the start of the year to see quick wins you can celebrate. But you have to quickly transition your motivation to making whatever you’re trying to do fun and enjoyable because New Year’s motivations and using pure willpower only work in the short-term while passion is more timeless.
- Start small. Do 1/10th of what you set out to do for the first week. Build gradually. For example, go to the gym for just 5 minutes on the first day. This gets you over the hump of intimidation and procrastination, while making it less of a chore. Dr. BJ Fogg’s free 5-day Tiny Habits program is the most scientific and impactful program I’ve tested that actually works in forming habits. It follows this theme and I recommend it.
- Set up check-in’s with yourself. Once a week. Maybe just once every two weeks. This is because life gets in the way and most people never check-in. That’s why they drop off from exercising completely in April and don’t notice until January 1st of the next year.
I am not a delusional self-help guru who believes you can go from socially incompetent, skinny, homeless man to multi-millionaire, charismatic, model in a year by “setting good habits” or “sticking to your resolutions.” That type of thinking is absurd.
But I do believe you can make some tweaks to how you go about improving your life and see better results. And ten years from now, you may be a living a much happier, healthier, and wealthier life than you would have otherwise.
What’s something you’ve tried to make sure you keep your resolution that’s failed? Let me know in the comments.
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