3 Keys to Successful Health and Fitness Resolutions
Many people will make resolutions this holiday season, hoping the new year will bring the power and leverage (or at least the willingness) to replace bad habits with positive behaviors.
Most New Year’s resolutions fail, of course, but not for the reasons you might think. According to Dr. Roy Sugarman, the Director of Applied Neuroscience at Athletes’ Performance, the key to keeping resolutions is a three-pronged approach of importance, confidence, and readiness.
Most resolution makers never take the time to ponder why their resolutions are important. Take a few quiet moments to write down reasons why you want to implement these new behaviors. All valid contracts are in writing, after all, and this exercise not only makes things official; it gives you the leverage to change.
Change is difficult for creatures of habit, which we all are after millions of years of programming that tells us that change is dangerous and we should resist it.
“By making resolutions, you’re alerting your instincts that say, ‘Don’t do it,’” Sugarman says. “You have to be able to override that and recognize that this is good and it’s going to have a good outcome down the road. A successful person can override that negativity bias consciously. They overcome the emotions that say, ‘You lost a million dollars last time’ and keep investing or starting businesses, for example.”
This comes not from cocksure swagger or positive thinking but from the momentum of small successes. While it’s good to sign up for a marathon four months out to set a goal in motion, the confidence comes from starting on a training program of short distances that builds gradually to the goal of finishing 26.2 miles.
That’s why it’s often easier to quit smoking by decreasing the number of cigarettes each day than by going cold turkey.
“If we’ve failed many times before, our brains get engaged and push back when we try again,” Sugarman says. “You’re setting yourself up for failure because emotions are so powerful. The idea is to reprogram your brain.”
Sugarman draws an analogy between smoking cigarettes and walking along a cliff. We don’t get too close to the edge of a cliff because we know it’s dangerous. A smoker’s brain, however, has been programmed to think of cigarettes in terms of pleasure and not health risk.
“The brain doesn’t distinguish between giving up smoking or walking along the cliff,” Sugarman says. “To stop smoking is risky because it has adapted to nicotine and it fears change. Now you’re telling it we’re going to withdraw the nicotine. But if we take just one cigarette a day away, it doesn’t notice. Baby steps build confidence.”
One of Mark Verstegen’s recurring messages in the Core Performance books is that adapting a high-performance lifestyle is much easier when you recognize that you’re doing it for those most important to you. Only when you take care of yourself first will you create the energy and actions to raise the lives of others.
It’s easier to slack off on a goal when you think it’s just about you.
“Readiness is when you look at that resolution and say, ‘I’m going to do this now because a year from now I want my spouse and kids to be happier as a result,” Sugarman says. “Not only that, I’ll be able to look back and feel that great sense of accomplishment.”
About The Author
Pete Williams – Pete Williams is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com and the co-author of the Core Performance book series.