We hope you have had a wonderful start to 2023, set some big objectives, and are working towards fulfilling them. If you’re not quite sure where to start, you’re certainly not alone. In fact, most people abandon their resolutions by the second Friday in January, which is now infamously known as National Quitters day. While this phenomenon is rooted in a very complex behavioral challenge, there is potential for tremendous personal growth when the right strategies are implemented. Here we will attempt to provide a framework from which to start and what to focus on to be successful.
Why do people quit?
Come January 1st, thoughts of audacious goals fill our bodies and minds with energy. It’s a fresh slate, now’s the time to finally get in shape, eat better, and save money! This feels great at first, but the drive quickly wanes as life refuses to slow down while familiar patterns take hold. You can think of motivation like riding a bike up twin peaks. During the initial hype phase, energy output and motivation is sky high. Once we reach the summit we enter the honeymoon phase, coasting here until we suddenly plummet down the other side and into the pit.
There are many reasons for this phenomenon. Of the top reasons cited, 35% of people attribute losing motivation as the top reason for giving up, followed by being too busy (19%) and changing their goals and priorities (18%). However, these vague reasons don’t tell the whole story. In reality, people often have no plan or strategy in place to accomplish their objectives. Add a static environment and lack of a support system to stay accountable and you have a recipe for failure. In order to get out of the pit, or avoid it altogether, it is critical to think about what small lifestyle changes are essential for making sustainable progress.
Focus on Small Changes
People tend to think that massive success requires massive action, which often equates to putting excess pressure on themselves. However, if you can get just 1% better each day for a year, you will end up 37x better by the end of the year. Unfortunately, small daily improvements tend to go unnoticed. If you go to the gym three times the first week of January, you are not in much better shape than when you started. If you go to the gym three times a week consistently for the whole year, you will definitely have made gains in your strength, muscle, and cardiovascular health.
When starting out, take your time identifying what objectives are most important to you. One objective is best, although 2-3 are possible. The more you create the more distraction there will be from the primary objective. The best objectives are S.M.A.R.T, – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Bound. More on this concept later. Second, use some method to track your habits related to that objective. Technology like the Oura ring or My Fitness Pal can be powerful tools to make tracking essential data easy. A good habit tracking app should allow you to set targets for the month, track your progress, and provide some flexibility over when and how you track your habits.
Next identify what is going to be your potential point of failure. What has stopped you in the past? It could be time constraints, tendency toward injury, or a busy travel schedule. What are the non-negotiables in your life? It could be time with family, getting to the office by 7am, or golf on Sundays. Honor these activities and work with them as opposed to against them. The process of behavior modification can seem daunting at first, but by having a clear vision of where you want to go, the small daily habits required of you for success will become obvious.
Become the Architect of Your Environment
Motivation is overrated; environment matters more. In his bestselling book Atomic Habits, James Clear states “People often choose products not based on what they are, but where they are,” The environment is constantly giving us cues to initiate certain behaviors. If you are trying to make better food choices, but your office break room always has donuts and bagels on the table, you will find it very difficult not to take one from time to time. This is why grocery stores put items at the end cap of aisles to sell them quickly. Utilize this strategy in your own life by being the architect of your environment. If you wish to go to the gym first thing in the morning, lay out your gym clothes somewhere in plain sight the night before. When you wake up and see them your first thought will be to get ready for the gym. You have just given yourself a trigger to engage in a desired behavior. Keeping up with this habit will soon start to create a ritual before bed to ensure you go to the gym the next day. Not only will you be creating easy and satisfying habits, but you will accomplish something difficult early the next day. This can set the tone for your entire day to be more productive.
Make it S.M.A.R.T
The popular acronym SMART is widely used to approach behavior change with a systematic approach. Before you begin taking on a new objective, ask yourself – is it Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound? It’s easy to say vague things like “I want to lose weight,” but how much weight? Are you giving yourself a realistic time-frame? Utilizing this tool can highlight potential problem areas before progress is derailed. For example, if you plan to participate in dry January, but you have a vacation planned that month, you will need a strategy for making good choices during your vacation. If not, you will likely default to old habits. Take SMART seriously and arm yourself with the small details that make a huge difference to adherence.
The Accountability Partner
Most people would think of an accountability partner as a supportive friend who will be there to pat you on the back when you’re doing a good job. While we do need encouragement and support in the process of behavior change, it is sometimes not enough. When there is an immediate reward for performing a desired action or habit, there tends to be a high correlation that the behavior will be repeated. The opposite is also true. Bad habits that have an immediate unsatisfying consequence tend to resolve quickly. One way to utilize this concept is to find an accountability partner. This could be a close friend, family member, or a challenge to participate in with a community to report to. Knowing that someone is watching can be a powerful motivator because it feels terrible to not keep a promise to yourself and someone close to you. However, a good accountability partner will be there to provide support when necessary. This can feel like we are not alone in the process and be incredibly rewarding.
It’s easy to set lofty goals, but recognize that you need to prioritize what you really want and have a plan of action. Understand that motivation will come in waves and require you to stay organized and persistent. Break your objectives down into small behaviors that you will need to accomplish in order to make some progress each day. Lastly, seek out an accountability partner who can help keep you on track.
Wanting to make a change and actually making it a priority are very different mindsets. The behavior change process, when done with a carefully thought out vision, often leads to a tremendous shift in identity. This beautiful transformation is the result of digging deep and finding your “why”. Why do you want to change? Think about how change will positively impact those around you and those who love you. Keep your sights locked in on your “why” and have an amazing 2023!
Below you will find links to some popular apps that are often used at FiT:
Blood Sugar Tracking