Updated: Aug 10
While we may roll our eyes when we hear the term “New Year’s Resolutions,” the truth is that many of us like the idea of setting a resolution at the start of the year, because we truly do want to better ourselves and grow.
Growth feels good, especially when we’re improving our health, wellness, and happiness.
The problem is that healthy, positive growth can be difficult to accomplish, particularly when we don’t have a clear direction. So we try to give ourselves a direction by setting a special resolution on January 1st.
This is great in theory, but by the time January 31st rolls around, many of us are starting to resent our resolutions, or find ourselves throwing in the towel.
We’ll just have to try again next year, right?
If you haven’t stuck with your resolutions in the past, it may not be ‘you’ that’s the problem — it may be the resolution itself.
Here are 5 mistakes that people often make when setting a resolution to workout more, eat better, or to be healthier. These mistakes make it more difficult to commit to the resolution and follow through. Below, I’ll offer some fixes for common mistakes people make when setting New Year’s Resolutions (or any goal really), so you can reframe your resolution into something that’s far easier for you to actually stick with!
Mistake 1. Setting Vague or Abstract Goals
A common mistake that I see people make when setting their fitness and nutrition goals is setting goals that are lofty, vague, and abstract.
Have you ever set a goal to:
“Exercise more often”
“Eat better this year”
“Stop eating so much junk food”
When my clients mention goals like these, my first question is: How will you know when you’ve succeeded? When can you cross off “stop eating so much junk food” and call it complete? How do you know when you’ve accomplished “eating better”?
All of the ideas above, while they are great in theory, are very abstract — they’re difficult to measure, track, and know when you’ve “accomplished” your goal.
The Fix: Put SMART Structure Around Your Goals
Whenever you set a health goal, make sure it’s SMART. SMART is an acronym referring to goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely (or Time-Bound).
Using SMART as your guide will help you craft goals that are easier to track, stick with over time, and most importantly, clearly see when you’ve achieved them (because is there any better feeling than writing that big check mark next to a goal you’ve completed?).
Here are examples of SMART nutrition goals:
Meal prep or batch-cook enough protein and vegetables for 3 days worth of meals each week for the next four weeks.
Eat 5-8 servings of vegetables per day for one whole month.
Here are examples of SMART fitness goals:
Exercise for at least 20 minutes, three days per week, for the next six weeks.
Attend two workout classes each week for the next two months.
Make your exercise goals even easier by joining my Slay & Namaste OnDemand Membership, where you’ll get access to my live and recorded classes for fitness and yoga. I even include a calendar with recommended workouts each day to keep you on track! (Maybe you’ll be inspired to set your next SMART goal to attend a number of on-demand classes per week.)
Mistake 2. Creating “Success or Failure” Resolutions Only
Have you resisted setting a resolution because you have a negative association with the tradition? Maybe you dread setting New Year’s resolutions, because it feels disappointing and demotivating when you fall off track.
I know that I’ve often felt disappointed when I find myself straying from a goal I’ve set, or failing to meet a milestone that I want to achieve. The sense of “failing” at a goal can often turn us away from setting other goals or any goal in the first place, which makes us feel all the more stressed.
Thinking of your resolutions as black and white — either you are successful and complete it perfectly, or you fail — is a sneaky thought pattern that you may not even notice yourself doing. Many of us connect our resolutions to a rigid outcome, which makes it easy to miss the mark (even slightly) and feel completely let down.
The Fix: Reframe Your Resolution as an Intention
Your resolution doesn’t have to be only a success or only a failure. In fact, you don’t even have to call it a “resolution” at all. Try reframing your next goal as an intention instead of a resolution.
A resolution tends to bring up negative thoughts or feelings, where an intention focuses on creating more abundance in your life. By setting an intention, you don’t attach yourself to a specific outcome. It isn’t about being perfect, it’s about the journey to your SMART goals.
As with any great journey there will be ups, downs, lefts, rights and everything in between — but as long as you continue taking small steps, you will be following your intention to improve. Even if you fall short of your goal one day, you haven’t failed. It is simply another step along the journey.
Mistake 3. Setting Goals That Don’t Fit Your Schedule
It’s tempting to set a big goal, like to workout five days a week, or to make home-cooked meals everyday. We all want to dream big, right?
Dreaming big is great (and I encourage it!) but the reality is that you don’t reach big goals by taking giant leaps; you reach them by taking small steps and hitting mini goals consistently. And if your big goal doesn’t realistically fit into your current daily schedule, you’re not likely to stick to it.
Those of us with busy schedules — working full-time (and crushing it!), taking care of family members, and attempting to have a social life — often fall into the trap of setting goals that we don’t actually have time for. If you stay late at the office (or locked in your home office) most weekdays, you likely don’t have time to cook a meal let alone make food from scratch (and spoiler alert: that is okay!).
The Fix: Work with What You’ve Got
Perhaps you can set a goal to “spend two hours on Sundays prepping three meals for the week.” Or shop smart and purchase healthy prepared meals from the grocery store or a meal service.
Your goals need to fit into your schedule. If that means setting a goal to move 10 minutes a day in between meetings, to use your instant pot for quick and easy meals, or to buy healthy snack options to eat at your desk, then that’s the right goal for you!
Mistake 4. Repeating the Same Resolution
Do you have that one tricky resolution that you keep setting year after year, but never seem to make much progress?
If you have set the same resolution multiple years in a row, without finding success, this is a sign that something isn’t aligned between the goal you’ve set and your lifestyle.
The Fix: Find a Fresh Approach to an Old Goal
Challenge yourself this year to set a fresh goal, one you haven’t set before. If you still have the same aspiration (such as to exercise more, or to eat better) that is great — it just means that you need to find a new type of goal to set around this aspiration.
Let’s say that you’ve previously set a resolution to “eat healthy snacks at work” and you struggled to meet it, but you still want to improve your eating. This year, set a new goal to: “hire a nutrition coach for 6 months to improve my eating and food knowledge” or “take two healthy snack breaks per day during workdays.”
Looking for a fresh source of motivation for your health goals? To help kick start your 2021 the right way, join my exclusive Facebook Group: Be the CEO of Your Stress. When you join, make sure to introduce yourself and check out the Guides! You’ll find stress management tips, effective workouts, healthy recipes and recommendations for each meal of the day, guided yoga videos to help you begin your year with less stress and so much more. It may be the first step you need to refresh your healthy lifestyle routine!
Mistake 5. Ignoring the Mindset Factor
One subtle mistake I see often, that makes a big difference, is setting a health goal that focuses on your physical body without taking into account your mind.
If you have been going about your life without exercising during the week, what is going to get you to change that habit now? You cannot make a change in your life without also shifting the way that you think. Mindset is a key factor in achieving any health goal because your thoughts influence your actions (or, lack of action).
You may want to make a positive change, but find yourself getting in your own way once you start to see the amount of work and commitment that change will take. When something feels difficult, your mind tries to find excuses like “I’ll start next Monday,” “I am far too busy at work this week,” or “one more night of take-out isn’t really going to make a difference.” This happens to all of us. Fortunately, there are resources to help you combat the negative mindset, and build a mindset around growth and enjoying the journey toward your goals.
The Fix: Find a Good Coach
Working with a coach can be truly life changing. A coach is your cheerleader, confidant, and supportive mentor who will give you a kick in the a** when you need it ;)
A coach not only provides advice and accountability, but someone to talk to about the anxieties, struggles, or excuses that your mind tries to use to undermine your goals. Your coach can provide a fresh perspective, help you catch those mindset traps, and guide you into a more positive mindset to help you stay committed to the journey. A health coach is your personal wellness authority, available to help you feel your best and create a tailored wellness program just for you.
I am now accepting 5 new one-on-one client. I will be honoring my 2021 prices until January 31st so don't wait, and set up a no obligation 30 minute Clarity session with me today to discuss your goals!!
About the Author
Alexa Hanshaw is a health and stress management coach who helps women be the CEO of their stress. She empowers her clients to push past the confusion of the health and wellness industry to create lifestyle habits that bring them energy and work with their bodies instead of against it.
Join her free Facebook group, Be the CEO of Your Stress and follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Youtube for quick, easy & healthy tips on stress, health, fitness, nutrition, sleep, and how to stay mindful!