Only 6% of New Year’s resolutions are a success. In simple terms New Year’s resolutions don’t work because we underestimate how long it takes to kick a bad habit. Popular wisdom suggests 21 days but habit research suggests that the reality is that it takes up to 66 days for a new habit to become automatic.
Most resolutions focus on a big change- these big shifts require multiple small habits or processes to occur consistently for success to be found. Typically this is a case of not being able to see the wood for the trees as the overall goal dwarves the small important processes that are needed for change and you stop focussing upon the small things that will help you achieve your goals. Ultimately this leads to being demotivated as the overall goal is too vast to achieve as success is to slow to come by. In the age of instant gratification the thought of waiting for anything for a period of time makes people feel uncomfortable. Even though we know that deep down that a 6 minute abs programme won’t give you a six pack the first time you do it we don’t even consider that if performed 66 days in a row you will be quite a bit closer to your overall goal.
Now lets get one thing straight. Your overall goal is important. They key to tearing your 200kg deadlift off the floor or to fit in to your new jeans are genuine goals. Focussing upon them without a plan though makes them more like haphazard dreams. These goals provide the strong reason or your “why” for starting. Success is the sum of your whole efforts. Intention is great to get you started as it aids your initial motivation but to achieve your goals you will need to focus upon the concept of consistently performing multiple habits that lead to your overall target. These multiple habits could be termed processes or process goals.
When it comes to setting your process goals they need to be achievable, practical and they need to repeatable. Being able to measure success is also important. For instance- you can measure gym attendance or the number of training sessions you perform every month. You can set a target to prepare a packed lunch daily or eat a sensible breakfast of your choice that is congruent with your goals. What is key is that these processes are repeatable and their achievement is inline with your overall goal achievement.
What if you don’t perform these processes? Simply, you will fail in achieving your overall goal if your other behaviours are not aligned with your overall target. At this point you have to consider that are your overall goals important enough to you or are the processes you need to perform to achieve your goal actually achievable or repeatable. The easiest way to avoid this is to break your target down in to the key areas that need to be initially performed.
For example goals for weight loss may look like this:
Exercise- Goal: Do some.
Nutrition- Goal: Eat healthier meals.
If we make these goals more specific and process orientated we can start start to quantify these processes:
Exercise- Goal: Exercise 3 x a week.
Nutrition- Goal: Eat a calorie controlled breakfast and lunch.
From here we might start to build more depth to these processes:
Exercise- Goal: Resistance train 2-3 times a week, get 10,000 steps a day, aim to increase the weight used during squats.
Nutrition- Goal: Eat a protein source at every meal, eat a fistful of carbohydrates at every meal to control portion size, drink 2 litres of water a day to manage hunger.
As you can see in the third example we have depth to our goals and they will form the backbone for your overall plan of success. This is the same regardless of your goal. By adding more detail we are also applying a more thought out approach to goal achievement. Understanding that each of these behaviours is important helps you to avoid being overwhelmed by your initial target and it also provides a more constructive set of targets by breaking down the overall goal in to smaller constituents. Starting towards a target is important but quantifying the steps towards your target helps maintain motivation, helps you achieve process goals throughout the process and allows you to celebrate small wins as you progress.