This article was inspired by my favourite read of the year Atomic Habits by James Clear.
The New Year is known for fresh starts, hangovers and goal setting in the form of the infamous New Year’s Resolution.
We’ve all hear the statistics, and experienced it ourselves… Only 8% of us will achieve our New Years Resolution, with 80% of us already having ‘failed’ by the second week of February.
Yet every year, we sit down, give ourselves a pep-talk and tell ourselves ‘this year will be different’.
We’re going to lose weight, get fit, and look and feel amazing.
But if you’re relying on motivation to help you achieve your goal, you’re likely going to find yourself in the 92% again.
So why won’t motivation help you achieve your goals, and what can you rely on?
Well… there’s a study that explains just that.
A 2001 study of 248 people split the participants into three groups and studied their exercise habits over two weeks.
The first group was the control group. They simply had to track how often they exercised.
The second group was the motivation group. They had to track their workouts, read some material on the benefits of exercise, and had the researchers explain to them how exercise could reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and improve their heart health.
The third group was the planning group. Whilst they received the same presentation from the researchers as the second group they were also asked to create a specific plan for when and where they would exercise over the following week by completing and writing the following sentence: “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [day] at [time] in [place].”
In the control and motivation groups, 35-38% of people exercised at least once per week, whilst in the planning group, 91% exercised at least once per week. That’s double the rate of the first two groups!
By simply writing down a plan that stated exactly when and where they intended to exercise, the participants in the third group doubled their changes of following through and achieving their goal.
So whilst motivation appears to have no significant effect on exercise behavior, let’s face it, most of us want to exercise more, lose weight, and look great, those of us wanting to really make an exercise habit stick can give ourselves the advantage by following the example of the planning group… get pen and paper and write it down.
I mean, how many of us really do this? I know I’ve convinced myself multiple times over the years that just knowing it will be enough… I was wrong.
Don’t Write Your Goals Down
But I hear many of you saying, “I write my New Years Resolutions down every year and they still don’t come true”. Well, that’s where I think most of us get it wrong.
We get the pen and paper part right, but it’s what we do next that leads to our unravelling.
We right down goals such as “I’m going to eat healthier” or “I’m going to exercise more”, but we never say when and where we’re going to do these things.
Why, well, perhaps it gives us an out? Or perhaps we truly do hang on the hopes that we’ll “find the right time” or “the motivation” will finally magically appear.
We leave it up to chance and hope that we will “just remember to do it” or feel motivated at the right time. An implementation intention sweeps away foggy notions like “I want to work out more” or “I want to be more productive” or “I should vote” and transforms them into a concrete plan of action.
That’s why it’s so important to clearly specify a plan for when and where you will perform a habit that we wish to accomplish, rather than simply writing a list of vague desires we’d like to occur.
The One Thing
So, if you really want to nail 2019, grab and pen and paper and write down the following sentence:
- I will [behaviour] at [time] in [location].
Say you want to exercise more… you could write “I will lift weights for 45 minutes at 5:00pm at my gym” or “I will go for a 20 minute run at 7am every morning around my neighbourhood”.
Perhaps you want to eat healthier… you could write “I will meal-prep my lunches for the week at 12pm on Saturday in my kitchen” or “I will write a healthy grocery list on paper at 9am on Wednesday in my kitchen”.
By making the action so clear and specific, overtime it is more likely to become a habit, just like brushing your teeth, sitting down to watch tv at the end of a work day or calling your Mum every Sunday night to say hi.
By defining where and when you’ll be performing an action, you’ll not only double your chances of following through, but be able to build positive new habits by taking the need for motivation and willpower out of the equation.
So if you’d like to succeed in 2019 and become happier, healthier, fitter and more confident, become part of the Konquer Fitness community and receive weekly updates on the latest tips, advice and knowledge to help you hit all your health and fitness goals.
Struggled with achieving your New Year’s Resolutions in the past? Found a method or tool that worked well for you? I’d love to know more about your experience… Leave me a comment below and let me know!