Did you go to the gym in the last week?
If so, you probably noticed every single cardio and weight machine taken up by eager beavers working hard on their New Year’s resolutions to “work out more!” and “get healthy!” Who knows, maybe even the buried-in-the-back free weight section is busier than usual!
Well, what’s a Rebel to do in this situation?
Give it two weeks and everything will be back to normal, as most people will have already abandoned their goals for the year.
Here’s the problem with 99% of New Year’s resolutions: They suck.
If you were one of the millions (AND MILLIONS!) of people out there who woke up last week and made a list of things you’re going to change about yourself this year, keep reading. Today you’re going to learn why New Year’s resolutions are bogus and how you can ACTUALLY follow through with your goals for the year.
The typical New Year’s resolution is centered around performance or appearance goals:
For starters, these goals only address the outer layers of personal development – our performance or appearance. This is kind of like treating the symptoms instead of addressing the underlying issue. In order to have the best chance for lasting success and permanent behavior change, consider digging even deeper: ask who you are and who you want to be. Change your identity!
No, I don’t mean witness protection.
I mean addressing your goals at the most basic level.
My buddy James Clear wrote a FANTASTIC article on this subject recently. One paragraph in particular jumped out at me:
Your current behaviors are simply a reflection of your current identity. What you do now is a mirror image of the type of person you believe that you are (either consciously or subconsciously).
To change your behavior for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself.
Remember Joe? The Rebel who dropped 128 pounds in 10 months? When he started out, he didn’t set grand goals and make sweeping declarations about what he was going to accomplish. He simply gave himself an identity change: “I am the type of person who makes healthy eating decisions and never misses a workout.”
From that point on, Joe LIVED his identity change. Hell, he didn’t even step on a scale for six months, he just put his focus on being the person that makes healthier eating decisions and NEVER misses a workout…that’s who the new Joe was, and that’s what the new Joe does.
Not surprisingly, 10 months later, Joe’s outer appearance reflected his new identity.
When you set a new identity for yourself, every other decision you make becomes easier – it’s either part of who you are or it’s not. If you’re the type of person now that “never misses a workout,” guess what you’ll be doing tomorrow morning instead of sleeping in? Working out!
Once you’ve identified who you want to be (your new identity), pick teeny tiny goals (which we’ll cover below) to show that you CAN be that person.
What happened last week doesn’t matter, because that was the old you. The new you is who you want to be. Now here’s how to live it.
When people set out to change their lives, they make a list that looks something like this:
Do you see the big problem with this list? There’s too many of them!
Humans are pretty smart S.O.B.’s, but we’re also very resistant to change. The body you’ve built and the life you lead is a result of years and years of habit building, both good and bad. The second you want to build a new habit or change an old one, your brain needs to start working hard to complete ‘unusual tasks.’
We only have a finite amount of brain willpower that we can dedicate to new habits and tasks; when we try to change too much at once, our brain gets overwhelmed and we give up in the face of the slightest amount of adversity.
This is why you do SOOOOO WELL for two weeks with your ten changes, and then fall off the wagon after missing just one day.
The solution: Don’t overwhelm your body with new changes. Do less. To quote the all-knowing (and burned out) Kunu, “the less you do, the more you do.” Pick ONE thing this month and work on it. Or maybe two. As you learn these new habits, you’ll learn that other changes start to happen automatically. Momentum rules!
Every New Years we love to make grand, sweeping declarations:
Setting ambitious goals is admirable, it means you’re aiming for the stars. And stars are pretty. Unfortunately, goals like these are totally setting you up to fail.
And here’s why: Things will go great for a few days, or maybe even a week or two. However, with big, non-specific goals, life eventually gets in the way and these types of thoughts will creep into your head:
At some point, you may even utter the phrase, “I don’t have time to ______,” to which I would reply, “liar, liar, pants on fire.”
The solution: Set goals that are so freaking simple and small that completing them every day is almost too easy:
“But Steve, those goals seem way too easy!” I know, my dear Rebel friend, that’s the point! When you’re building habits, you need to make your habit goals so stupidly simple that there are literally ZERO excuses as to why you’d skip them. On top of that, if you set the goal for five or ten minutes, you’ll often find that you end up continuing for longer. And on days when you’re incredibly busy, you can just do the five minutes.
Completing the action every day for a whole month is how habits are built and resolutions kept!
Let’s take a look at that long list above again:
Can you see the other problem here? Every item on that list is about as nebulous as the Super Mario Cloud above! There’s no way to tell if you’re succeeding or failing. It’s like getting a half-smiley face on your report card instead of an A+ or a B-. What the hell does that mean? How much do I need to improve!?
The solution: Be specific so that you can measure your progress and check off a box that says “I completed this task today.”
What gets measured, gets improved. The more specific you can be in your goals (habit change), the easier it is for you to say “yes, I did this” or “no, I did not do this.” When it’s vague and nebulous, there’s all sorts of wiggle room for you to rationalize, “well, I kinda did it!” or “I tried at least.”
When it’s “YUP!” or “NOPE!” it’s easier to follow through.
When you gave up on your New Year’s resolution last year, what happened?
Probably nothing! You looked back a few months later and said, “oh yeah, remember when I said I was going to do ________. Oh well!”
There was no accountability when you gave up, which meant there was no real drive for you to succeed other than “you wanted to be better.”
Remember my friend Saint? He had made the goal that he was going to get to single digit body fat percentage dozens of times before. Then, he just DID it. How? By telling everybody he knew, “If I don’t accomplish this goal by my wedding, then I will pay my friends $500.”
Suddenly, faced with the prospect of failing miserably (and making his friends $500 richer), Saint shut up, stopped complaining, and started taking daily steps towards the new Saint.
Right now, the pain of skipping your new habit is minimal compared to the joy associated with skipping it: ”Why go do [exercise] and be tired when I can sit here and watch Arrested Development!”
Flip the scenario, and make it more ‘painful’ to skip the workout instead of just doing it:
Finally, I want to address support and assistance.
Changing habits and behavior is difficult (as you’ve probably figured out from this article), which is why you should use every trick in the book to help you get there: friends, a calendar, your phone, your significant other, even bribery. Whatever works to get you to stick with it until your actions become automatic behavior:
You’re not in this alone, friend. We have a few thousands of Rebels who are here to support you, but you need to want this for yourself, and you need to be smart about how you approach it.
Want to know one of my favorite things about all of the success stories I’ve featured on Nerd Fitness?
NONE OF THEM STARTED THEIR JOURNEY ON JANUARY 1st.
They all woke up on some random day, and decided “Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Let’s do this.”
Now, if you DID happen to start on January 1st, that’s totally fine. It can also be the first day of the rest of your life.
Just make sure you approach your goals the right way:
If you’re looking to change something about yourself this year, but understand that a single, nebulous “resolution” may not be the best way to go, you’re in luck!
Today we are launching the next 6-Week Challenge on the Nerd Fitness Message Boards!
It’s 100% free to join and costs nothing to participate. Check it out if you are struggling with a change and need an extra something to keep you motivated and accountable. Hundreds and hundreds of rebels join us each month – see you on there!
I would LOVE to hear what your new identity and teeny tiny goals are. Leave a comment below.
And then get started!
PS - Want to know my identity goal for the new year? For the entirety of my life, I have always been late to everything - I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve been on time. I hate this about myself. For this reason, I’ve recently decided to change my identity: I’ve stuck post it notes all over my apartment that say “I am NEVER late to anything.” I’ve even changed my Twitter bio from “I’m fifteen minutes late to everything” to “I am never late to anything.”
I’ve also picked two tiny goals for the next thirty days:
PPS – One final reminder for the start of the next 6-Week Challenge on the Nerd Fitness Message Boards!