It’s been almost two full weeks into the New Year, and I want 2016 to be the year people actually accomplish stuff. It doesn’t matter if it is getting your first pull-up, running your first muddy marathon, or learning to play that guitar that sits there unused since you bought it at that random garage sale. And the way you’re going to do that is by saying no to resolutions.

Most New Year’s resolutions are hallow ideas that could realistically be set any time of the year and if they actually mattered to you and could be started when you actually want to make a change. Things like….

“I’m going to exercise every day.”

“I’m going to start brushing my teeth more”

“I’m going to eat better.”

Let’s be honest, we know these things aren’t going to become habit right away yet we declare a random  goal, and then we look back at year’s end and realize we never really got out of the starting gate. Things come up, life gets busy and then the excuses start to creep their way in so you don’t feel so bad about yourself and things like…

Well I told myself I wanted to run more and eat better, and I was motivated for a few weeks, but then life got busy and it kind of faded away…Oops

..I bet that started sounding real familiar.

You need to stop with those “motivational” quotes / photos because in the end they don’t really help. Instead try to make a goal board, something where you constantly see where you want to end up and actually write a plan on how you are going to get there. Don’t get me wrong motivation / inspiration are a great way to get started on figuring out what you want to achieve but in the end it won’t do the work for you. Only you can do the work and end up with where you want to be.

That decision to sit on the couch instead of going for a run isn’t just a lack of building the habit of running — it’s reinforcing the habit of sitting on the couch. The decision to eat fast food rather than something healthy isn’t just a decision to not eat better, it’s reinforcing the behavior of eating junk food.

Our brains are a wonderful, strange and very complicated thing. It does however always look for the past of least resistance, and when you perform an activity over and over again, it requires less brain power to get you to do that thing. Do you remember how tough it was to drive a car for the first time? How nervous you would be and possibly over think every little action. Now it’s something you can do with very minimal thought and is almost second nature.

When you are looking to build a new habit, start by keeping the habit small and attainable. Make it black-and-white and don’t leave room for excuses: I did this/I did not do this. The smaller the daily goal the better. A five minute walk, five minutes of playing that guitar, or even writing every day even if it is only just 250 words. Once you achieve your daily goals they can then be turned into weekly goals and then grow again into monthly goals so on and so forth. I personally try not to set up my goals for over a month just because for me after the first month I will let some things slide and let excuses take over, having to start from square one all over again.

To help build your new habit so you are achieving your goals you need to put a reward/accountability system in place . A reward/accountability system that does two key things: increases the pain associated with skipping the new habit, and increases the pleasure associated with completing the habit.

You NEED to take the power away from your brain to say “meh, I can skip the run this one time” or “meh, I just don’t feel like it today. I’ll make up for it tomorrow.”

If you set up a reward / accountability system you can put things in place like…

If you go for a short 15 – 20min run every day for the next 4 weeks, you earn a new pair of running shoes

…or how about finally getting that fitness tracker you had your eye on or new guitar tuner. Things like this  encourages you to continue on with your goal. Reward yourself with things that reward you back and also keep you on track with your goals. Also it’s ok being hard on yourself, if you didn’t keep up with your goals YOU DON’T GET REWARDED. You wouldn’t pay someone for a job they didn’t do would you ?

It’s also very important to make our environments work for us not against us. Change things up in your home to either take away temptations or help break the reliance on them, for example try…..

Throwing out all junk food in your house.

Blocking time wasting websites on your computer or add a screen locking setting after so many minutes.

Take the TV out of your bedroom, getting a better nights sleep with help in your day to day life no matter what your goal is.

Putting your alarm clock across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off. If your alarm clock is your cell phone move your cell phone charger so you can’t lie in bed and check it.

Changing up your environment will let you then focus more on your goals, because once you make that first initial change you can then….

Only stock your fridge with healthy food.

Pack your gym bag and leaving it in the back of your car always so you can work out before work/after work. Or even leave it by the front door next to your purse / house keys so you can grab it as you’re leaving.

Buy a Kindle with guitar books loaded on it and bring it everywhere so you read more.

Screw relying on “willpower” you create your own success by structuring your life and making your own new routines. You can either do it by yourself or with a group of friends. If you can find a group of friends or even just one person who has the same goals as you use each other to keep the accountability in achieving said goals. Plus you can implement a “lazy” fee, simply tell one another that if we try pulling the “not today” excuse you then owe the other person something. It could be as simple as five dollars or build up to “You now owe me lunch“. Finding people who have the same goals or even similar ones (going to the gym more or loosing those last ten pounds can work hand in hand) is a great way to not only keep up your goals but keep an interest in making a real change.

My only last piece of advice would be use Google to your advantage. The internet it a wonderful thing if you let it be, it has many solutions to almost any goal. There are recipes galore, tips and tricks on how to take those first few steps, even forms / groups where you can ask advice (most of the time judgement free).

So good luck to everyone, I hope this helps you not only set some new goals for yourself but also keep them.

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