The long but (hopefully) effective way to make a New Year's Resolution.

Every year I hog wash New Year’s Resolutions – because I know the data (somewhere in the vicinity of 90% of New Year’s Resolutions fail. Hashtag depressing.) And I know that in the past, I have most probably-definitely-absolutely contributed to those ‘fail’ stats.

But there is something about a crisp new diary, a blank page on the calendar and a little down time in the day-to-day chaos that begs one to consider the possibilities of change for the year ahead.  So, despite my resolute mind to not make New Year’s Resolutions, I do find myself mulling over the oyster of my world that January 1 seems to promise.

With almost-40-years of wisdom behind me, a bit of time in the health and fitness industry (where I’ve witnessed the rise and fall of many a new year resolution) and my experience as a Wellness Coach, I do end up throwing a resolution out there, but not without some solid work behind it.

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1.       Know your goal

It kind of goes without saying but know what it is that you’d like to achieve in the year ahead. Me? Cliché I know, but I’d like to lose a bit of weight. (I’d also like to maybe become a little more minimalistic with my clothes, but let’s just workshop one for now).

2.       But more importantly, know your reason why.

This is the step that most people skip, but it is the most important – because it is what will drive you to do the behaviours that are required to meet your goal.

To find the real why behind your goal (sorry, “Because I feel ‘yuck.’” won’t cut it), try doing what I call the Almost-Endless-Because.

Here’s mine: I want to lose weight because…

I want to fit into my wetsuit (and I can’t justify forking out the money to buy another one) because…

If I can fit into my wetsuit, I can do another triathlon and I really want to do another triathlon because…

I love the training that comes with triathlon. It feels like a really nice balance of cross training. I find swimming pretty therapeutic, I love riding (and if I ride more, I can spend more time with my Dad who also loves getting out on the bike) and running is something that really challenges me, but something I want to keep in my regime for as long as possible because…

I want to stay as fit and healthy for as long as I can, doing as many physical activities as I can. I’m not worried so much about body size, I just want to be able to keep active right into old age because…

One of my grandmothers died in her early eighties. She was hospitalised for a few years before her death. It broke my heart to see her decline physically and mentally.  My other grandmother lived independently until she was 97. I’d like to stay fit, able and avoid major surgery and disease and live to 100.


It’s a pretty deep, right? From losing weight, to fitting into a wetsuit, to doing a triathlon, to spending more time with my Dad, to living independently until I get a letter from the queen. (NB: You don’t necessarily need to keep adding on “because’s” until you come to death, but at least until some of your true values start to appear).

Finding this kind of “why” gives a significant and emotional attachment to the initial goal. It makes it more personal and certainly packs a punch around my headspace when I go to grab a chocolate bar on my way through the checkout.

3.       Make your goal pretty loose, but your behaviours pretty tight.

About now, the initial goal/resolution will go on the back burner – and that’s a good thing. What you want to keep at front of mind is your “why” and your “how”.

Achieving something is done through a series of small behaviours practised consistently. Define the behaviours you need to and can do consistently. Be specific and realistic about them (most people know the “SMART” principal of goal setting – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.  But to keep make it even more simple, I love the quote from Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”)

The behaviours I will practice to help me reach my goal will be:

-          Only have one “in between meals” snack per day and make it low in carbs/sugar (my nemesis!)

-          Have 2 sources of protein at each meal (I’m a pescatarian) and 3 serves of vegetables at lunch and dinner, at least 5 days per week.

-          Hit a target of drinking 2-3ltrs of water per day.

-          Swim 1km twice a week.

-          Run three times a week.

-          Cycle once a week.

-          Weight train twice a week.

-          Pilates once a week.

If I was coaching someone through this process, I’d be challenging my client to get more specific about each of these behaviours eg: what snacks will they have, what protein sources will they use, what vegetables they will eat, what days and times will they train etc – and I’ve done that for myself, but I’ll skip that for you the reader because: snore.

4.       Call out your obstacles

Just because you know your goal, you’re connected to your deep seeded “why” and you know what behaviours you have to do, doesn’t mean you’re home and hosed. It sucks b*lls, but obstacles can still trump motivation and best laid plans. Hence the reason that most New Year’s Resolutions are a carbon copy of the year before.  

Call out your obstacles. Get the butchers paper out (notepad/whiteboard/something more techy – whatever) and just dump down every possible thing that might get in the way of you practicing your behaviours. Imagine you are holding a torch and that torch is your goal, and every damn pain-in-the-arse obstacle is a moth. What comes towards it? For me some of my obstacles are:

-          3pm cravings. I snack like an absolute hero at 3pm.

-          I love sugar. Chocolate covered anything, specifically.

-          All my energy goes into my clients, leaving zippo for me and my grand exercise ideas.

-          I snack when I am tired. And I get tired a lot.

-          I snack when I procrastinate. And I procrastinate a lot.

-          Time. Remember I said in the intro it’s easy to make fab resolutions when you don’t know what day of the week it is. Fast forward to February and when exactly am I going to fit that ride and those swims in?

-           #mumlyfe. Okay, so I can do all the behaviour things, but when ah’ shall I cook the family a meal or hang out with them?

There’s at least a dozen more [pages]. But you get the picture. Dump your obstacles down.  Stare them in the face.

5.       Grab hold of your strengths

Now you know your mothy little obstacles, what ammunition have you got to zap them when they crop up? Really dig down to work out what your strengths are. In the Wellness Coaching world, this can be a bit of a process (and this post is already way longer than I had intended – are you still there?) but think about what you are good at – in any situation – as well as the resources and support you have around you. And be prepared to use it.

I’m good at

-          Time management

-          Writing exercise plans (phew, that’s lucky)

-          Being social

-          Being resourceful

-          Exercising regularly

-          Prepping and eating healthy meals

-          Making my own healthier-than-cadburys-chocolate

-          Powernapping

I have

-          A good home gym

-          A very willing, helpful and supportive husband

-          A good bike

-          Access to a pool

-          A great network of running friends

-          Refillable drink bottle (#mindblown I know)


6.       Give your obstacles a strong buddy

Pull out that butchers’ paper again and next to each of your obstacles, write an antidote – based on your strengths/resources/support – next to it.


Obstacle: Need to spend time with family.   

Antidote: Use my time management to combine a family swim with a training swim.

Obstacle: 3pm hero-snacker.

Antidote: I have a great home gym. Make my weight training time or my bike ride time, 2:45pm

Obstacle: Procrasta-snacker (OMG new term – make it viral)

Antidote: When procrastinating, fill up drink bottle. Drink water.

Obstacle: Eat when Tired.

Antidote: Take a powernap.

You get the picture? I love this bit. I can virtually heat the pow! Pow! Pow!s coming off the page.


7.       Write it all down.

Now let’s bring that baby home.  It’s important that you write it all down. Writing stuff down has some psychological-come-magical power. (No jokes, even writing this blog has sent my motivation for this goal sky high. It has incidentally, also make me need to go to loo multiple times because I have been procrastinating, so: drinking loads of water.).

In a tidy little package, here’s my new New Year’s Resolution (which for the astute amongst you, will notice that it is less about my goal and more about my motivations, actions and strengths. Boom.)

In 2019 I will lose weight because I want to fit in my wetsuit so that I can do a triathlon. Doing a triathlon is important to me because I really enjoy the cross-training component and it will give me an opportunity to spend time with my Dad and it will help keep me fit, healthy, active and independent into old age.

In 2019, I will achieve this because I will cut back on sugary/high carb snacks. I know that I am most vulnerable at 3pm, so will schedule weight training in my home gym at this time or go for a ride. 

I am good at planning and preparing healthy meals, so will make sure that I continue to eat meals that are high in protein, healthy fats and combined with a wide variety of vegetables. If my chocolate cravings hit, I’ll have some home-made chocolate in the freezer for emergencies!

When I am procrastinating, I’ll drink water instead of reaching for snacks. When I am tired, I’ll schedule in a 20-minute powernap.  

I enjoy exercise, have my own home gym, can write my own programs and am good at time management, so I will have a regular schedule for swimming, running, riding, resistance training and pilates but will be willing to make them shorter sessions when I am pressed for time, or I will combine them with family activities when I need to.

You can see this process is a little more detailed that the traditional thrown-to-the wind New Years Resolution, but more personal, powerful and effective.

I hope anyway.

If not, WTB: wetsuit.