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New Years Resolutions - Yes or No?

It’s that time of year again. We are all focusing on our New Year’s resolutions. And with all the yummy goodies that we have been indulging in at parties and those Christmas lunches, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to work out that many of us have set our fitness and weight loss goals with this in mind.

But we do this every year, don’t we? And how often do we stick to our resolutions throughout the year? Probably never. Can you even remember what resolutions you set yourself for 2015? Thought not. But you’re not alone. And the problem doesn’t lie with you. The problem lies with how we set goals.

Traditional goal-setting doesn’t work. Yes, you did read that correctly. Traditional goal-setting is not the answer.

So what is the answer?

Systems Thinking. You need to replace goals with systems.

Just what exactly do we mean by systems thinking? It’s a bit like developing habits, but without aiming for a specific goal. Let’s use the all-too-familiar example of a weight loss goal to illustrate the difference.

So you’ve set yourself a goal of losing a specific amount of weight. All your focus is on that target weight loss. You come across a ‘scientifically proven’ fad diet that promises you will lose the weight in no time at all. Without even needing to exercise. It sounds great! You’re convinced that once this diet helps you shed those extra kilograms you will be transformed into someone who is attractive, accepted, confident, loveable, and happy. You’re so excited that this will work that you set yourself a gargantuan goal. This is, after all, what the latest fad promises. Every day you stick to your new restrictive diet, and jump on the scale with enthusiasm. All that matters is your goal (which is actually a narrow target weight).

What is the problem with this picture?

  • Your focus is so narrow that you’re ignoring the fact that this diet is probably not healthy, and definitely not sustainable.
  • It doesn’t allow you to accept and value yourself for who you are right now.
  • An unrealistic goal will inevitably lead to failure.
  • Only the goal counts as success. If you don’t achieve it, it’s labelled as failure, even if you did achieve some progress. It’s 100% achieved – or failure.
  • You want to reach your goal for the sake of it. You’re not making your long-term health and fitness your priority.
  • You have extrinsic motivation.
  • It doesn’t allow for external factors that could hamper progress towards your goal (such as an injury, illness, etc).
  • You have no long-term plan to sustain your weight loss, when (if) you achieve your goal.

So how would a systems approach differ?

Let’s use the same example to illustrate how a systems approach would work…

So you’ve set yourself a goal of losing weight and living a healthier lifestyle. You decide that Booty Camp will help with getting into the habit of regular exercise, and you can get advice about eating healthily too. After looking at your typical weekly schedule, you see where you can fit in Booty Camp sessions, and you sign up. You are a bit nervous, but you start attending Booty Camp regularly until it becomes a habit and something that you look forward to. As part of Booty Camp, you receive a nutritional meal plan/advice/recipe ideas to compliment your training. At the beginning, the end and also throughout your Booty Camp journey you will complete fitness assessment and you can see the results right before your eyes. Jumping on the scales is the icing on the cake!

What are the benefits of using systems?

  • You have a broad perspective and are open to other opportunities.
  • You accept yourself and make decisions out of healthy self-respect.
  • Your focus is on progress, not on a specific outcome.
  • All progress is recognised, no matter how small.
  • Your priority is on long-term health and fitness (the big picture).
  • You have intrinsic motivation.
  • You are patient with yourself and allow for external factors that could affect your progress.
  • This is a long-term plan about developing habits without a specific end goal.
  • Even though you haven’t actually set a weight loss goal, you will have more chance of actually losing the weight this way.
  • You don’t have the stress or burden associated with trying to achieve a goal or face failure.

Why you need systems in place

Implementing systems is all about developing habits. You can’t always rely on sheer willpower, so you need to have habits in place to make sure that you carry out what you planned. If you do it correctly, systems can build you natural inclinations to do certain things. So it can become your natural inclination to eat healthily and to exercise regularly. And that’s where you’ll find sustained long-term success. It’s all about enjoying the process, rather than focusing on one limited idea.

 

So must I never set New Year’s Resolutions?

You can still set goals, but rather do so in conjunction with systems. Set small achievable goals that emphasize progress, rather than a big daunting final goal. Why don’t you speak to us now about setting your first goal? And once you reach your first goal, set the next one. Your focus should still be on the ‘big picture’ rather than one specific goal. Always put systems in place to help you reach any goals that you do set. In other words, goals can help you to plan your systems, but it’s the systems that will actually get you there – and beyond. So when you’re setting your New Year’s resolutions, make sure they’re about implementing new healthy systems in your life that will set you up for long-term success.

 

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