New Year’s Resolutions and the Power of Smaller Steps

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New Year’s Resolutions and the Power of Smaller Steps

New Year’s Resolutions and the Power of Smaller Steps
The New Year is the closest we get to collectively hitting the “reset” button. January 1 st is
encouraged throughout the world to be the once a year moment when we are meant to pause
and reflect on the trajectory of our life with an equal focus on the past and future. The New
Year is special because it carves out time when the commotion of our schedules is put on
hold in exchange for the opportunity to reevaluate where we are and commit to the actions
that will take us to where we want to be.
Interestingly, this isn’t at all a new phenomenon. History tells us the tradition of celebrating the
New Year and making personal resolutions (defined as a firm decision to do or not do
something) began with the Babylonians over 4,000 years ago. Correlating with the springtime
planting of the year’s crops, the practice was done with the hope of pleasing the gods in order
to bring about a fruitful growing season. The Romans continued to evolve the tradition, adding
the month of January to the calendar (named after the latin word “ianua” - meaning a double
doored entrance) and establishing the 1 st as a time to offer sacrifices for the previous year’s
transgressions and make promises of good behavior for the year to come. Fast forward to our
contemporary world and, although we no longer make resolutions with the hopes of
influencing our agricultural forecast, the sentiment has remained largely unchanged.
Personally, my track record with New Year’s resolutions has been, until last year...awful. The
anxiety that comes with examining your own weaknesses and insecurities was always a
barrier to entry for me, and any resolutions I’d made were quickly exposed as superficial. The
frustration of what I perceived as failure would surface as soon as I realized my “quick fix”
approach to achieving the lofty goals I envisioned for myself was not working like I thought it
should. This typically lead to an underlying resentment of the very things I had just decided
were most important for me to address, and usually by February I had dismissed the goals all
together. Coached by an inner voice that told me I wasn’t capable of creating the changes I
knew would most significantly improve my life, I would reflect back and see the same patterns
keeping me from where I wanted to be. I was the perpetual victim of as many circumstances
as I needed to justify to myself why I was living my life in idle towards my goals. Excuses
were plentiful and my focus tended to be towards external things I couldn’t control. Each year
loftier promises were made, washed down with plenty of alcohol and an endless list of
reasons this was the time everything would be different.
Rinse. Repeat.
Any tradition that has withstood a several thousand year test of time must hold some sort of
universal significance, though... something about setting New Year’s resolutions has the
potential to strike a chord somewhere deep. The underlying truth is that we all have at least
one thing in our life WE KNOW could be better that is currently being swept under the rug.
Common themes people gravitate towards are improving their health, career, or relationships
with others. For me, it had always been about improving my physical and mental health. An
unhealthy relationship with food and, at times, alcohol, left me overweight and self conscious.
A lack of ability to maintain my fitness outside of competitive and/or unsustainable sports
meant I often found myself with low energy, too out of shape to really experience life the way I
wanted.
So what was I, and the estimated 90% of people who fail to keep their resolutions, missing?
It turns out that, for me, success was the result of having two things:
1. A realistic, measurable goal.
2. A well thought out plan of action.
By realistic, I mean that the goal had to be achievable within a time domain short enough
that I felt confident in my commitment to see it through. Sure, I wanted to be as lean and
ripped as the Crossfit Games athletes I followed on Instagram, but had that been my initial
goal (as it was most years in the past) I would have fallen off the wagon far before I found
success. For me, a realistic goal I could actually achieve was important because the feeling of
accomplishment created momentum. I was able to find confidence in my ability to make
progress by being willing to accept that the change I desired would come much slower than I
would have ideally liked. By worrying less about the time frame attached to results, I was able
to enjoy the process instead of resenting it. (and still enjoy it even a year later) My goal
started with completing the nutrition challenge and putting forth my best effort to win. The
challenge provided me the ability to measure my progress. The daily food logs kept me
accountable and the body fat testing was number data that my pessimistic inner voice with
couldn't argue with even if I didn’t see the changes I wanted in the mirror. I found confidence
in knowing that if I was honest with myself and the coaches the results would come.
The nutrition challenge is designed perfectly in this regard, rewarding truthful participation
instead of day to day results. Accountability points I would earn for logging my food were baby
steps, but over the duration of the challenge these small steps added up to awesome results.
Had I not had these micro victories designed to keep me motivated I would have likely felt
discouraged and thrown in the towel. The biggest lesson that the challenge taught me is that
consistency is paramount when it comes to achieving my fitness goals. Some days my food
logs perfectly followed the plan that Troy had laid out as a blueprint for success and other
days I was way off. Having faith in the big picture and submitting my answers honestly I was
able to let go of my assumptions and trust the process. The support system that comes built
into the challenge was also hugely beneficial. Even in a crossfit box like Troy where it’s not
hard to find people who genuinely want you to succeed, finding someone that’s interested in
what you had for lunch isn’t realistic. The camaraderie found from participating in the
challenge, however, created a network I could look to for encouragement and celebrate
success with.
Participating in the nutrition challenge was the catalyst for huge changes in my life the last
year. I started with a small goal and a willingness to trust the process and came out of the
experience with so much more than the results I initially sought. I found confidence that I was
capable of creating the changes that had been most difficult for me in the past and learned to
accept that the results worth working towards will always take at least twice as long as I would
like. I left the challenge feeling like a ball rolling downhill; the momentum was real because I
put in the work and had something to celebrate. The limiting beliefs I had told myself since I
was young were shattered and lofty goals that used to feel beyond my reach now feel within
my grasp.
New Year’s resolutions are as realistic as the plan you have in place to reach the goals you
desire. Whether you are looking specifically to lose weight or not, I have no doubt that the
confidence and momentum you will find from starting the new year with a victory you can feel
proud of will positively impact you far beyond your waistline. Thank you all for being such an
amazing community, I feel so proud to call such hard working and positive group of people my
friends and I can’t wait to watch everyone smash their goals this year.
All The Best,
Ethan