There’s something special about the start of a new year. No matter what happened before the ball dropped, January 1st marks a turning of the page, a clean slate— a start of a new chapter. So it’s no surprise that this time of year is filled with a special kind of enthusiasm, especially when it comes to our health and wellness goals.
But as many have experienced, the best of intentions don’t always yield success. “New Year’s resolutions often fail because they aren’t created with a strong framework,” says Orangetheory research scientist Brittany Leboeuf, PhD. “The resolutions are often lofty, and lack a short-term plan for how they will be achieved.”
That doesn’t mean this time of year can’t be a great opportunity for transformation. It simply means adjusting your approach is the best way to start a new year. Here are 4 powerful tips for the new year to kickstart your goals and create healthy behavior change that lasts throughout the year.
1. Look Forward.
Before you start changing your habits, it’s important to first check your attitude. “Setting goals and adjusting your mindset to be forward facing is really important,” says Leboeuf. “We have a tendency to view our past mistakes or failures as a measuring stick in our current situations. Practicing a growth mindset allows you to believe you can learn skills and become better at something over time.” Remember: the past is behind you. It will only affect your future if you let it. Leave it in the past, look forwad to the future, and kick off the new year right.
2. Think Smaller.
Instead of making a goal for the year, try setting a goal for the next few months. “Something like an 8-week challenge can set the tone for any health or fitness goal for the year,” says Leboeuf. Not only is the initial commitment not too overwhelming, but it also gives you a chance to test a new strategy and evaluate the initial results. “Sometimes, we learn things during the short-term that can be adjusted and better implemented in the long-term.” Not sure where to start? Consider signing up for Orangethoery’s annual Transformation Challenge beginning on January 22. Simply choose your goal—body fat loss or muscle gain—and join a community committed to adopting new habits and tackling their goals together over the course of 8 weeks.
3. Check Your Stress.
Stress is unavoidable. But it’s not all bad. Exercise, for example, is a physical stress that can produce a ton of positive health benefits—as long as your total stress is kept in check. “Physiologically, our bodies recognize stress from negative or positive situations as the same,” says Leboeuf. “When we are under high stress (regardless of the source) it can have negative impacts on our health and keep us from reaching our goals.” Use the start of the year to perform a quick stress audit: Identify the top three stressors in your life currently. Are there any steps you can take to make certain situations less stressful? By managing the stress in your daily life, you’ll help ensure that the stress caused by your workouts has the intended effect rather than setting you back, says Leboeuf.
4. Be Flexible.
New Year's resolutions are often fairly extreme and rigid: ”I’m going to stop eating sweets!” or “I’m going to work out 5 days a week!” Problem is, this kind of all-or-nothing mindset often backfires; cue the first candy bar or missed gym workout, and you’ve “failed.” When it comes to reaching your goals, consistency has a far better track record than perfection, says Leboeuf. (That’s why the Transformation Challenge, for example, asks participants to complete 3 workouts per week for 6 out of the 8 weeks.) “Life happens, and the important thing is that you continue to push towards your goals even when the circumstances aren’t ideal, like missing a week of class due to being sick or caring for a sick family member,” she says. “It might take months, years, or even decades to fully realize the investment you are making, but every little decision and behavior can add up over time."