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So you say you want a resolution?

Judging by the gash on this guy's face, he really must know what he's doing. Photo by Adele van Wyk

Yesterday I was at the gym and I saw two weird things: 1) Some guy lifting weights in a pair of Timberlands, and 2) a small, portly gentleman squatting while doing bicep curls so rapidly I think he must have torn his rotator cuffs. I’ve never seen these guys before, and in a few months, I’ll likely never see them working out again.

That’s because it’s January, meaning for the next two months I won’t be able to find a spare bench, elliptical machine or free weights in my gym, as throngs of people will be descending on Goodlife to fulfill their New Year’s resolutions.

Now, I don’t really have a problem with my gym becoming popular (as long as people stop wearing those stupid Animal t-shirts). What I do have a problem with is that, come March, my gym is going to be empty, as resolutions give way to the cold, hard reality that losing weight kind of sucks and is hard and takes time.

According to the Globe and Mail’s Leslie Beck, research shows that by February most people “lose steam” while trying to complete their resolutions, and that by June they’re likely to completely break their promise.

North Americans seem to love making New Year’s resolutions, especially between the ages of 18 to 24, according to Steven Shapiro, a motivational speaker and author of *Goal-Free Living*. In a random study commissioned by Shapiro, 45 per cent of Americans set New Year’s Resolutions, with only eight per cent succeeding in their goals.

This suggests some startling facts: Americans are really self-aware of their shortcomings, and they will likely fail at accomplishing any resolutions they set.

The problem isn’t that  humans are inherently lazy and find it hard to accomplish goals (though that is probably somewhat true); the problem lies in the way we go about trying to better ourselves, and in the word “resolution” in general.

I hate to sound like a first-year bachelor of arts essay introduction, but according to Google’s dictionary application, a resolution is “A firm decision to do or not do something.” Common resolutions such as saving money (a resolution made by 34 per cent of Americans), losing weight (38 per cent), or some other vague form of self-improvement through hard work and education (47 per cent) occupy the majority of North Americans’ goals in the New Year.

But that doesn’t really explain how to go about making any sort of concrete change in your life. All that really says is that you would like to accomplish a certain thing.

For instance, my New Year’s resolution this year was to be healthier and stronger (yeah, I’m one of those guys). But that doesn’t necessarily mean I know how to accomplish those goals.

That’s why, contrary to self-help speakers like Shapiro (who argues a less goal-oriented approach to New Year’s resolutions, and one based on general themes such as being happy and successful), I think it’s possible to complete our vain resolutions of looking sexier or eating healthier or finally getting a girlfriend. We just can’t look at them as vague resolutions anymore—we have to look at them as concrete plans.

To sound like a second-year bachelor of arts student writing an essay (still making grand, sweeping judgments, but with better sources), Merriam-Webster defines the word plan as “a method for achieving an end”.

Don’t simply decide to eat healthier without doing any research on how you’re going to accomplish it. Make a detailed list of what you plan to do. Buy some new cookbooks, read up on healthy eating tips and plan ahead with meals.

The same goes for working out. Are you going to get a personal trainer or construct your own workout from a book (I recommend the life changing Core Performance series by Mark Verstegen), or are you going to just simply run into a gym and randomly pump weights on nautilus machines while wearing a pair of boots?

So, this New Year, make a resolution to do away with resolutions and actually make a concrete plan to accomplish your goals.

There’s nothing wrong with being goal-oriented. I mean, the highest selling book this holiday season was the Steve Jobs biography. Do you think that guy simply made a resolution to change the world? No, he planned out his attack. That’s the only real way to succeed.


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