Intentions Into Action

Fred is a VP at a software company.  Fred is 47, out of shape and says he wants to lose 15 pounds.  The same 15 pounds as last year and the year before that . . . and the year before that.  He likes his cookies.  Exercise and vegetables not so much.

With the fresh start of a new year, Fred was feeling optimistic and energized on January 1st. His list of New Year’s resolutions was long, lofty, and included losing weight. He does this every year – often with the same resolutions.

He sets himself up for failure and disappointment.  Every time.

He isn’t unusual.  About 40% of Americans make resolutions (60% plan to) and they tend to be health-oriented like losing weight, exercising more, or both.  Too often, they are overly ambitious, a bit vague and have no structure to support the action to realize them.

My suggestion to people like Fred is to winnow down the list and be specific.

While there might be many things Fred wants to do this year and that’s fine, today I am asking you: what is the one thing that you absolutely want to accomplish by the end of the year.  What is it and why does it matter? It will help to have an underlying reason that is bigger than the visible goal itself.

So, rather than:  I want to lose weight – I guess, because I should. . .

Instead, how about: I want to be healthy so I’m sure to see my sweet 13-year old daughter Barbara graduate/get married/have children and be an active grandparent.

It’s also helpful to mentally phrase the intention as a positive.  Instead of: I don’t want to be fat anymore.  Substitute:  I see myself as 15 pounds lighter and physically fit.

To increase the odds of success, make it a SMART goal, write it down, and then share it with another person.

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Resonant (or Realistic), and Time-bound.

So, in this case a SMART goal could be: I will exercise for one hour between 6 am and 7 am Tuesday through Friday so I can lose 15 pounds by June 30 and then maintain that lower weight.

It also increases your odds if you: 1) write it down; and 2) share it out loud with someone you trust.  Declare your intention and surrender to accountability.

7b90fc27-0afa-41f0-a9a5-2317ce316d0f.jpgPlus, how you start makes all the difference.  How long do people actually stick with their new plans?

The Statistic Brain Research Institute says:

  • Through the first week, only 73% are still at it
  • Past two weeks – 68%
  • Past one month – 58%
  • Past six months – 45%

Gyms that sell annual memberships are all too aware of these numbers.

Those stats show that the first week is critical.  Only 7 days in, more than a quarter have given up.  After two weeks, about a third have stopped.

But, after that, the falloff levels out. So, after a month, 58% are still at it and after six months, 45% are.

It’s clear that the first steps are critical.  I suggest that people like Fred give themselves relatively easy goals to start and then gradually make it more challenging.  Early wins are crucial to staying motivated. Fred might start by exercising two times a week for 30 minutes and build from there.

Back to you: what’s that one thing you really want accomplish, this year?