Choosing the right resolution makes all the difference

It’s the time of year when we hereby resolve to do something: lose weight, change careers, make more money, learn a language. That’s cool, because part of life is moving forward and improving ourselves.

Forward momentum gives us confidence and what psychologists call “self-efficacy,” or our belief in our own ability to do things — basically, to kick butt and take names. I find that self-efficacy has a snowball effect — the more you accomplish, the more you believe you can accomplish. I see it all the time with my training clients.

It isn’t cool when we give up on our goals and resolutions and get down on ourselves for being failures, yet again. That’s like the opposite of self-efficacy, when you look at everyone else’s fabulous life and start to believe you don’t deserve fabulousness. You do. You just have to teach yourself some new tricks to make it happen.

One of those tricks is to be specific about what you’re moving toward and — importantly — making it something you actually have control over. For instance, say your resolution is “start exercising” or “go to the gym.”

What does that mean, exactly? Those statements are kind of vague, aren’t they?

We need to nail those resolutions down so that they are quantifiable.

For illustration, here’s one of my 2013 resolutions. The reality is, I want to build up my shoulders and tighten my lower body for my upcoming competition season. But I really can’t measure that and assure that it will happen. Instead, I have resolved to complete at least 200 workouts during the year. For me, that’s an achievable goal, as it entails just under 4 workouts a week for 50 weeks (two weeks off!). Given the wacky nature of my vocation, which occasionally calls for unplanned workouts, that’s a realistic number.

What’s important to note is that this is a quantifiable, measurable goal — it’s based on some action that I specifically am going to take and, barring illness or injury, I am in full control of achieving.

Say you want to lose weight, and decide that you’re going to lose 10 pounds by Valentine’s Day. On paper, this looks pretty realistic. However, this kind of weight-loss goal can be tricky because you don’t necessarily have control over the scale. What you can control is your behavior — what you eat and how much exercise you get.

To lose 10 pounds in 8 weeks, you need to create a 625 calorie deficit per day (burn 625 calories more than you eat). (Here’s the math: 10 pounds equals 35,000 calories. Divide those calories into 8 weeks, and it comes down to 4,375 calories a week, or 625 a day.) So instead of trying to resolve what the scale is going to do, instead choose to use an online diet calculator like myfitnesspal.com to help create that deficit and voila! you’re making that resolution happen, whether the scale agrees or not.

I’m also cooking up some resolutions that have to do with writing (my book is coming out next month! yay!) and having fun.

What are you hoping to accomplish in 2013? What steps are you planning to take?

Wendy Watkins

About Wendy Watkins

Wendy Watkins is a Brewer-based personal trainer and author of The Complete Idiots Guide to Losing 20 Pounds in 2 Months. Visit her website at wendyfitness.com.