Instead of Making Crazy Fitness Resolutions, Try This Approach

Claire Fountain—celebrity yoga teacher, personal trainer, and wellness expert—founded #TrillYoga with her unorthodox approach to breaking stigmas and stereotypes in the yoga and wellness space. Since getting into yoga for depression and anxiety, she has always been a mental health advocate beyond all her fitness endeavors. She also has an e-book series, Built and Bendy, that promotes strength training, flexibility, mindfulness, and positivity-led health goals.

New Year’s resolutions get a bad name, mostly because no one actually keeps them. They are also easy to bash for that very reason. There is a societal expectation to make a resolution, yet if we don’t succeed in these actions or behaviors that are supposed yield better version of ourselves, how do we feel? Many avoid the fallout and just don’t make resolutions. Others try and try again. And others still just roll their eyes at the whole thing. I don’t make resolutions, but I also do not think they are inherently bad.

I think the way we think about them can be, though.

There is nothing wrong with trying to better ourselves. It’s admirable, even. The problem is we could be setting ourselves up for failure without even realizing it. Here, I’m going to break down why this happens and give some alternative resolutions—or intentions or goals or future life mapping, all titles I think are better than “resolutions”—that could fill you as we close 2017 and begin a new 2018.

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Forget the date

Every year I’m asked about resolutions—which ones to make, how can we keep them. I don’t make resolutions. However, I do a time for reflection on my birthdays, and we can treat resolutions much the same way. So forget the dates. Any day is a good day to decide to make better choices for yourself. This will also take off the pressure and comparison that New Year’s resolutions can carry as everyone is making them, but the question of who will keep them starts to creep in. Self-improvement, in any facet of your life (spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical), is a personal journey and timeline.

Change the name

Maybe the term resolution carries too much weight. Switch it to an intentions list, some short- and long-term goals (that are specific but also flexible enough to accommodate life), or even a future life mapping. I make vision boards and “THE LIST” every birthday. The list starts with what I’ve seen, noticed, am reflecting on from the past year including accomplishments, milestones, shortcomings, or just observations and ends with what I want to see, do, make happen, feel, believe, experience, and have present in the coming year. It feels good to read over and is a wonderful marker of life progress and growth.

Move past your physical body

The common theme is people want to diet, exercise, and change their bodies. As someone who promotes a holistic approach to wellness and a balanced life from the inside out, I believe happiness won’t be found on the other side of those 10 or more pounds. I encourage people to look for self-aware options when making resolutions. Do some soul searching for what you really need to or want to work on for your life. Put those on your list.

If fitness is on your self-improvement list, January is a tough time to start. Motivation is hard enough, and many of us live in cold climates where the days are short. Light is motivating—darkness and cold, not so much. Respect how tough that can be, and factor it into your goals. Maybe you can focus more on diet, resolve to move more in ways that make you happy (not just burn calories), or honor sleep more.

Reframe common resolution traps

Some of the biggest issues with resolution failures revolve around unrealistic expectations, not defining the resolution in specific terms, poor time management, or just not having the right mindset and being distracted. I’ve written before about why positive affirmations can suck more than they help, but much in the same way, we have to be honest about the deeper things going on so that we make resolutions that fit for us.

Set short-term and long-term goals so you can get that push of motivation that comes with accomplishing the smaller ones. Be specific. Writing in a journal can help align thoughts and goals (as well as process roadblocks that might come up along the way).

Then, taking action-based steps to achieve any resolution or goal is important. All the talk in the world won’t help if you’re not taking the steps toward something you’d like to accomplish.

In terms of time, either set priorities or learn what has to go so other things can fit. Also, don’t get caught in the resolutions that turn into obligations and must be achieved by pain rather than joy. Resolutions should ultimately make you and/or your life better. Don’t lose sight of yourself or the end goal, and allocate time accordingly.

Do what's best for you

I was once asked what my greatest accomplishment was, and I said, “I survived.” Sometimes everything we have on our plate is already enough, or there are more pressing parts to our human experience than a massive to-do list. Be kind to yourself. Maybe you’re not in a place to have a laundry list of resolutions. Maybe it’s one item you can easily accomplish, like a sleep resolution or saying kinder things to yourself (and others) or letting go of something that no longer serves you. Or education about finances or a new book to read. Even something as simple as how we serve ourselves and the world day to day.

There is much that is small and worthy. Go into 2018 with grace, compassion, and a willingness to try and possibly fail. That’s the best we can really do as humans.

Or, fuck ’em. Don’t make any resolutions. Everyone might be doing it, but I’m reminded of Mark Twain: “When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

Do what’s best for you.

Next up: Learn more about ditching resolutions this year in favor of intentions.