A survey with over 1,000 Australians uncovered that over 80% set New Year's resolutions, with 46% admitting they became too busy to stick to them. The most popular resolutions are health-related:
While it is easy to feel defeated by the statistics, the question is, why are we struggling so much in reaching and maintaining our health goals and what can be done to achieve them?
When thinking about health goals, most of us think of getting quick results with the next 'miracle diet' or workout programme. However, studies suggest that the effects of most radical diets are reversed after 12 months. Therefore, as opposed to opting for dramatic, uncomfortable changes, gradual lifestyle adjustments which do not bring you discomfort and you are happy to sustain in the long term are more likely to get results in a more gradual but sustainable manner.
Current literature suggests that intrinsic motivation is vital to achieving goals. Goals that are chosen because of a profoundly inherent desire are more likely to be achieved than goals induced by social pressure. Self-concordance, or in other words, the level of intrinsic motivation and identity congruence, can be major contributors to reaching health goals.
The question of how to find a health goal that is intrinsically desired is a very personal one. It is essential though to ensure that it really is a personal goal and not one that we think we have to attain because we feel society tells us to.
Once a health goal is chosen, building enjoyable habits that enable achievement is paramount. In the popular book Atomic Habits, author James Clear describes this as
“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Your goal is your desired outcome. Your system is the collection of daily habits that will get you there. This year, spend less time focusing on outcomes and more time focusing on the habits that precede the results.”
Habit formation is a topic that we have explored more in-depth. To find out more, check out our article on How To Build And Maintain Healthy Habits: Habit Loops And Formation.
In summary, while most health goals fail, your chances of reaching yours will be greatly improved by choosing one that you are intrinsically passionate about and that you can build habits around that you genuinely enjoy.