Have a big New Year’s goal? Start with a small step

If you’re trying to make a big change in 2018, small steps can help you get there.

Less than half of adults in the U.S. make New Year’s resolution. Different studies find about half to three-fourths of these resolutions fall through.

Those who make progress, local experts say, are those who take small, manageable steps to get where they want to go.

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Dr. Dennis O’Grady, a Dayton psychologist who has written about what makes lasting change, said the bigger deal a New Year’s resolution promise is, the less likely that it will be kept.

“New Year’s resolutions are kind of overblown, over hyped, over sold, over promised and not really change minded,” O’Grady said.

He said instead people should think of change as a daily thing, with mindset goals that don’t involve beating ourselves up over not changing. It involves studying and learning about the change you want happen. And it takes active goal setting that starts with small resolutions.

Quitting smoking can be a big, difficult to meet goal but the change could be reached if it starts with a small and manageable goal like calling a coach to help stop.

“So we set small, achievable healthful steps. Baby steps are so crucial,” he said.

If you’ve got steps in mind, O’Grady said it helps to use active language when thinking about what you want to do like “I am going to call a change coach today.”

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“Thinking differently creates change,” he said.

Jason Harrsion, personal trainer at Present Tense Fitness in Dayton, said it makes sense that around the start of the new year, or other major turning points, that people tend to reassess and make new goals. 

For health and fitness goals — among the most common New Year’s resolutions — the people that have the most success are the ones that have a vision for where they want to be and achievable and specific weekly goals to get there, Harrison said.

“The pathway toward sustainable health and fitness are those micro-goals,” Harrison said.

John Drake, founder of Drakes Downtown Gym in Dayton, said people who can’t keep up with their New Year’s fitness resolution might be trying to go too fast too soon.

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Everyone is different, said Drake, but out of the surge of new faces who come in around January, those who stick it out seem to have found something to motivate their determination.

“Maybe they just decided it’s time to take a little more control. They’ve made that decision they are going to take a little more control of their life as far as their health goes,” he said.

This time of year can also bring out scammers, bad advice and false promises from some of those in the health and fitness industry marketing toward the New Year’s resolution crowd.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine sent out a warning about potential gym membership scams, advising Ohio residents to research businesses and look for customer reviews online, as well as read contracts carefully for extra fees and cancellation policies.

Harrison said there’s a lot of bad advice floating around like going gluten-free for non-medical reasons or taking a juice cleanse, and then there’s gyms advertising for sign-ups this time of year that count on the majority of members not using the space.

Consumers can have a difficult time separating people who are marketing and business specialists selling a product and who are health professionals who can help you with your goals, he said.

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To help sort out the health professionals from the marketers, he said consumers can usually tell by scanning social media. Are they giving actionable advice or mostly linking back to a protein powder website?

Living out a healthy New Year’s resolution can be hard work, but good fitness advice is likely more straight forward and with less gadgetry than advice from a marketing professional. Eat protein and vegetables at every meal. Do weight bearing and cardio exercise each two days a week.

“My industry is predicated on making things more complicated for people. It’s not complicated but that doesn’t mean its not hard,” Harrison said.


New Year’s resolutions

If you’re looking to make a change in 2018, consider these tips to get there.

Small steps: Want to make a big change? Don’t try to tackle it all at once. Make small, achievable goals. And practice self-compassion when you don’t meet a mark.

Track your progress: Keep a journal, use an app, or find some way to track where you’re at and where you’re headed.

Celebrate progress: Reward yourself for your achievements. Find a way to mark your progress and celebrate a new step.

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