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The Effort of New Year Resolutions

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Oh dear me, we’ve got to that point in January when the flush of enthusiasm has worn off, the resolve has been overtaken by the need for comfort food and other things have taken priority over going to the gym – or other things have just had more appeal, like an extra hour in bed or as in my case just faffing about in the house rather than going to the gym.

I was at the gym last week with one of my sons, the one who is a diligent and committed gym goer. He does the training to enable him in his rugby pursuits and of course at 18 he is also keen to look ripped! Anyway, I remarked that it was quieter than the week before, to which he responded “yeah, the January people have given up early this year!” 

The January people! Who knew that was a thing? I had to stick up for us less committed fitness bods though and responded with “well we let you lot into our pubs in December”. Suffice to say that it wasn’t my finest parenting moment.

But it got me thinking, how do we develop the magic trait of stickability – you know, the ability to keep going when the early keenness has waned, and the results are not yet evident? Studies seem to suggest that 80% of resolutions fail by February and it’s the word “fail” that I think is maybe worth thinking about. 

It got me thinking about Carol Dweck’s work on developing a growth mindset. Dweck, encourages us to view growth as always possible and within our grasp rather than the fixed belief that aptitude is predetermined. I believed anything was possible on the 1st January when I resolved to step up my fitness to Gladiator level…not really but I was keen.  

How does that vision become reality? Through facing the challenges and making a consistent effort. This is where we can lose our resolve. With a fixed mindset we will tend to avoid challenges, protecting ourselves with the notion of “if I don’t try, I can’t fail” and seeing effort as feedback that we are just no good. Adopting a growth mindset we flip those notions and view failure as part of the process of learning, leading us to mastering our goals 

It turns out that my son is a great training partner and has growth mindset in spades – perhaps my parenting wasn’t so shabby after all! While we were training he said he was moving on to the hack squat machine. Are you familiar with this particular instrument of torture? My initial thought was “no, can’t do that, tried it before, it was hard and I was rubbish.” My son’s coaching technique was a well-timed “you’re just scared and that’s not a bad thing, but you might as well have a go”. 

Well, I gave it a good go, he praised my efforts and it did not go unnoticed that he stuck a weight back on that I had asked him to take off. If I wasn’t ready to meet the challenge, he was going to bring it to me! 

There was another thing that my son did while I was joining in with his workout mindset of “challenge and effort are good” and that was using the word “yet”. Such a small word but so much coaching power. It was his only answer to me saying “I can’t”. He would either take the offending weight off the bar with a simple “yet” or would say “maybe not yet but give it a go anyway”. 

So come that magic (not tragic) third week in January, if we take the growth mindset route it means we haven’t failed, we’ve just learned more about the effort needed. We know more than we did and that’s progress.

It also turns out that teens make good teachers, who knew? Just as well Dweck advises not to compare yourself with others though, I’m not going to catch that lad now but I can take her advice and see his success as a source of learning and inspiration.    

Audrey Macnaughton is a leadership trainer and coach, and you can get in touch with her via


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