Resolutions, Goals, and Overcoming Obstacles

Do you make resolutions, goals or neither?  The turn of the clock into the New Year provides the opportunity for us to reflect on where we are and where we’d like to go in order to improve our lives.  The desire to get off to a good start is likely what motivates many of us to make New Year’s resolutions and goals.  Yet, when I ask my friends and peers whether or not they make resolutions or set goals at the New Year, almost all (except my soul brother Jack) say they do NOT.

Common “wisdom” is that resolutions do not work.  But why is that?  To have “resolve” connotes a dogged determination and grit that requires vigilance.  Sustaining this level of motivation is exhausting since it requires steely willpower.  This is the crux of the problem.  Research on “will power” shows that we have limited reserves (  A resolution is a “firm decision to do or not do something”; however, these do not provide a road map on how to do it and it does not address the why of what we resolve to do.  Many of us have made resolutions in the past that we’ve failed to achieve, so we stop trying to improve ourselves in this way.  I speculate that the reason many people eschew goals is that they conflate them with resolutions.

Goals, unlike resolutions, create a road map to the aspired destination.  I ritually write down my goals every New Year and I am happy to report that all the big things I have achieved are a result of these written goals.  A well written goal, with follow-up action steps, is an effective tool in achieving what we aspire to.  SMART is the acronym for writing effective goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable and Timely.  A resolution may be “to loose weight”.  A goal to achieve the same outcome would be “to exercise 45 minutes/day, 5x/week and reduce daily caloric intake by 250 calories in order to loose 10 lbs by April 1st”.  The devil is in the attention to these measurable details.

But even with the most detailed goals, obstacles along the road can detour our achieving these goals.  The ancient Indian sage, Patanjali, wrote about these “antarayas”/obstacles over 1600 years ago, naming nine: illness, lethargy, doubt, haste or impatience, resignation or fatigue, distraction, ignorance or arrogance, inability to take a new step and loss of confidence.[1]  Ask yourself which of these roadblocks are currently getting in your way.  To safeguard our goals and circumvent these obstacles, we must first recognize the obstacles then take meaningful steps towards removing them.

In the context of making movement goals, appropriate planning and training are the solutions to removing these barriers.  Here are a few suggestions for keeping your movement goals:

  • Assess your motivation, both intrinsic and extrinsic. (see Mylan Vu’s article on REAL goals in this months newsletter)
  • Write achievable short term and more ambitious long term goals,
    •  Use the SMART technique, and write the steps needed to achieving these goals.  Chunk the action plan into smaller bits (remember the “eating the elephant” analogy – one bite at a time)
  • Assess whether or not you need medical clearance to start a new fitness program. Consult a medical doctor if any of the following are true:[2]
    • You are over the age of 60 and NOT accustomed to vigorous exercise.
    • You have a family history of premature coronary artery disease.
    • You frequently have pains or pressure in the left side of the neck or shoulder during or immediately after exercise.
    • You often feel faint, have spells or severe dizziness or experience extreme breathlessness after mild exertion.
    • You do not know whether your blood pressure is normal or you have uncontrolled high blood pressure.
    • You have heart trouble, a heart murmur or have had a heart attack.
    • You have confirmed bone or joint problems such as arthritis.
    • You have a medical condition not mentioned that might need special attention in an exercise program (e.g. insulin dependent diabetes).
  • Consult with a movement expert, such as a physical therapist, to address the physical issues or injuries that may impede your desired goal.
  • Allocate time for your goal
    • For most fitness goals, this means setting aside time every day and finding the best time of day to engage in your goal.
    • Write-in this appointment on your calendar
  • Measure your progress
    • Find a smart phone app that measures your activity – turn it on during the activity so that you have a historical record of your participation.
    • Take a “selfie” at the end of every workout to account for all the hard work (see collage of my “run to work” selfies above) – this helps to chronicle all the times you engaged.
    • Write a detailed log of the activity – this will help you tease-out when your activity worked well and when it did not to learn what works best for you
  • Find an accountability buddy
    • This friend, peer, family member or professional, such as a personal trainer or physical therapist, can help you show up when your motivation is low.  Sharing your goal with someone else reinforces your commitment to the goal and provides encouragement when you’re in a lull.
  • Choose appropriate shoes, equipment and clothing for the conditions
  • Stay the course for at least 3 months.
    • There is some truth in the adage “it takes 3 weeks to change a habit, but it takes 3 months to change a lifestyle”.

Call your movement experts at Stride Physio today to help you find your strength to achieve your goals and move beautifully throughout the year.  206-547-7445

Susanne Michaud, DPT, OCS – Physical therapist, certified orthopedic specialist, constant runner


[1]  Desikachar, TKS, “Heart of Yoga”, Inner Traditions, 1999

[2] Noakes, Tim, M.D.  “Lore of Running”. 4th Edition, p. 262. Human Kinetics, 2003.