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Real change requires more than a New Year’s Eve declaration

January 4, 2022

Yearly New Year's Resolution

Being with the YMCA for 31 years means seeing 31 waves of new members and 31 increases in visits from existing members each Jan. 1. It’s energizing to see so many people intent on improving themselves.

Personal resolve with a roadmap

Sure, in the ensuing months, some show up less often as resolutions fall by the wayside, but I still get to celebrate successes with those members who restore their bodies, attack problematic habits, and more. But here’s the thing: Those transformations tend not to come in waves each January, but, instead, in a continuous tide that shows how people who combine personal resolve with a roadmap for change can make great things happen. Experts and individuals often note that, while New Year’s resolutions tend to focus on our bodies, they’re often about something else (that’s why the YMCA mission focuses on spirit, mind and body). We might be overweight because we fend off anxiety by eating. We might be out of shape because we can’t fit exercise into overloaded schedules. My point is not to discourage New Year’s resolutions; instead, my point is to assert that a resolution alone won’t transform a life. Over the years, Y members have taught me that real change requires a plan built around a vision that’s supported by a community. Otherwise, progress likely will be temporary.

Motivation leads to success

Members who keep going understand why they want to become healthier—what’s really motivating them to focus on self-care. They have demonstrated again and again that determining – and remembering – their motivation increases their odds of success. Then they put together a plan that includes concrete steps, measurable progress and a schedule. Saying, “I’ll go exercise more” isn’t enough. Instead, they say something like, “On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I’ll go to that 6:30 fitness class,” and, “I’ll change into my workout clothes before I leave work so I’ll be less likely to change my mind on the way to class.” Small steps help make great strides. Finally, those who stick with it build a community around their plans. They connect with a friend making a similar change or find an accountability buddy, and they help each other understand it takes patience when progress sometimes feels slow. They join a running group, a cycling group or some other group with similar goals and interests, look forward to getting together, and enjoy the whole process more.

Make your New Year's Resolution Count

So, resolve to make meaningful change, but don’t expect something you declared on New Year's Eve to resonate much past sunrise unless you back it up with a vision, a plan and community. Y members have shown me again and again that, if you do that, you’ll likely greet next New Year’s Eve as the changed person you want to be. Gregg Hiland is president and CEO at YMCA of Greater Indianapolis.

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