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Resolve to Take the First Step

If your New Year's resolutions have faltered, now is a good time to shore them up
BY Donna Martelli TIMEJanuary 27, 2022 PRINT

How are you doing on your goals for the new year? Just about everyone I know was fired up and ready to face new challenges, learn new things, and become a better version of themselves. However, it seems that the hard part is getting started.

If you’ve had difficulty doing what needs to get done, don’t worry. There’s plenty of time to start again, right this minute.

In an article on resolutions posted on Northeastern University’s website, Christie Chung, psychology professor and associate provost at Mills College (soon to be merged with Northeastern University) noted that the key is to think small.

“Oftentimes, it’s difficult to keep our goals because they’re just too big,” Chung said. “We get frustrated along the way and just give up. To make our goals achievable, we need to think shorter-term.”

Let’s look at one of the most popular resolutions made on Dec. 31, 2021: the goal to become physically fit. If you’ve struggled to keep your fitness resolution, it would help to revise your plan and innumerate the small steps necessary to reach your goal.

Here are some steps that proved helpful for me.

Assess your current level of fitness

Whatever the exercise, see how many you can do or how long you can go without overly straining yourself. When you feel strong enough, go to the next level. Be honest with yourself. If you can only do two pushups, do them, and soon you’ll be able to do three, then four, and so forth. Working this way may mean less weight, fewer miles, or shorter durations, but this is a reasonable way to develop. I’ve counseled many of my clients and have seen them accomplish significant improvements by following only this one idea.

Determine what exercise program would be best for you in your current state and how often you would need to do it

Choose something that you like to do. My thing is dancing: ballet, modern, African, folk—you name it. A disciplinarian will exercise alone, so find a class or team sport if you aren’t inspired to exercise by yourself. I don’t like running, so if I tried to get into shape that way, I would drop out way too soon. If you enjoy running, go for it. But don’t try to run a marathon on the first day. You get the picture. Do something you like and improve gradually.

Decide on some necessary diet changes, again, not too significant at once

Try replacing one junk food per week with a fruit or vegetable. Fruits and vegetables have complex compounds full of nutrients that fuel your body as only natural food can. Junk food will weigh you down, while real food will lift you up.

Set up some intermediate, measurable goals, such as losing 1 pound per week

If you set small goals that have relatively short deadlines, you’ll get plenty of chances to make measurable headway and enjoy the feeling of success. Take it easy, though. My client Liz considered herself an athlete for life, but she had stopped training for several years. She came to me to get back in shape, but she wasn’t willing to start at the beginning. Instead, she took on more weight than she could work with correctly and injured herself so badly that she had to heal before starting to work out again. Only then was she able to start at the beginning, and she did ultimately recover to the level of fitness that she desired.

Understand that your new focus can unsettle some people

Maybe you’ve decided that you want to stop drinking or eat less greasy food. That’s all well and good, but you might have friends or family that have grown used to drinking with you or eating those foods. When you decide to change, it may make them uncomfortable. They may feel like they’re losing a friend or that their own problem drinking is exposed through your effort. For any number of reasons, some people won’t rejoice with you over your goals. They may even try to discourage you or sabotage your efforts. My best advice is to steer clear of those types.

Make a journal to track your progress

A great way to stay focused is to write down your plan and record your progress each day.

“Be accountable to yourself by having regular weigh-ins, recording your diet and exercise progress in a journal, or tracking your progress using digital tools,” the Mayo Clinic advises in an article on weight loss strategies.

Find someone you trust to hold you accountable

Another great bit of advice from the Mayo Clinic is to find support for your healthy changes.

“While you have to take responsibility for your own behavior for successful weight loss, it helps to have support—of the right kind,” the article reads. “Pick people to support you who will encourage you in positive ways, without shame, embarrassment, or sabotage.”


These tips can help you reset your new year’s resolution plan. But just like any plan, it’s important to adapt. As you move ahead, constantly reevaluate your plan and make changes when needed.

And if you slip up, don’t berate yourself. Failure is just a step on the path to success. Get back on track today if you messed up yesterday.

Formerly a professional dancer with the Harkness Ballet of New York, and faculty member at Butler University, Indianapolis, IN, Donna was Director of Fitness Arts at LivRite Fitness. There, she taught Ballet, Barre, Pilates, Stretch and Conditioning, Personal Training and provided fitness consultations to members. She created Raise the Barre at LivRite, trained, qualified, and managed its instructors, and wrote its training manual. She is the author of “When God Says Drop It” and “Why the Dance,” available wherever books are sold.
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