Have You Forgotten Your New Year’s Resolution Already? Let’s Keep the Momentum Going With the R2 Program

By Lytaria B. Walker, Directorate of Prevention, Resilience and ReadinessFebruary 29, 2024

“If we only took action under perfect conditions, we’d never achieve anything,’’ says Nick Powell, a performance expert and cognitive performance specialist at Rose Barracks in Vilseck, Germany. Powell says a large part of his job is working with individuals on how to increase their sense of commitment, how to set goals in the proper way and how to think about goals.

Goal-setting is at the root of keeping resolutions. Powell says goal-setting as a skill has two phases: the planning phase and the act phase. The planning phase is the fun phase. “This is what I’m going to do and how I’m going to do it,” he explains. The act phase is where you actually do it. The planning phase can last a day or two, a few minutes or even a few hours. But the act phase can last weeks, months and even years, depending on the goal or resolution. Powell says the act phase is not the sexy part of goal-setting; it can be difficult for most people because we’re creatures of habit, and we really like our habits. We fall into these patterns, and they are really hard to change.

The biggest part of goal-setting is figuring out how we can stop doing certain habits that we’ve fallen into. How can we start new habits? Powell says this is really hard for humans to do. “Goal-setting is never going to be pretty.” It’s easiest if we set a goal and then bracket that goal. Give yourself a stretch goal. A stretch goal is what something would look like if it was even better than the original goal.

Motivation is another important component of keeping your resolution or achieving a goal. Powell says motivation can be a feeling as well as an action. So, when we look at goal-setting, there’s one thing that is important to do: Increase the feeling of motivation on a more consistent basis. For example, your goal is to run a half marathon by the end of the year. If you’re doing really great halfway through the year, make it a full marathon. That would be a stretch goal and at the top of the bracket. If you run the half marathon and accomplish that goal, that’s the lower bracket, and that’s OK. Is there something similar but a bit scaled back that you can do? Powell says this is totally acceptable.

We often use rewards as motivation. For example, if you do a full week of workouts, you may reward yourself with a cheat day. That may work to an extent in certain situations, but Powell says that over the long run, it’s not a sustainable source of motivation.

Goal-setting is stressful because we’re stepping out of our comfort zone. We’re testing ourselves beyond our normal limits. Powell says, “Remember that stress is not a sign that you’re failing; it’s a sign that you’re growing.” Stress isn’t always bad for us.

If you have already forgotten your resolution, Powell’s advice is to commit to performing the action and then do it no matter what you’re feeling. You must do it whether your self-belief is high or low or whether the feeling of motivation is there or not. It doesn’t matter if you missed three days in a row and you’re feeling terrible—you still have to do it. You have to find ways to hop back on the wagon. Commit to the action.

To request training and commit to action, contact your nearest R2 Performance Center or fill out the R2 Training Request Form and email it to usarmy.pentagon.hqda-dcs-g-9.list.resilience-training@army.mil.