How to not be a New Year’s resolution dumbass (including sexy photos)

I hate this time of year.

Starting on January 2nd, my gym is totally overrun by people who have been pretending to want to be in shape all year, but who have suddenly decided to give slightly more of a shit because the last digit in the date has changed. These people clog every machine, every barbell, every dumbbell, and every inch of floor space.

Then, three to five weeks later, things go back to normal at the gym. It’s like clockwork. The throngs clear out, leaving the same handful of regulars who were there in December.

The guys who own my gym absolutely love these people — a group my old fitness forum called “resolutionists.” Resolutionists are the perfect customers. They allow the owners to overbook the gym the way airlines overbook flights because they pay their money, then never actually show up.

Now, when I say that I hate this time of year, you might think I’m being an elitist prick. I promise that’s not my intention. I don’t, in fact, dislike the people who join in January, and I don’t like it when they leave.

What I can’t stand is the phenomenon. I can’t fucking stand New Year’s resolutions.

The whole idea is so annoying and disgusting and spineless. It’s a ritual wherein everyone — including folks who can’t stick to ONE. FUCKING. COMMITMENT to themselves or others — is pressured into concocting a bullshit promise that they have no intention of keeping, and no real reason to follow through on.

See, real life improvement doesn’t happen only on New Year’s Eve. It happens on February 12th, June 23rd, September 18th, and every other day. It happens whenever it happens, and it happens because something within a person recognizes an urgent, burning need for change. It doesn’t happen because some asshole chinks a glass of champagne against yours and asks you to come up with a socially acceptable lie.

I guess I could put it this way:

If you want to make a positive change in your life, then Godspeed to you. Promise yourself that you’ll do it, and then do it. But if you’re not going to make a change (a totally legit choice, by the way) then don’t promise that you will.

And if that’s the case, please just shut the fuck up about your “resolutions.”

On goals

That opening is pretty harsh. I’d wager that I lost at least thirty percent of the people that are here reading me for the first time. It’s a shame, because I’m in no way anti-self-improvement. I love it when people want to become better and then actually become better. I’d go so far as to say that “becoming better” is my prime mission in life, and something I love helping others to do whenever I’m able.

And as a tool to achieve that self-improvement, I love goals. If you want to improve, setting goals is a great way to do it and to measure your progress.

But a New Year’s resolution isn’t a goal. It’s a drunken, ill-thought-out, socially induced promise. People set resolutions because they think they should, not because the subject of the resolution actually matters to them. People set resolutions based on what they think others expect of them rather than what they actually want. Resolutions are obnoxiously righteous. Resolutions scream, “THIS YEAR, I WILL MAKE SOMETHING OF MYSELF!” And because they’re so loud and pious, you can bet that the definition of “making something of yourself” being used is probably your mother’s, your father’s, or your boss’s.

Do you truly feel you should quit smoking? Or does your spouse think you should?

Do you really want to lose fifteen pounds, or are you fine with how you look and feel but figure that you could lose the weight, and your resolution has to be about something?

If you actually care about what you’re resolving, why do you need New Year’s Eve to remind you to do it? If you do care, shouldn’t you should start your little self-improvement project whenever the thought occurs to you? And if you don’t care, then why are you promising anything?

But hey, I get it. The thrill of resolution-making is hard-wired into us at this point. And so if you absolutely must make a resolution, I suggest you make this one:

This year, I will stop pretending to care about things that don’t matter to me and will instead begin pursuing goals I DO care about whenever inspiration strikes… regardless of what date is on the calendar.

Resolutions, taken at face value, aren’t bad. Resolutions are good. It’s good to gather your will and commit yourself to doing something that matters.

Just be sure that you’re doing those things on your own time, for your own reasons.

How to keep your resolutions, regardless of what day they’re made

There’s no way for me to write this next part without sounding like I’m trying to appear perfect and awesome. I promise that’s not what I’m trying to do. I fall short of goals all the time, but if I’m going to give an example of how to stick to a goal, it’d be really dumb for me to tell you about one I screwed up, right?

So instead, let’s talk about a goal I set and then actually achieved. Let’s talk about how I lost 30 pounds that I would have sworn to you six months ago I didn’t have to lose.

1. Know what you want, as specifically as possible.

Oftentimes, people make goals that sound like this: “Lose weight,” “Advance at work,” “Make more money.” But think about it… what do those phrases mean? How will you measure your progress toward them? How will you know when you reach them?

Those goals are way, way too vague to be effective.

When you create goals, pretend that a jerky lawyer is going to try to convince a jury that you’ve failed, so you’ll need to demonstrate without question that you’ve succeeded. So for financial goals, set a number. Nobody can question a number; either you hit it or you don’t. For relationship goals, determine how many times a week/month you’d see/talk to that person and what topics you might feel comfortable discussing. If you want a new position at work, name that position, and say which office you’ll be in, how much money you’ll make, and so on.

I said above that I lost 30 pounds, but that wasn’t my initial goal. (I actually didn’t think I could lose that much weight, which is something I’ll talk about below.) My goal, instead, was that I wanted to get a six-pack. Specifically, I wanted visible separation between at least six segments of my abdominal muscles even when relaxed, clearly visible in a normally lit room.

I even had a few photos that represented what I was shooting for. Here is one of those photos. Now, I’m not as big as ol’ Alcide and will probably never have a look as impressive as his, but it was an ideal representation of what I wanted.

2. Know why you want your goal… and understand that it’s YOU that must want it.

I’d tried to get the fabled six pack before many times. I never really got quite as lean as I wanted to be because I wasn’t clear about why I wanted it. My reasons used to be things like “because it’d look cool” or “to be hot.” And those are okay reasons, I guess, but neither was enough to drive me to do what it would take to get what I really wanted.

This time around, my reason was simpler but more powerful. It was “to prove that I can.” That simple imperative may not move you, but it was and is tremendously motivational for me. If you read this blog, you’ll know that I talk a lot about how few things are actually impossible and how “normal” expectations are bullshit. And although I wrote about those topics, I realized that I wasn’t walking my talk as purely as I could. Getting lean is a matter of discipline, so if I wanted it but couldn’t achieve it, it was because I lacked will. How could I write about conquering your will and becoming Legendary if I couldn’t do it myself? And another thing: I’ll turn 37 this year, and people think it’s nearly impossible (or at least highly impractical and unreasonable) for a guy who’s knocking on the door of 40 to want the body of a twenty-something. So of course I had to jump all over that heap of bullshit.

But whatever reasons you have, make sure you understand them, and make sure they drive you.

But most of all, make sure they’re actually YOUR reasons.

A lot of people rush to get in shape for a high school reunion. Plenty more get an advanced degree to please their fathers. Both are a bad idea. If you want to get in shape, do it to feel more confident in everything else you do. If you want that degree, make sure it’s because it’ll land you your dream job and allow you to pursue a lifelong passion.

At one point after I’d lost most of what I wanted to lose, I half-jokingly told my wife Robin that “I did this to be sexy for you.” But she doesn’t buy into my bullshit, so she rolled her eyes and said, “No you didn’t. You did it for you.”

3. Act immediately.

I made my goal — my “resolution” to lean out, if you will — in April of 2012. I made it because I read an article in Men’s Health about Zac Effron, of all people. In that article, Zac was talking about getting ripped for a movie and said something like “I may not be the strongest or the fastest guy out there, but I can outwork anyone.”

That struck a chord with me. As the guy who wrote “Everything is Simple. Nothing is Easy,” I shouldn’t have found Zac’s statement to be a revelation, but I did. I thought, Duh. It comes down to having the discipline to work very hard for a long period of time. That’s all it is.

Something clicked. It dawned on me that if I simply committed and did — and even better, if I could hire someone to hit me with a virtual stick to keep me on track — that I, too, could outwork anyone.

I was reading that article in a hot tub. I didn’t even have to get out. My phone was within reach, so grabbed it and emailed a friend to ask if he’d hook me up with his trainer. I knew his guy made his clients work hard, but got results and wouldn’t hesitate to put a boot up my ass if I slacked off. So, later that week, I was talking to that trainer — by now-buddy Roger Lawson — and had received my marching orders.

I started that very day, without any delusional “the diet starts tomorrow so I’ll get my fun on today” bullshit.

4. Be honest with yourself.

This part is haaaaaard. I thought I was always honest with myself, but it turned out that I was one seriously lying fucker.

I’d weighed 204 pounds for forever, and I was convinced — convinced! — that I was lean. I mean, I’m fairly strong for an amateur, with a best parallel squat of 395 and a best deadlift of 475. I could work like a horse, so I told myself that I just had a ton of muscle. I used to yell at my Wii when we played Wii Fit because it said I was obese. I said that the BMI charts aren’t meant for athletic individuals. When I hired Roger, I told him I wanted to lose “that last ten pounds” and become TOTALLY ripped… versus the “already pretty ripped” I was at the time. I figured I could maybe — maaaybe — get down to 190. But that was it, because I already had it going on.

WRONG.

The very first thing Roger told me to do was to take a series of pictures. I will never forgive him for this. These pictures showed me a different person than I saw every day in the mirror.

Here’s what I saw in the photos:

FUCK.

The guy I saw in those pictures wasn’t exactly fat, but he sure as hell wasn’t lean. I immediately made up all sorts of justifications for why I didn’t see the right person in those photos. The flash was washing me out! I was standing funny!

Well, you know how they say that the camera adds ten pounds? That’s because when we look in the mirror, we lie to ourselves. The camera isn’t “adding” anything. It’s just showing you the truth. And for me, once I admitted the truth, resolving to change became easy.

Oh, and by the way… because my fragile ego can’t take having that “before” photo hanging out in the wind, here’s a “just a few pounds left” photo of me today, at 174:

If I’d continued to tell myself that I was only able to lose ten pounds, that “after” photo wouldn’t exist.

You need to be honest about where you are right now, before you embark on the pursuit of a goal. For fitness goals, being honest might mean using a camera. For financial goals, it might mean getting an accountant’s opinion. For creative goals, it might mean critiques or reviews. At the very least, ask for the unfiltered opinions of a handful of friends.

Remember: it’s very difficult to use a map if you don’t know where you are on it.

(CAVEAT: If you don’t like what your “honest truth” is at this point, do NOT beat yourself up about it. Where you are is where you are, and if you don’t like where you are, then remember that you’re embarking on a change. Achieving goals shouldn’t be fueled by hate, but by a desire for the end product. If you don’t have peace during the journey, you’ll go nuts and sabotage yourself at every turn.)

(SECOND CAVEAT: My personal, it’s-mine-and-you-don’t-have-to-agree-with-it goal in this example was to get lean in order to prove to myself that I could do it, so please don’t email me and tell me that my six-pack quest encourages body image issues. What I saw as my honest starting point showed me that I had not yet “done it” despite the fact that I’d convinced myself I almost had — no more and no less. I might have chosen to scale Everest or run an ultramarathon, but I chose this instead.)

5. Know and accept the price ahead of time.

I told Roger that I’d do whatever he asked me to do, within reason. That was why I’d hired him. It would have been stupid for me to pay him money and then ignore his advice in favor of whatever I wanted to do.

If you truly want to commit to change, you have to go into it with that attitude. You need to truly, truly understand what you’re in for, and then commit yourself ahead of time to doing whatever is necessary.

Quitting smoking, drinking, or drugs is going to be hard. You’re going to want something very badly, and you’re not going to allow yourself to have it — probably ever again.

Dieting is going to be hard. You’re going to have to do it for a long time unless you just have a little bit of weight to lose. Don’t make the fatal mistake of assuming you can exercise a lot and eat how you’re eating now. There’s an expression that says, “You can’t out-train a bad diet,” and it’s 100% true. Make friends with the discomfort you’re going to have to face up front. Think about how hard it’s going to be in all of its gory detail before you begin.

If you fully understand the price of your goals and find yourself waffling, you’re probably best off not even starting to pursue the goal because you’re not going to make it. It’s best to know early if it turns out that you’re not willing to pay the price.

6. Take small steps.

A lot of people talk about crash diets and “bootcamp” exercise programs designed to whip you into shape quickly. I’ve always preferred a steadier approach, and so does Roger. I started in May and hit my low right before Thanksgiving (at which point I took a break, content to maintain my weight loss until I resumed in January). If you’re keeping track, that’s 6 months of dieting to lose 30 pounds, for an average of just over a pound a week.

There are a few reasons I think that moving slowly is a great idea.

For one (and this is obviously specific to fat loss goals), there’s a ton of research showing that the genetic maximum for sustainable weight loss that doesn’t erode away all of your muscle is around 2.5 pounds per week. (It was slower for me because I wasn’t that overweight and already had twenty years of weight training under my belt.)

Second, moving slowly (and this one is true for ANY change) allows you to adjust over time. Rapid changes are jarring. Going back to a weight-loss example, if you suddenly knock all of your favorite foods out of your diet and go from zero to eight gym sessions a week, you’d better have a will of steel if you hope to maintain your regimen. If instead you make slow, daily changes — which, by the way, is the unsexy but startlingly effective tagline of my Everyday Legendary community — you’ll get used to it, and the change will be more sustainable.

Lastly, going slowly is a test of your commitment. Are you in this for the long haul, or are you looking for a quick fix?

Resolutionists are looking for a quick fix, which is why they demand that change be rapid. On some level, they think that if they gut out a diet and an exercise program and GIVE IT THEIR MOTHERFUCKING ALL for a few months, they’ll then be “fixed” forever. That’s idiotic. The only reasons to think that way are 1) if you’re fine with where you started, in which case you shouldn’t bother to change at all, or 2) if you want to go through this all over again next year, after you’ve started smoking again, re-gained the weight, failed at your new business, or whatever.

Don’t look for quick solutions. Instead, shoot for permanent change. Don’t think “a period of fixing followed by business as usual.” Instead, think “creating a new permanent lifestyle.”

So yeah, I had to do a lot of work to lose those thirty pounds, but that doesn’t mean that I’m now “done” and plan to go back to my old caloric intake. Instead, after losing a few more pounds this month, I’ll increase my calories slowly, reach an equilibrium, and then watch what I eat forever. (By the way, that probably sounds like terrible, never-ending drudgery, but it’s not. After six months, you get used to a way of doing things. This no longer takes a lot of will. It’s simply how I operate now.)

So that’s it. That’s how you can make goals and resolutions that have nothing to do with peer pressure or a certain champagne holiday, and actually make the changes you want to make.

Doesn’t that sound better than doing what a calendar tells you?

AWESOME BONUS SEXY OFFER: If you’d like to hear the details of my six-pack-abs quest, my trainer Roger and I are recording a video lesson together for my Everyday Legendary community in which we’ll break down exactly what he had me do. (I also already recorded a lesson detailing my own habits and tips, and that one is already inside of EL.) There’s nothing magic to any of what we’ll discuss — and certainly no easy buttons — but if you’d like to check it out, now’s a great time to join Everyday Legendary.


Now that you've read this post, go here:
WHAT DEFINES YOU?

Comments

  1. Thank the good baby Elvis there are other people out there relentlessly fish-in-the-face-slapping the resolution-making fiends. I did it on my site too.

    And dude, you looked like a microwaved marshmallow in that first pic. Yikes. But you look pretty awesome now.

    • Johnny says:

      I SERIOUSLY thought I was lean. I have no idea how, but it’s testament to how I, like anyone, can fool myself when I want to.

  2. You had me at Topless Photos!!! You always know exactly what I need Johnny. And I mean that in a totally hetero-sexual way……. sort of

  3. Holy fuck, I’m first. I win.

  4. wendy merron says:

    Hi Johnny,
    Great post. Keep repeating it every January! (Even better, repeat it next month when people learn that their “willpower” has run out).

    Sure wish you’d smile more – even in the 2nd pic!

  5. Sergio Felix says:

    Hey Johnny, I think you really captured the essence here and you were spot on with the “resolutionists”.

    It took me a while to stop smoking, about 10 times or so I don’t know, I stopped counting how many times I failed but one day it finally just happened.

    I don’t know what day it was (nor do I care) but I can tell you it wasn’t any “special day”.

    It wasn’t January 1st or the day when somebody special died or anything, it just happened one day and that’s it, I’m CURED of that damn vice I had and that’s the only thing that matters to me.

    Whenever somebody asks me how many years I have without smoking, I don’t know, I just say “several”, it can be five or seven, I’m not even interested in finding out.

    I don’t get mad at people with resolutions, I get mad at people without the drive and then you have to listen to all the wonderful things they are going to do and so and so and then, nothing happens.

    They’ve just wasted my time and theirs.

    Anyway, I’m ranting now so it’s time to leave.

    Sergio

    PS. Those are pretty impressive before/after pictures dude, congrats!

    • Johnny says:

      I hear you; I’m the same re: “wonderful things” people are going to do. A similar line is “I wish I could do X.” Do it, dude.

  6. Jo Warwick says:

    Well first let me be totally honest when I say that I completely scrolled down to the topless photos before even the reading the post – so you got me :) I did however go back up and start again… nice job, good work on the great abs! feeling inspired to keep going with my running. Also hail to commitment – I made a decision a long time ago in my private therapy practice to only work with people who really wanted to commit to change – what is it with the quick fix, band aid … all you end up doing is failing, bouncing back right back to where you were and then some; just like the yo-yo dieter.. any way you’ve said it best! :)

  7. Aw heck, Johnny. The New Year is a great motivation–why not do stuff different in a new year? But I know what you mean–I don’t even want to go to my gym right now because it will be so crowded.

    My fancy trick for deciding if you’ve got too much fat or not: get nekked, look in mirror. Tighten all muscles. Jump up and down. Anything jiggle? You got fat :) lol It’s so simple to me. Got man boobs? Tits hitting stomach? Can’t see yer feet or yer weenie? Two or three chins? Got a tire around yer hips? A muffin top? (like in your marshmallow photo). That’s fat :)

    Then again, I’ve always been pretty thin so the slightest bit makes me say ew, gross. What’s that on my thighs? lol

    I’m with you on the go slow thing. It’s all about improving the way we eat and exercise, not about “going on a diet.” What happens when you go off? Weight comes back, of course.

    Maybe at least the resolutionists are trying. And maybe they fail. And try again. And learn something about the process of change and how difficult it really can be. Better than not trying at all, seems to me. But Jan 1 is about the worst time for me to make a new thing happen–it’s cold and dark and gah…it can wait until spring :)

    Thanks for the fun read. Congrats on the fitness goal!

  8. JohnnyFit says:

    I’m a big fan of setting goals, being honest with yourself, evaluating, and progressing. Way to put in the work and the effort to exceed yours!

  9. Big Chris says:

    Another great post man, I saw you on my buddy Clay’s site, been following since

    Dude, I’ve been 265 body builder shredded and 370 with the power-lifter strong man look

    Funny thing is, I trained mostly the same for both with exception of cardio, but not having the diet dialed in, while the extra calories made me strong as fuck, it also made fat

    I’m 6’6″, but I don’t care how tall I am, 370 is just too damn big

    And to dial in the diet, I really had to make the decision and decide nothing would stop me

    BTW, good parallel and squat and dead #’ for a guy your size… those are the two exercises that really built me up… I was a 130 pound tweaker when I was 19

    Like I said, great fucking post brother, great blog

    Love your branding by the way, one of the coolest I’ve seen by far

    keep doin you’re thing man

  10. No New Year’s resolutions here…I accomplished a few last year and will be working on those I set before the year as well as others that I set as I see need to. You’re so right that we don’t have to wait until this one day to do this. Congratulations on reaching and going past your original goal :-)

  11. Marc says:

    Good stuff, Johnny! Looking forward to more info about your weight (fat) loss. And, damn, you’re a sexy man (after pic … not the love handle king)! That coming from a card-carrying heterosexual, btw :) .

  12. The motivation is the key. Whatever works for me is what I have to do. I can’t do it any other way. I like challenges to prove I can do things. I wrote a novel in November for Novel Writing Month. I ran marathons to prove I could do them. I got my doctorate because I wanted to learn everything I could so I could be the best damn therapist.

    At 62 I am a more aware human being and at peace with myself but I still have this urge to prove I can do it. Now the question is, what will I take on? What will my Man On Wire (must see movie) challenge be.

    My physical goal is to reclaim the flexibility I had when I use to teach yoga. I have to become a focused yogi for the next year. I can do this and prove I can.

    My other goal after being on retreat for the last year is to go out in the world and invite people to wake up from the trance of life they have fallen into. I am skilled at this but I am climbing onto the wire in a new much more risky way.

    I am going out into the world offering Meetings With Awareness, Encounters With The Infinite. These gatherings will be done in the moment from the place of trusting that I will be guided step-by-step by the wisdom inside. I feel the rush of risk and adventure as I write this.

    Thanks for you being you with such honesty and integrity.
    Joseph

  13. Dear Johnny -

    Personally, I like a guy with a little heft on him so I am not repulsed with your before picture.

    I quit smoking on July 23 after puffing since I was a teenager.

    It wasn’t totally for health reasons – except I have to admit I no longer cough. My doctor is thrilled.

    Cigarettes went up to $12.00 a pack in Chicago.

    It became just plain stupid.

    I don’t belong to a health club but everyone I know stops going for all of January until the resolutionists leave.

  14. Justin says:

    Damn Dude. I seriously gotta start pushing harder. I never make resolutions cause it’s just stupid impulsiveness to make us feel temporarily happy about our immediate future. Then when we actually have to put in effort to do it, all plans fade away and back to old habits we are.

    I’ve been working out again, (a little) since I had my knee surgery. I gained like 20lbs in 8 months. I lost 9 after a few intense weeks of focus and motivation, then I jumped back off the train. I just gotta get my inspiration back and build a habit that sticks. The worst thing for me, is I am not a fan of vegetables, but I’m sure if I just pushed through, my taste buds would adapt.

    Awesome job though. I want a sweet 6 pack too. That’s it, I’m going to work out. Later….

  15. This makes me want to resolve to touch your bottom this year.

  16. Way to put in the work! People really do look for the easy way out when it comes to resolutions – diets in particular. The quick-fix pill or 7-minute a week workout. They don’t want to hear the truth – it takes a lot of damn work and commitment to change your life. #5 on your list really separates these people out. You really do need to know the price you’re willing to pay.

    Same thing happens in any aspect of life. If you want something, you have to go out there and be willing to spill your own blood for it.

    Nice job on the weight loss, but even better job of keeping your head in it for 6 months. Keep up the good work.

  17. Ross says:

    It gets me just about every year when I’m biking through the local trails and all of the sudden it’s just as cold as it was the week before, but the trail is flooded with joggers. Takes me a while to figure it out. “Oh, duh, it’s January”

    So, I know I’m late reading this one. As a strength trainer\trainee, I’m REALLY curious how being at a lower weight effected your weight training.

    • Johnny says:

      I’ve definitely been able to lift less, but I’m not sure if that’s due to less total body mass vs. dieting. i.e., if I stop dieting and either maintain or go to a slight caloric surplus, I don’t know if I’d start being able to lift more… or if the weight wouldn’t go up because I’m lighter.

      Bodyweight exercises have obviously improved greatly. Chinup feel like nothing, and handstand pushups are now super easy. I bench and deadlift maybe 10% less. Same for squatting, I guess.

      • Ross says:

        Wow! I must say, I’ve seen enough shirtless photos of progress to be a bit jaded, but your numbers are impressive!

        Thanks for the response Johnny, you rock!

  18. MW says:

    Well you like them Apples? Why do we live in such delusions in our minds?

    I have a delusion regarding courses I bought last year, started and then didn’t finish. I have to shut down my desire to buy another course and just sit down and do the ones I have. I lie to myself — saying that I’m afraid that it won’t work. That I will do all this work and it will all be a waste. Yet I’ve let the time pass – filled it with many other things. I think I’m afraid to really step up and put myself out there and really own my dream. No idea why though. I have moments where I feel it and do the work and the traction kicks in and then right as it seems it is going to ‘catch’, I let things derail – usually by taking on too much work and spreading myself too thin.

  19. Darlene says:

    Damn!

    Those are some before and after pictures.

    “3. Act immediately.”
    I always remember Anthony Robbins saying that no matter what you decide.. what idea you come up with.. always, ALWAYS take immediate action towards that goal. Period. You can plan ten things to do tomorrow to support your new goal, but still take one action now, today.

    darlene :)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] And speaking about resolutions and self improvement, I’ve been digging Johnny B. Truant’s no nonsense articles, particularly this one. [...]

  2. [...] How to not be a New Year’s resolution dumbass (including sexy photos)We all know of the issue of keeping to New Year’s Resolutions – we don’t. Johnny has some harsh words at the beginning for us all, but get over it. It’s really about what we reaslly want to do. What do you want to do? Go and test it against Johnny’s ideas. [...]

Speak Your Mind

*