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The Pique Guide to New Year's Resolutions



Let's just take a stab in the dark here: It's the end of January, and all of your good intentions are dead or dying.

Your credit cards remain unpaid from the Christmas spending spree, the dirty dishes are piling up in the sink.

That second piece of cake after dinner last night went straight to your ass, and you're not even sure you remember how to get to the gym you joined for Jan. 1.

Also, you're a little bit hungover (I'll try and keep it down).

"So much for those New Year's resolutions," you're saying to yourself.

"Better luck next year."

But not so fast — February may be sneaking up on your lazy, unmotivated (unwashed?) self, but there is still hope for you.

There are 11 months left in 2016, and with the Pique Guide to New Year's resolutions, you have no excuse not to make them count.

According to an Ipsos poll conducted in late December, three in 10 Canadians set New Year's resolutions, and among those who do, 73 per cent eventually break them.

While some resolutions are bound to be specific — injury-free in 2016, anyone? — many are almost universal, like those related to health, fitness or finance.

In the interest of appealing to and assisting the broadest range of Pique readers, we decided to go with some of the more common, accessible resolutions.

You'll have to learn how to breakdance on your own.


There's at least one simple explanation behind why so many people fail to keep their New Year's resolutions, says Rhea Owens, assistant professor of counselling psychology at the University of British Columbia.

"A lot of times these New Year's resolutions are undesirable behaviours — things that we don't particularly like about ourselves or want to change about ourselves — but at the same time these behaviours that we want to change are very intrinsically rewarding," Owens says, using the common resolution of losing weight as an example.

"The undesirable behaviour is having that weight gain, but at the same time, it's very intrinsically rewarding, because cake tastes really good."

Ahhh yes. I understand now. Cake = good, but fat = bad.

Lounging around, eating sugary sweets while watching Netflix on the couch is easy.

Making real change in our lives is hard.

If we really want to have success with our resolutions, we need to be sure we're actually ready for the challenge.

"What the literature would suggest is that if you move into action too quickly, and it's not the right time, you're basically setting yourself up for failure," Owens says.

Which is likely why so many New Year's resolutions go unkept — the changing of the calendar pressures us into attempting self-improvement when maybe we're just not ready.

"It's OK to self reflect, it's OK to come up with a plan, but make sure that before you really start moving or acting on it that you're actually ready to move forward," Owens says.

One popular model is the SMART method, she says — making sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound.

RESOLUTION NO.1: Lose weight, build muscle, be stronger, faster and better

John Blok, personal trainer at the Whistler Core Climbing and Fitness Gym, has heard all kinds of reasons for people joining the gym — kids are using you as an inflatable toy at the pool, you're casting too much shadow on your fellow nudists at Lost Lake, your triathlon wetsuit makes you look like a seal and you're afraid of sharks — but for the most part, it's safe to say Whistlerites are ahead of the curve (pun intended) when it comes to fitness.

"Everybody that comes to our gym is hardcore, pretty well. It's pretty amazing. Even if they don't look hardcore, they probably still are," Blok says.

"We have a different starting point than most people."

And when Whistlerites make fitness resolutions, they're typically more diverse than just losing a few pounds — a lot of people are training for their respective race seasons or have other personal or competitive goals.

"People want a head start. They want to be good at whatever they do early," Blok says.

"I think we have a pretty competitive mindset."

But even if you're not ready to join the ranks of the hardcore, one of the keys to staying motivated towards achieving any fitness goal is to enjoy your workouts.

"I think you have to come to a gym deciding that it's going to be somewhat fun, and you're not hating coming to the gym," Blok says.

"Typically, we can teach people to enjoy your workout, and I think if you enjoy it and you make a change to it once a month, I think you'll stick to it."

Everyone is going to have a different preference when it comes to their workouts — some people come to the gym with their headphones on and don't say a word to anyone while they're there, Blok says — but making it into a social event is a good motivator as well.

Group workouts and classes are a big hit, he says.

"They burn a lot of calories in those, so it allows you to eat more or lose weight, but one of the things that keeps everybody going is the volume of people in the class — just coming with friends, doing the workout, talking about the workout, and I think that's important," he says.

"The social activity of a gym, the talk about the classes, I think that's a really big motivator for almost everybody."

And once you start enjoying your workouts, you get into a good routine and you see those first physical gains, you're likely to become even more motivated, Blok says.

Eventually, you might even look good naked.

"That's a really super big motivator actually, and that's for everybody," Blok says.

"Having a beach body is one of the key motivators for fitness."

RESOLUTION NO.2: Save more money, pay down your debt, rein in your finances

Coming out of the Christmas season, many people are feeling a tinge or two of regret.

There's the over-indulgence in Christmas sweets, the over-imbibing in holiday spirits, and of course, the time-honoured tradition of spending more than you probably should.

But to hear it from Adam Adams, financial advisor with Scotiabank's Whistler branch, holiday overspending is the catalyst for many a monetary resolution.

"Around Christmas time, people tend to spend more than they have, and then a bill shows up — usually in January," Adams says.

"That puts pressure on them to kind of start moving forward again in the New Year."

Adams suggests something that some people may consider completely radical.

"Most people don't even think of it, but January is the perfect time to start thinking about Christmas next year," Adams says.

Think about what you spent on Christmas this year, and start setting that aside for next year. Voila! You've wiped out next year's Christmas debt!

Easier said than done for many, but if saving more money or paying down debt is on your list of New Year's resolutions, this kind of forward thinking goes much further than Christmas.

Much in the way a personal trainer can keep you on track to ditch the gut, a financial advisor can help you keep your eye on any financial goals you might have included in your list of New Year's resolutions.

And in the case of Scotiabank, at least, seeing an advisor is free.

"They need to go and talk to their financial advisor and be checking in with them every six months to make sure they're on target, to make sure that whatever goals they've set for themselves, they're still in the process of meeting them, and haven't deviated, and if they have, how to kind of get back on track."

Once you have an idea of your cash flow and a specific goal in mind — Adams says having zero debt is usually No. 1 for most people, but other goals include buying a house or setting up an emergency fund — it's time to lay down a solid budget to help you get there.

Surprisingly, many people manage their finances using only a loose idea of a budget, Adams says.

"I'll ask them, 'Have you worked one out?' and they'll turn around and say, 'Yeah, sort of.'" Adams says.

"And to me that means, 'Not really.'

"So the biggest priority is setting a budget for yourself, knowing how much cash is coming in and where it's going, because when people actually sit down and figure out where the cash is going, they realize that maybe there is money there to be setting aside for certain things that maybe they didn't think was there before."

Like all New Year's resolutions, or self-improvement in general, there is an element of strict discipline at play as well.

"Your goal is only as good as your willingness to meet that goal and stick with the budget that you've put for yourself," Adams says.

"If you're not going to stick with the budget, then your goal really may not mean anything."

And once you learn to get a handle on your finances, it's a skill that is likely to stick with you — and it will be one less thing to include on your list of resolutions for 2017.

"Money is always going to be there, and everyone is always going to have to deal with money, so why not learn how to deal with it?" Adams says.

"Learning how to handle it and dealing with those scenarios is probably the best advice I could give to people, because money is not going anywhere."

RESOLUTION NO.3: Quit drinking, quit smoking, give up fast food

In 2015, there was more than one mention in the media of Whistler's willingness to imbibe.

A health authority survey from this past summer found that about half of Whistler residents confessed to binge drinking — downing five or more alcoholic beverages in one sitting — per month.

According to Kevin Fraser, manager for mental health and addiction services for the Sea to Sky corridor with Vancouver Coastal Health, those statistics are likely lifestyle oriented.

"There's a younger population, more transient population going to Whistler that probably has a little bit of a 'letting their hair down' mentality that sometimes involves over indulgement," Fraser says.

"But as far as other addictions, I don't think there's any indication that it's any different than anywhere else in the province or the country in terms of problems."

But if one of your New Year's resolutions is to quit binge drinking — or smoking, or eating fast food for that matter — there are ways to go about that.

The first step, Fraser says, is to overcome your ambivalence towards your vice.

"Ambivalence is kind of like, you're thinking it's probably a good idea, however, there's lots of good reasons why not to," Fraser says.

"Such as, 'I'd really like to stop drinking and improve my health, and I might save some money, on the other hand, it might affect my social relationships.'"

To overcome those internal conflicts, it helps to try to look at it objectively, Fraser says.

"Write it out in terms of, 'What are all the benefits of continuing in the same pattern, and what are all the benefits of changing the pattern? What are the negatives of continuing the same way, what are the negatives of changing it?" he says.

Seeing things written down in that way helps people remove themselves from the conflict somewhat, Fraser says.

Like the other resolutions in our guide, having a plan with realistic, achievable targets is crucial, but it's also important to allow yourself to fail.

Fraser uses the analogy of a dartboard to visualize the strategy for quitting — focus on your bull's-eye and zero in.

"Once you've zeroed in, your probability of hitting the bull's-eye or somewhere in the vicinity has now increased substantially," Fraser says. "You probably won't hit the bull's-eye, but you're going to come close.

"If you haven't zeroed in, you probably won't even hit the dart board."

And just like a person picking up a throwing dart for the first time, you likely won't have perfect aim — you've got to allow yourself room for error if you want to get better, Fraser says.

"That's just so important, because all of these New Year's resolutions, they're well intended and the decisions are what people probably need to change, but they don't allow for the error in the process, and so when the error occurs, then it's 'Well maybe I'll try again next year or something," he says.

"Error has to be part of any change process. Error is necessary."

If you are struggling with addiction or substance abuse, you don't have to go it alone. VCH offers support through its website at www.vch.ca/locations-and-services/.

The Whistler Community Services Society also offers free counselling services — head to www.mywcss.org for more info.

Fraser and VCH are hosting a two-day addictions workshop with renowned psychologist William R. Miller in Whistler on March 10 and 11.

Head to www.seatoskyknowledgeexchange.ca for more info.

RESOLUTION NO.4: Meet new people, give back to your community, be a better person, dammit

There are many ways to self-improve, and we know what you're thinking: isn't there some way to do them all at once?

Well, no — not quite. But almost.

If your resolutions involve being more social, helping others or just generally feeling better about yourself, there's a one-stop shop for that.

"You hear people say things like I want to meet new people, or I want to be physically active, or I want to eat healthier, but you can incorporate that into volunteering," says Carol Coffey, executive director of the Community Foundation of Whistler.

"I think no matter what your resolution is, you can incorporate volunteering into it."

Coffey is in charge of Whistler's "Volunteer Opportunities Newsletter" — 200 names long and growing.

With a 12-month schedule of festivals and events, there is certainly no shortage of need for volunteers — you can sign up for the newsletter at www.whistlerfoundation.com.

And once you start volunteering, you may find you've knocked off more than one of your resolutions before your motivation even starts to falter.

But let's say one of your resolutions is simply to volunteer — how can you be sure to stick with it all year long?

"If you make a resolution to volunteer, it sounds ridiculous and crass, but you probably want to start off by being a little selfish," Coffey says with a laugh.

"Because you need to be honest with yourself about what are your goals, and what are you hoping to get out of the experience. If you find something that's meaningful to you, that's going to be rewarding, then I think you're more likely to stick with that resolution."

For non-profit organizations, finding committed, consistent volunteers is "like gold," Coffey says — if you're being a little bit selfish in choosing your volunteer options and you pursue something you're passionate about, it's likely to be extra beneficial for both parties.

"In Whistler, it's a challenge for non-profit organizations, because people come and go with the seasons, so you're constantly trying to recruit new people and train them, and that requires time and resources," Coffey says.

"Those people who are really committed are like gold... but really it's just about being honest about how much time you have to volunteer and what you're really interested in doing."

As the saying goes, whether it's time, talent or treasure, we've all got something we can give.


Every New Year's resolution is about change — examining the things in our lives and trying to make them better.

From a big-picture perspective, Whistler is a motivated town full of motivated people.

When a problem arises, the community bands together. Funds are raised, committees are struck, people step up and things get done.

Collectively, Whistler is seemingly always striving towards something bigger and better.

But that energy doesn't always translate to our day-to-day lives.

On an individual level, we're all still humans — flawed, vulnerable, prone to distraction and oftentimes unmotivated — but as long as we have the will to be better, we can.

And whatever problems we might face, we never have to face them alone.

Talk to your friends, your family or a counsellor.

"Really, the whole point of counselling or therapy is behaviour change," Owens says.

"And so whether it's working towards self-improvement or working on something that a person sees as a deficit in themselves, the idea is to essentially have a supportive person there to help you overcome barriers, and see your strengths so that you can use those to your advantage."

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