SOME TIPS FOR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS
An acquaintance was recently bemoaning the fact that her gym would soon see hordes of “resolutions nuts” descending upon her and other gym regulars. “These jokers don’t know the first thing about gym etiquette and they’re just a royal pain. The only good thing is that by the end of February most of them will be gone. They dump those resolutions in a hurry.”
Bingo! Resolutions don’t last. That just about says it all. The fact is, these resolutions are a lousy way to cope with things bothering you, whether it’s being too heavy, smoking, lack of exercise, being inattentive to family, etc., etc., etc.
Why don’t resolutions work? For one thing, the very fact that you pick a specific date to begin your transformation into a better person shows that you are procrastinating, and are really not motivated. Picking that date is so artificial, and just means you’re kicking the can down the road.
For another thing, many folks use resolutions to motivate them. Well, that’s just putting the cart before the horse. Resolutions must be the result of motivation to do something, not the catalyst for generating motivation.
Also, resolutions are often unrealistic. You make grandiose, unattainable resolutions (“be able to run a marathon by Spring,” “lose 30 lbs by February,”) and you also believe that you’re going to be involved in reinventing yourself, creating a new you. That’s unrealistic thinking.
To have any chance of success, a resolution must involve specific goals involving specific actions: “I will eat a piece of fruit, an apple or a pear, for lunch instead of a sandwich. I will do a workout at the gym 3 days a week. I will walk my neighborhood (or my treadmill) for 45 minutes every day. Every Monday I will weigh less than, or at least the same as, the previous Monday.”
If you want to change something about yourself, don’t wait until some future date to begin; start now. Keep a daily record of relevant actions and outcomes; there are tremendous intrinsic rewards in seeing yourself perform your required activities and in seeing progress. There’s a sense of personal empowerment that spurs you on!
In a previous blog (7.16.16) we discussed some things that are relevant to increasing success when it comes to resolutions. Remember that there is a huge disconnect between “will” and “want.” You may indeed “want” to change your behavior, but you can’t quite muster the “will” to make a step towards that new end. Smoking, weight loss, exercise, and getting in shape all fit this distinction quite well. You may “want” to be able to fit in your clothes better, but you also “want” to sit on the couch and watch Netflix. There is a real push (get off your duff!) vs. pull (I need to take it easy!) inside you, and unfortunately the pull (in this case Netflix) generally wins. So how do you move from focusing on the push rather than the pull?
Connect your New Year’s resolution to a specific motivator and place it squarely in front of you. “Warm weather will be here soon and I want to be able to look decent at the pool”; “That wedding I’m in is only a few weeks away and I need to look sharp”; “The boss invited me to join in a jog last week and I nearly died of exhaustion. That’s no way to get a promotion. I have to be able to keep up.”
Also, your resolution must involve your values as well as your actions. You may need to confront values-oriented thinking that is inconsistent with your actions: You put off investigating diets (an action) that may work for you even though you say, “I care about my health” (your value); you put off joining a gym (an action) even though you say, “I want to get in shape” (your value); you put off spending more time with your kids and spouse (an action), even though you say, “I value family” (your value); you put off signing up for a course at the local community college (an action), even though you say, “I want to become more educated” (your value).
Use a resolution to connect your actions and your values. Identify those things that you really value, the things that are important to you. Then resolve to coordinate those things you value with specific actions that are compatible with those values. Once you identify constructive actions and begin engaging in them, they will tend to become a part of your routine; they will become automatic and it won’t take much effort to maintain them, making your resolutions successful. And definitely resolve not to wait until January 1st to put them into action!