Well it’s that time again after being judged by Santa as to our naughty or niceness we console ourselves by celebrating the new year and we celebrate by doing three things that experience has shown are bad for us: Overeating, Spending too much, and Making new year’s resolutions.
I’m Rick Green and I want to know why bother making new year’s resolutions? Why do I make new year’s resolutions, I don’t have a great track record, I don’t know anyone who does.
Now in theory making new year’s resolutions is a wonderful thing, in theory setting goals is key to success at anything or so successful people tell me, and the resolutions that we make at the dawn of January can be noble, improving my health, starting a new career, building financial stability, breaking a bad habit, traveling to a dream destination, expanding my mind by achieving a meaningful goal. All good stuff.
What Are Resolutions?
New year’s resolutions are a commitment to be who we truly want to be, to do what we know is important and meaningful to us personally, in theory. So why do so many of us abandon our resolutions or even totally forget them? I mean most people don’t even bother making resolutions anymore and sometimes the reasons we falter are obvious, we dream too big knowing deep in our heart of hearts, which is located near our spleen of spleens, that the goal that we’ve pledged to achieve is improbable, or impractical, or impossible.
Let’s look at those three improbables I’m giving up smoking, drinking all caffeine, meat, dairy, farting, and social media as of tomorrow. Yeah, good luck with that.
Over committing, all or nothing thinking, I know that one vowing to do something dramatic, a turning point by doing something that you have never been able to accomplish year after year even though you’ve made numerous annual resolutions to do that.
Resolving to do something that no human has ever managed to accomplish in the history of new year’s resolutions. I mean it sounds wonderful, it sounds awesome in theory.
Then there’s impractical, I’m gonna lose 280 pounds this year! Well if you’re trying to get healthy that kind of goal may be harmful. Losing weight, too quickly triggers something called the famine response and what happens is your body will gain it all back and then some thinking wow that sudden shortage there must have been a famine and therefore I better have a little extra in case there’s another famine… even though the grocery store is jammed, but that’s a topic for another video.
Then there are the impossible resolutions. Now my resolution may sound possible when I first made it but then it might become impossible due to circumstances, like okay so say I set a goal that’s inspiring, perhaps feeling out of shape I commit to running a marathon in September, okay half marathon, and right now I’m really only running to the bathroom in McDonald’s. So I start training, I’m going to start in February which turns into March which becomes May but I do start. I eventually start running and a little further every day until i’m achieving a whole mile and then in July, tragedy, I sustain a bad injury like a shin splint or a pulled fibial muscle, or debilitating hamstring contusion ability, bad hamstring contusion…
I don’t know, whatever they are, I don’t know the injuries, I hate running, but I can’t walk for six weeks let alone run so being sensible I have to let the goal of the half marathon, actually I was gonna do a whole marathon but I set it aside in advance until next year and then here’s the weird part, I actually do the opposite, well next year I’m really going to get in shape so this year I could eat donuts and get more out of shape, so running the half marathon will be an even greater triumph! Yeah I made all of these mistakes in the past.
Making Changes Stick
When I did keep a resolution and actually reach a goal, or improve my situation in one way or another, what actually helped was having:
- Clear Goals
- Specific Measurable Goals
- A Date or Outcome with Deadlines
- Milestones to Celebrate
I can also look back and see hundreds of clear goals that I set and I never achieved them, so sometimes clear goals help but I’m going to suggest something different, maybe not always to my surprise.
Setting A Broader Goal
I’ve also had some success in the last few years by creating a very broad, vague, a very comprehensive or overarching objective one that I can achieve in any number of ways despite say having an injury or another circumstance or some unexpected obstacles. Those don’t stop me.
I learned this from a very successful woman, she was an author, a leader, amazing lady and she had a simple mantra, at the end of every year I will be in better shape than I was at the start of the year. It’s something she sort of committed to when she was about 50 and she’d been sticking with it, reversing the aging process that was her goal. What a great goal and that had been her resolution for at least a decade.
The year I met her she had set a goal of being able to do a cartwheel for the very first time in her life in her 60s, she’d never done it as a child, never managed. She said she was clumsy and she set a goal, worked carefully through it, got some advice and training and coaching I guess, and she did it! She was doing cartwheels in her 60s and I was really inspired by that, not just maintaining my health or slowing the aging but actually being healthier. How?
Small Steps To Getting Healthier
How did she get a little bit healthier every year?
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
- Not ordering fries or okay not every time
- Parking far away from where you’re going at the mall (extra steps)
- Brisk walks
- Stretching while waiting for the stove, kettle, or microwave
- Not having a second helping, my wife was shocked!
The cool thing about having an overarching goal is there’s so many different ways you can achieve this throughout the year, eating more vegetables, zumba, drinking less or not at all, running the marathon or half marathon or a quarter of a marathon, they all fall under this one broader goal which is better health or in this case which is even more inspiring, getting younger every year rather than older.
Now the beauty of creating this broader goal which was really the ultimate goal behind so many of my earlier resolutions is that if you do splint your shin or find an entirely plant-based diet involves learning a lot about nutrition and you’re really busy at the moment, whatever it is, well the goal of better health isn’t abandoned.
If something didn’t work for me I wasn’t defeated, I didn’t abandon my goal of better health, of being younger, my efforts weren’t a waste they were stepping stones and I wasn’t working towards my goal or achieving my resolution. Only when I was training for the marathon and then ended up being derailed.
I had an opportunity to do something or choose something that was better for me in the long run, I could choose little steps every day, every day little steps having this overarching goal opened my eyes to opportunities, I was alert for them and I could make progress all through the day every day, in dozens of small ways and let’s go fora quick walk. Progress.
I found myself doing new things trying things like saying just a small piece of pie please, that was hard. I kind of tried anything and everything, sampling different practices, some I kept up, yoga a few times a week, some I did not, riding my bike… no.
To my delight a couple of things I dabbled in became regular habits actually going to the gym is surprisingly restorative, gradually eating less meat and dairy to the point where I’m 99% vegan, less caffeine and less and less and now I’m off caffeine for the first time probably since I was 11.
When the gym closed due to the pandemic we started taking brisk walks, half hour walks, the result? Well for three years running I was in better shape in December than I had been back in January of that year, my blood work came back better and better.
This year a confluence of circumstances both global, you may have heard of those ones, and local, has challenged me and some things have slipped. I’m still in way better shape than I was a decade ago but I don’t know if I am a year ago, I definitely put on another four or five pounds… that’s okay I will repeat my resolution to be healthier physically and mentally this December 31st. I will renew my vow it’s a goal I can achieve every day in ways big and small.
It is so motivating to know that I have proven to myself I can do this and I’m doing it every day I don’t feel like yoga well there’s other things I can do.
So I offer this as a suggestion, it’s worked for me, if it appeals to you try it, either way happy new year, I’m Rick Green.