It’s January 6th! Already one week into the New Year. For those of you who make New Years Resolutions…how’s it going?
I tend to avoid them…mostly because they are much easier to make than to keep. Some of us look at the New Year as a time to make fresh commitments to improve our life style and health. The New Year is great time to take on that fresh perspective. I think, however, that New Years Resolutions are often made to be broken. I’m a bit of a gym rat and have been for the past 11 years. Every January I struggle to find a corner of the gym floor to get my workout done…but I KNOW that within three weeks that problem will go away…Sadly!
So what is it about New Years Resolutions that make them hard to fulfill? There are as many answers to that problem as there are people who drop off the resolution wagon.
Here are a few reasons I think people struggle:
First, we go too big. We choose this one moment or day or month to assess all that needs to be fixed in ourselves and decide to make a proclamation to change it..ALL of it. We set up unrealistic goals for ourselves and we fail. One failure leads to a domino effect and then we quit. Making small, consistent changes with opportunities to have a moments of weakness, where we are more forgiving and less critical of ourselves , and adopting "a little change over time vs an immediate change overnight” -attitude will help with the process. Believe me I did not become a gym rat overnight. I had many unsuccessful attempts and forages into the gym world before the habit stuck.
Second be gentle and kind with yourself. Once when I was at the gym, one of my gym friends asked me if I felt guilty if I missed a class. The truth, i used to feel guilty if I missed one pushup during a class. I mean I just did a 55 minute workout, with approximately 1000 repetitions of lifting, squatting, and pushups…and I would feel guilty if I missed one pushup??? Start looking at what you accomplish and not what you fail to accomplish. You are amazing and strong and out there working it…own that and celebrate all you are doing!
Third, stay focused and don’t fall into your temptation. Rick Warren warns us that temptation is a four step process (desire, doubting, deception, and disobedience). We all have a natural desires in life: eating, relaxing, procrastinating, and sinning are all part of these natural drives. Temptation takes a healthy desire, or even an unhealthy desire and abuses it or misuses it. For example, Let’s say you had decided to eat healthy. Here is an example how we sabotage our plan to eat health. It starts with a thought. The thought gains our attention and becomes a desire. You drive past a MacDonalds and you think about their french fries. You pass a bakery and you smell the sugar frosting,. You think to yourself - “I haven’t had that in a little while”, or “I miss that in my life.” You are not hungry or thinking about food, and someone calls you up and asks if you if you want to go for a pizza. All of a sudden you think of the pizza and suddenly you're hungry. Our thoughts become feelings, “I’m hungry!” which grows into actions or behaviors. “I want to eat pizza!” Once the seed is planted, the desire grows and takes you in pursuit of the wrong passion. The desire grows and becomes a hyper -focused obsession. You know that eating this is not on your healthy diet plan. You know this is not the right path…. but then you start doubting. You talk yourself into the lie that this is right for you right now. You start to doubt that you can accomplish or complete your task or you tell yourself it is only one slice of pizza…”It’s not really cheating". Or maybe you tell yourself “I gave my self permission for a cheat day." You know these are lies, but you are focused on what you want, so you make the lies up to validate what it is you want to achieve in that moment. This leads you into deception. You replace your plan with a secondary plan that permits you to eat pizza. And then you move forward into disobedience and you eat the pizza. But there is always this nagging voice in the back of your head that does not allow for you to fully enjoy that pizza ...because…you can NOT choose the behavior and expect to be able to AVOID the consequences that come with that decision. Too often this self sabotage-this falling victim to your temptations- destroys your resolution…and even all your resolve. Remember this…Rome was not built in a day…when you fail to temptation, get back on course. Recommit to your plan. Stay focused and grateful for what you can have and don’t get lost thinking about what you can’t have. When you focus on what you can’t have, it will take over your focus and it you will be fighting a losing battle. If you fail, go up to the first reason we fail and be gentle and kind to yourself. ”A little change over time vs an immediate change overnight” -attitude. Forgive yourself and move forward.
Fourth, it takes much thought preparation, planning, and consistency. Do you know what is the best exercise? It is the exercise you will actually do. What is the best diet for you? It is the one that is conscientiously acceptable to you and it is something you can stick to because you believe that it is the one you should be keeping. What is the best change you can make in yourself this year? Sometimes is has not about physical/mental health, but it is about emotional or spiritual health. This year I have decided that I need an attitude of gratitude. When things are not going my way, I am going to be grateful for the lessons of adversity and the growth I will experience through the challenges. When things are going my way, I will be grateful and recognize how blessed I am. Grateful! Grateful! Grateful! In everything I will be grateful!
Finally, New Years Resolutions cannot be just about you. We are not made to be so self-focused. Being overly self-focused can cause exhaustion, that will lead to failure. It is so easy to focus on yourself, but what will stick is focusing on how the changes in you will improve the world around you. All of sudden there is a whole new level of accountability. It needs to be about something bigger than your vanity and looks. Why do you want to get fit?- To impress and attract others???…or to feel strong and healthy so you can encourage, mentor, and serve others? It needs to be about your impact, your voice, your power in this world. You need to consider your entire value as a person, and what you have to bring to this world. How can you enhance yourself in such a way that you lift up yourself…so that you are able to inspire and lift up others? Those, are New Years Resolutions worth making. When you fully commit to making yourself grow into a person that will benefit not only yourself but also others, whatever resolution you chose (eating better, going to the gym, volunteering, mentoring, being grateful, or kind, or less angry, or more productive) will be possible. If your New Years Resolution is about your health, then find the workout that will make you healthier, and stronger and more confident-it has to be have an altruistic angle. Encourage others that they can too!…iIt cannot be just to look good, or to be thin. It must incorporate an understanding that exercise improves mental health by reducing stress, and improves physical health as well. Your body is your responsibility to take care of in order to stay strong and healthy, so you have the energy to do great things in this world!
Action Step: Stop making giant New Years Resolutions and start making small, sustainable changes in your life that will stick. Make changes that will make you a better version of yourself, not for the sake of impressing others, but for the sake of serving others and growing yourself. If you are struggling with these changes, consider seeking out the assistance of a Therapist, Life Coach, Physical Trainer, Nutrionalist, or Mentor to help guide you and lift you up when and where you are struggling. You are beautiful, and strong, and powerful, and capable! Happy New Year!