The Resolution, Revisited

I know you’d probably rather see a post about resolutions on New Years Day, when it really matters. But the truth is, it’s a good time to check in. How are you holding out? Have you done something today that you resolved yesterday to do?

Many families have some kind of good luck charm they use to carry their wishes into the next calendar year. For some (like my extended family) it’s the belief that a hamhock cooked in black eyed peas brings good luck. For others it might be the jotting down of hopes, dreams, and ideas that boil down to good intentions for the new year. Others still believe that a kiss at midnight is the key to happiness for the next year.

Whatever you believe, even the most pessimistic of us likely resolve to do something important for the next year.

Some of the best resolutions I’ve heard have been to read more books, to write more, to love more, to live unfettered by doubt and stress.

Most commonly people tend to make resolutions to do very big things, such as working out every single day or losing a lot of weight. These are so common that gyms raise their prices during Jan/Feb in anticipation of all the new signups. If you want a 24-hour-fitness gym membership, get it in July, not January.

Most people break down and revert to old habits before the end of January, and that’s based on the anatomy of habits in general. It takes 3 weeks to really establish a good habit, and longer if it’s replacing a bad habit. More importantly, going from zero activity to an hour working out every day is too difficult for your body to keep up with. Change is difficult, so you have to take baby steps.

The most important advice I can give anyone is to make it easy for their habit change. For example, if you’re not a morning person, don’t choose to work out at 6am every morning. If you work 12 hour shifts, try not to work out right after you get off work. If you’ve never worked out before, start by taking walks or following through a Yoga DVD for a month before upgrading to the expensive gym membership that will make you feel miserable and guilty for not using it.

A friend of mine recently said that she feels resolutions are like birthday wishes–if you tell everyone, it won’t happen. That might be true, but you certainly need an accountability partner.

From my business excursions and training I’ve come to understand some important concepts about resolutions and goal setting. One of them is the idea that your life and goals are like a big jet. It takes a lot of fuel to get off the ground at the beginning of the month, but not so much fuel to keep it in flight. If you let the plane land, though, you have to keep working to get the energy going to start back up again. It’s easier to keep moving forward.

My suggestion, then, is that every day you decide not to go to bed each night before you have done something that has advanced your goals. If your plan is to become a published author, write at least a paragraph or edit something before bed. If you want to read more books, read ten pages before bed every night. If you want to work out and lose weight, start doing a few situps or stretches right before bed, and raise the number gradually every night. If you want to run a marathon, walk around your block today. Tomorrow, walk it twice. Keep increasing the number of trips around the block, day by day.

Next, I advise that you write your goals down in present positive, and read them daily. Write them down as though they exist for you today. “I am fit, friendly and sociable. I am successful at work and I have been promoted this year.” Train your subconscious to go out and get what you want. Never write goals that are negative or that involve other people doing things. The only person you can change is yourself.

A mentor of mine tells the joke that three birds are sitting on a fence. One decides to fly off the fence. How many are left?

The answer is three.

Ultimately, a resolution is just a wish until the flame of action is applied to it. Once you make a decision and put action behind the decision, you can accomplish great things.

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