New Years Resolutions Revisited
Once again, it’s that time of year. On New Year’s Eve the clock strikes midnight and a new year is born. When I wake up on Thursday morning, will I be reborn? Sadly, I will still be a somewhat paunchy, (although I have great muscle definition underneath all of that fat!) balding, middle-aged guy, with a bunch of good and bad habits. Despite 2014’s good intentions, I haven’t changed much the last year.
I guess it’s time to go back to sleep!
New Year’s resolutions have fallen out of favor, largely because most adults fail miserably at keeping them. Newly acquired treadmills, stair steppers, and rowing machines are used for hanging up clothing by March. By June, they are on Craig’s list. Or worse, they are collecting dust in an over-stuffed garage.
Probably, the biggest reason for New Year’s failures is that motivation for change does not correspond to the turning of the calendar. Just because 2015 starts on Friday doesn’t mean that I’m ready to shed the weight I gained last year. Sure, I have been thinking about losing those 5 lbs. (Okay, closer to 10 lbs.…) for six months. Why not get serious now? Great idea! But do I have the motivation to sustain that effort?
That’s the ten-pound question.
Researchers tell us that motivation for change is a simple formula—incentives for change have to be twice the justifications for staying the same. Well, let’s see. I want to look better in a bathing suit this summer, have looser jeans, and be healthier. On the stay plump side, I like ice cream, changing eating habits seem like climbing Mount Everest, and I am already pretty healthy despite my extra pounds. That’s three pros and three cons. I need three more pros! Furthermore, social scientists throw in a kicker concept—how much do I believe I can lose those 10 lbs. and keep them off? Don’t ask—I have lost and gained a thousand pounds over the last 20 years.
Motivation for change is born from a dynamic interplay of incentives, barriers, and beliefs about my ability to reach my goals. It makes New Year’s resolutions look like taking a swim in the Puget Sound.
So what can we do after the confetti is gone?
Pick one goal you would like to accomplish this next year. Be modest. You are more likely to be successful if you keep it small, simple, and singular.
Focus on changing one behavior. “I will spend more time playing with my kids, I will spend more time with my spouse (remember date nights?), I will be more patient with my teenager’s arguments for a later curfew, I will have more meals at home, I will bring my lunch to work, I will get a massage once a month, I will eat more vegetables at dinner, I will walk 2x a week, and so on”. Make it achievable, convenient, feasible and realistic.
Make a plan. Keeping it small and simple is not enough. How will you handle challenges that rise up and stare your conviction in the face? Write your goal on a 3×5 card and post on your bathroom mirror so that you won’t forget in the heat of the moment. Think through how you will implement your plan.
A slip is not a fall. If you miss your walk this week, don’t abandon your goal. If you yell at your kiddo don’t throw in the towel. If you miss a date night two weeks in a row, don’t throw your resolution out of the window.
Stick with it.
What is the one thing you would like to change this year?