Ahh! It’s the beginning of the year again. That time where our imaginary slate gets wiped clean and we get carte blanche…. to make the same mistakes we didn’t learn from the year before.
This time I’m going to do it right. This time I’m going to start that diet. This year I’m going to run that marathon. This year I’m going to declutter my house.
The list goes on. I’ve seen the attrition at the gym too many times to know that by March, all the new members have stopped coming on a regular basis and I usually don’t see them again until May (right before “bikini season”).
This is why I’m strongly opposed to New Year’s resolutions of any kind. It’s truly a way to set yourself up for failure, and it perpetuates the vicious cycle of self-hatred and punishment that so many Americans love putting themselves through. This is not healthy and it’s also not very kind to ourselves. If you really want to make some life changes this year, how about we stop this shit and resolve to just enjoy life a little bit more? How about we resolve to not make resolutions at all? Go ahead. I give you permission. Still, if you really have your heart set on some change, here are some ideas that might set you up for some serious follow through:
DTI (Define the Intention)
Let’s start by reflecting on why you feel the need to make a life change in the first place. Are you doing it because you think that’s what you are supposed to do at the beginning of the year? Are you inspired by the momentum of all the people around you vowing to do something big this year or are you just trying to please someone other than yourself? Have you been thinking about making changes for a long time but don’t know where to start and this just seemed like a good time?
Well, you don’t have to wait until January 1st to start something new. You can choose to do something radical any fucking time it pleases you. And according to some experts, September is the new January anyway.
You Don’t Have to Start Right Away
Maybe instead of starting something on the first day of the year you can start small, by just gathering information. Want to run that marathon? Research which cause you want to support first. Find out how much money (if any) you have to raise, then find a local training group. You might find there’s no actual running you’ll be doing until April. You are more likely to follow through with your commitment if you have a little more time to mentally prepare for that thing you want to do instead of forcing yourself to a deadline you might not be quite ready for.
Don’t Go at it Alone
Most people wanting to make health and wellness changes take all the responsibility upon themselves. That’s a lot of pressure and it usually leads to burnout.
The best thing you can probably do for your health is make an appointment with a professional. This will give you a baseline of where to start. For example, if you want to change your eating habits, get a blood test and talk to your doctor to find out what your body really needs. Making an informed decision is healthier than embarking on crash diets that are going to make you miserable, hungry, and/or suck up all your money.
While taking some time to reflect on your need to make a change you might find that you’re just feeling like crap emotionally and unsure why. Find out if your insurance covers mental health care. Sign up for a support group. Find out from your doctor if maybe you need medication. This might be all the change you need for a greater sense of satisfaction in life.
Really, just the simple act of making an appointment for yourself will make you feel accomplished and fill you with self-love. Trust me on this one.
Think About How You Want to Feel Instead
According to Danielle LaPorte, people go about goal setting all wrong. She suggests focusing instead on how you want to feel. Do you want to feel satisfied, joyful, excited? Through her program, Desire Map, LaPorte teaches that when we focus on how we want to feel, we will instinctively start setting goals that align with those feelings. Eventually you may find that your Desire Map goals are more aligned with the kind of life we really want to have.
Interested? Right now, you can get free access to the Desire Map at http://www.daniellelaporte.com/ Don’t wait though, it won’t be free for long.
Focus on What’s Already Working
Sometimes it’s just not useful to think about what’s not working in our lives. What a way to send the message to yourself that you’re not good enough. EW! It’s more empowering to take a look at what IS working, and then do more of that. Are you already good at waking up early? Then maybe you would do awesome at starting an exercise routine or taking an online class. Same goes for if you work better at night. Already eating healthy? Maybe you’ll try to cut out alcohol or add a supplement, or maybe you will learn to make a decadent new recipe that’s different from your usual grilled chicken and green beans.
Live More, Do Less
Choosing to do less is a totally valid and healthy goal to have.
So many of us are running around like chickens with our heads cut off. Adding something new to the mix is likely to create more stress. We live in a culture that places an inordinate amount of value on accomplishments. While a long list of accomplishments may be impressive, it doesn’t make us better people and it certainly doesn’t guarantee happiness. If taking something off your plate is going to bring you some peace and calm, then there is certainly no need to feel guilty about that.
Be Patient with Yourself
Instant gratification. We’ve all heard that term before. That bitch is a real troublemaker. It’s one of the main reasons people give up on their personal commitments. Most of us will start (fill in the blank) in January and expect to see big changes with in the next few weeks.
Remember that it takes time to see real and lasting results for any new habit we create. We have to give our brain time to process the new changes. According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Phillippa Lally (a health psychology researcher at University College London) and her research team discovered that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a new habit to form. You may think you put on those 10 pounds in one day but it probably took at least a month for it to happen.
Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater
So, you started the day off with a good healthy breakfast, you had a salad for lunch, you went to the gym, and then boom 3:00 pm rolled around an alien took over your body and forced you to eat a cupcake. You’ve screwed it all up, no sense in moving forward. Fuck it! You’re ordering pizza for dinner.
Umm hello?!! Just like you don’t have to wait for January to set goals, you also don’t have to wait until the next morning to start the diet over. So, you caved, big deal you’re only human. Don’t give up on yourself. If you had a cigarette, then just don’t have another one. You don’t need to now smoke a whole pack because you think you’ve failed. If you had the cupcake then have your normal dinner. It’s really okay.
That’s what commitment realistically looks like. Commitment is never about doing it perfectly. Commitment is falling off the wagon, dusting yourself off and getting back on again. Have you ever seen a baby, learning to walk, fall and then stay on the ground saying “I screwed up! I’m just going to lay here until tomorrow?” Of course not! You would encourage that baby to not give up on themselves, right? So then why wouldn’t you do the same for yourself?
Whatever your intentions are for this year I wish you spectacular success, and I hope that you approach 2019 with love and compassion for yourself. Feel free to reach out to me for support or just to share about your adventures at firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you.