Typically, the discourse on "New Year's resolutions" goes one of two ways. Either resolutions are a panacea and the precipice for one to jump off into a "whole new" version of themselves, or they are the villain that causes the masses to fail (yet again) in their health journey.
In reality, resolutions are neither inherently good nor bad. Resolutions are not powerful in their own right; we are powerful.
Resolutions are what we make them. They are a motivational tool for change, but only if we use the tool well. Results depend on intentions and execution.
One can use the New Year as a time to reflect and make intelligent goals, or to make unrealistic "health wishes," which inevitably cause one to fall off of the health horse down the shame spiral to further unhealthy choices.
Since the New Year is now, it is as good a time as any to make a health goal. As my mother taught me, don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
The trick is to look back before you look forward, by learning from all your previous experiences. Analyze your past health choices. Then integrate the knowledge. Use the question and answer process to make realistic, result-oriented, intelligent goals.
A few possible questions to ask yourself:
- When in my life have I been the healthiest? What habits did I hold that I can reproduce?
- When have I been the least healthy? Why? What can I learn from those experiences?
- How do I self-sabotage? What do I do to undermine my own success? Why? What steps can I take to mitigate my self-derailment?
- What are my linchpin and BNB (biggest negative bang) habits?
Often linchpin and BNB habits are one and the same — but not always. A linchpin habit initiates a significant spiral of either positive or negative actions and thoughts. If a nutrition regimen changes a linchpin habit it will have dramatic effects on health.
To alter your linchpin and BNB habits you have to first be aware of your current habits.
For example, let's say a diet asks you to cut out alcohol. If drinking is your linchpin habit, just the act of having one drink will set in motion other negative habits (like eating more, staying up late, and being unproductive the next day.) I don't drink, so a diet that advocates cutting out alcohol would not benefit me. My mom can have one glass of wine and, while she enjoys it, the act of drinking it does not make her want more alcohol or spur other negative habits. Exercise is one of my positive linchpin habits. If I do my workout I am more likely to do other positive things throughout the day.
Your BNB habits might not set in motion other bad habits, but they have a disproportionately huge negative impact on your health. For example, you might only eat after dinner once per day, but those empty calories have the potential to negate your other positive daily choices.
If eating after dinner disrupts your sleep or makes you feel frustrated with yourself and then make additional negative choices, "after dinner snacking" becomes both a BNB and a linchpin habit. To alter your linchpin and BNB habits you have to first be aware of your current habits; you can't make healthier choices if you are not aware of your actions, habits and thoughts.
- What do I do that takes 20 per cent of my effort and time, but gives me 80 per cent of my happiness, joy and productivity? Think people, actions, habits. Work on doing more of those actions and seeing more of those people.
- What thoughts typically derail me? Why might I have these thoughts? What are healthier thoughts I can foster?
- What most inspires me? Do more of that. Who most inspires me? Spend more time with those people.
Embrace that you will fall off your "horse" at some point in 2018; falling is part of being human. We all fall. The question is, not "will I fall?" but "when I fall, how quickly can I course correct and what can I learn from the experience?" Falling can either destroy you or make you stronger.
Learn from all experiences, but get back on the horse as quickly as possible. Don't "health snowball." One cookie is not the same as five cookies. One missed workout is not the same as three missed workouts.
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I get that change is scary and overwhelming. When you are feeling discouraged, remind yourself that one can be brave and afraid at the same time. To paraphrase Cus D'Amato, the hero and the coward both feel the same things. The hero uses fear productively. The coward runs. It is what you do with fear that matters.
This year will pass regardless of whether you exercise and eat broccoli or binge on ice cream. You have no control over the passage of time. You do have control over how you use your time. You can end 2018 wishing you had made healthier choices or you can end it filled with pride.
We are all afraid. We all fall. We all have sad days. We all feel tired. No one succeeds the first time or has boundless energy. Fear, self-doubt, painful affect and failure are all part of being human. Give fear the finger. Learn from your falls. Persevere. Have grit. In other words, stop thinking your way out of moving — put your running shoes on and go for a walk.
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