It’s the time of year when many of people take stock and make resolutions for the coming year. Often they struggle to make sudden and great changes, they may feel that making changes might be hard, outside their comfort zone or overwhelming, and they often don’t stick with these resolutions. Working in the fitness industry over the last 25 years, I’ve seen it happen every January.
One of the greatest reasons people don’t stick to their resolutions is because they do and expect too much too fast. Small incremental change is easier to make and ultimately stick with. People have some deeply ingrained habits that took years to cultivate; they aren’t going to change in 30, 90 or maybe even 200 days.
But if you are someone who plans to make resolutions (i.e resolve to change), then I ask, “Why do you have to change? Why do you have to make resolutions to be different than you are today”?
Now I’m going to ask you another question, “Why aren’t you enough just as you are right now”? I’ll wait while you ponder these questions…
Okay good…I’m glad you didn’t stop reading.
We often forge ahead into the new year with thoughts of starting a new diet, exercise program, lifestyle change etc. But let’s take a moment to ponder what we were “doing wrong” that makes us want to change. Why can’t we embrace the person we are? After all, it’s all of our choices so far that have led us to the moment we are in right now.
Maybe we have a few more pounds on our body than we want. Maybe we are trying for a promotion or looking for a new job. Maybe we want to learn to manage our stress better. Okay. But why, for crying out loud, why do we have to change who we are right now to appreciate ourselves?
You are perfectly imperfect just the way you are. We all are. We are all messy, unsure, curious, and evolving human beings just trying to navigate our lives on this planet.
And I can’t speak for you, but I know I certainly want to enjoy the ride right to the end; the key word being ENJOY. I want to learn things and experience things and be engaged in what I’m doing. I don’t want to go through the motions. I don’t want to do something just because everyone else is doing it or I think I should be doing it. I don’t want to waste happiness right now wanting something in the future that I think will make me happy/happier. I want to be happy and do what I call THRIVE right now! I get one shot at this life. To get to the end (I plan to live to 100), I’ll need to take care of myself along the way, sure, but I don’t want to be obsessed with some dream reality, something unattainable, or something that requires too much change or work. When making change we also need to realistically balance how much work we’re willing to put in versus the rewards at the end.
For example, I could cut back on my calories and exercise a lot more and be a cover model (it’s a dream reality, right?) but I don’t want to put that much work into it (plus my whole body hurts most days and I just don’t have it in me). I want to enjoy some wine and cheese now and again. I want to eat ice cream cake on my birthday because it’s my freakin’ birthday! I want to flake on the couch after a hard day at work and watch The Office. I will obviously put some work in because I want to be healthy and live to 100, but I’m willing to give up the cover model dream for some balance in my life.
Let’s get back on track with how perfectly imperfect we all are. If there are things in our lives we want to change, let’s take a look at why.
I’ll use the following example because this seems to be one of the most common New Years’ Resolutions and it’s in line with the example above. Some of us have a few more pounds on our bodies than we like. That’s going to happen as we age, our hormones change, and we’ve suffered injuries along the ride or we rode real hard. We will NEVER look like we did when we were in our 20’s. I know people who still hold that dream. Every seven years our cells have completely changed and renewed; we aren’t even the same person we are anymore! Is losing a little bit of weight really going to make us happier? Is it going to make people like us better? Is it going to make that much of a difference in how much we enjoy our lives? Studies (lots of them) say NO.
Now, if you have health issues because of weight, then I recommend you see your doctor or a specialist. But most of us aren’t in that boat. We compare ourselves to the person we used to be, or some dream we want to be. I carry a little more weight than I’d like and I’m a fitness instructor; how long do you think it took me to get over that? In my head, I thought people would judge me and expect me to be “skinny” because I work in the fitness industry. I eventually got to a place in my head where if people don’t take my advice as an authority on well-being (because I am) or come to my classes because I have a bit of a belly then we weren’t meant to work together. They can go find someone skinny to feed them a line of bull to sell them more services. I know I’m healthy and strong. I know my stuff, the science behind it, and what I need to do to be “skinny”; I’m just not willing to put all of that work in. Now, I just buy bigger shirts.
So, I say, as we move into a new year, why can’t we just learn to love ourselves and be kind to ourselves a little more? I’m not saying to not live a healthy life, but let’s show ourselves a little grace. We are perfectly imperfect. We do our best.
Many years ago, I gave up setting resolutions. I start each year with goals. Things I want to accomplish (like reading good literature or learning a language) or experience (such as a spending more time with my aging parents or laughing with friends). The goals I set are meant to help me stay as healthy as I can, achieve longer term goals, learn more so I can be a better person/partner/teacher/coach, experience more, and appreciate more of what life has to offer.
I never set goals that are vague. I never set goals that take me away from my authentic self and don’t line up with my values. I never set goals that aren’t realistic. And I never set goals that make me miserable, stressed, or make me ask why the hell I’m doing that?
I don’t always meet my goals each year. I check in at the end of each season to see where I’m at and I might change some of them, or get rid of them, or add new ones. In 2021, one of my goals was to start doing in-person classes again but COVID prevented that. No biggie, I offered Zoom options instead. I set a goal to drink less wine because I want to see if I would feel better, but well, 2021 happened. I set a goal to get our hiking and 4-wheeling in the fall to enjoy the season with my husband as it’s his favourite time of year but then we got hit with a cyber-attack at work and I ended up working most weekends or too exhausted to do anything else. Life happens.
Sometimes to meet our goals we have to change some habits or create new ones. A number of years ago, I wanted to start flossing every morning because I only did it sporadically. I kept forgetting to do it. So, to create a new habit, I started to keep the floss on the counter so I would see it. Eventually, it became part of my daily morning routine and it now stays in the drawer with the toothpaste.
As you head into 2022, be kind to yourself and really think about why you want to make certain changes and if they will truly increase your happiness. If you plan to make changes, make sure they are realistic and don’t worry if you don’t make big, sweeping change; baby steps and small wins will help you make lasting change. Like putting the floss on the counter.
If you want to know more about making habits and changes stick, I’m offering a workshop on Monday January 17th at 7:30pm (via Zoom of course) on Successful Goal Setting. Please contact me for more information.