This year, I decided not to make any New Year's Resolutions. For me, in the past, a New Year's resolution has typically gone in one "year" and out the other. I always have the best of intentions on December 31st (sometimes, but not always, spurred along by several cocktails), but, without fail, a few days into the new year my resolve to eat better/exercise more/be more organized/work harder has disappeared quicker than the New Year's Day hangover.
New Year's resolutions are basically about goal setting. What is so special about January 1st and our ability to set goals for ourselves? What did we do with the other 364 days in the previous year that kept us from reaching our goals? January 1st is just an arbitrary day, no more special than today. A recent study of New Year's resolutions showed that only 12% of people that set a new year's goal for themselves actually achieved that goal. Why is that? I am sure that the other 88% of people didn't simply decide that their goal wasn't worth reaching for, so why is it that so many New Year's Resolutions fail?
(NOTE: Yes, I am aware that it is now the end of April and a very odd time to be talking about New Year's goal setting...I promise, I have a point.)
I think this is the first year that I didn't make any resolutions. At the beginning of the year, rather than make lofty aspirations and try to do a complete self-overhaul, I decided to spend the entire year just working on myself, one day at a time. (There is actually a half finished blog to that effect dated January 1st that never made it to "press") I think the biggest reason that most resolutions fail is that we try to change too many things all at once. I can remember years where I have said to myself "Come January 1st, I am going to give up junk food, exercise 4 times a week, be more organized, more patient with the kids, stop procrastinating with work and become better at managing my money". With a resolution as drastic as that, it is no wonder that I failed miserably at reaching my goals for that year!
Instead, I began the year with a list of areas that I felt needed work, including, but not limited to: improving my work habits, my fitness level, my diet and my spending habits as well as becoming more organized and stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something new. I also began the year painfully aware of the fact that I couldn't make all of these things happen at once.
There is a reason why Addiction Recovery programs involve 12 steps and their motto is "One Day at a Time". They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. Why is it that we think we can, in just one day, break a habit that we have likely spent years "perfecting"? I think the key to self-improvement is "baby steps". Setting small goals for yourself will not only seem less daunting, but will give you many more opportunities to reward yourself for a job well done. Someone that walks into their first Weight Watchers meeting thinking only about the 100+ pounds they have to lose is less likely to be successful than one who walks into that same meeting, needing to lose the same amount of weight, but is only thinking about the first 10 pounds.
I wanted to spend the first few months of the year focused solely on getting my business back to where it needed to be. I have been making several small changes over the past 4 months to improve my work habits and I believe I am now headed firmly in the right direction. I may have started the year with many areas of my life that I felt needed an overhaul, but I chose the one that I felt was the most important and ran with it. Now, it's time for step #2.
As a result of my increased work load, I feel like I haven't been taking the time to take care of ME. I have been eating poorly, keeping erratic hours and exercise has been non-existent. As a result, my energy levels resemble those of a hibernating polar bear. The old me would have said "Starting Monday I am cutting out all junk food and beginning a drastic diet and exercise program". Invariably, by Tuesday evening I'd be sitting on the couch with a diet Pepsi in one hand and something chocolate covered in the other.
Staring tomorrow, and for the next 21 days, I'm going to focus solely on eating better. Not a certain number of calories or points, just better. Each day I will write down what I ate, the good, the bad and the ugly. The next day, I will try to do "better"....and so on, and so on for 21 days, with the goal being to form a "habit" of making better choices when it comes to food. Once I have that under control, it will be easier for me to move on to Step # 3 ...
In addition to "baby steps", another key to self-improvement is to be happy with each positive change you make, no matter how small, and to remember not to let little setbacks throw you off your path entirely. Even the strongest among us stumble occasionally! Take it "one day at a time" and treat each day as single step. Just because you had a terrible Thursday, doesn't mean you can't have a fantastic Friday!
Now.....off to pillage the kitchen for that "Last Chance" chocolate chip cookie...