The (dreaded?) New Year’s Resolution
To make one? Not to make one? How to Make one?
January 1st. The start of the New Year. A seemingly perfect opportunity to make a change in one’s life or to make multiple changes in one’s life. These changes, decisions, “commitments,” have become commercially known as “New Year’s Resolutions.” The first of the month, and the first day of the New Year offers individuals a “clean slate” for attempting to make a change in their life to better their life. All and all, the intentions of New Year’s resolutions are great — Stop eating chocolate, eat more vegetables, use my phone less, be more present, the list goes on and on.
Before I dive into my own thoughts on New Year’s resolutions, let me first paint you a picture of how the time from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve, typically referred to as the “holiday season”, turns out for many people.
Thanksgiving approaches and we get some time off of work to spend with our families. It is a joyous and happy time, so we already let the idea of ‘letting ourselves go’ for the weekend creep into our mind. We eat a bit too much, we drink a bit too much and we let the rational that Christmas and New Year’s is quickly approaching start to creep into our mind too.
Thanksgiving comes and goes, and we are back into our daily grind working hard until we have time off for the rest of the Holiday season. During this time between Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s we somehow allow ourselves to use the same rational/excuse that we used earlier to drink and eat poorly in the weeks leading up.
Christmas/NYE approaches and now we begin to think about our New Year’s resolutions. We start using the excuse of making a resolution of eating better, drinking less, etc. as the reason why we let ourselves go for the past couple of weeks.
New Year’s Eve is here, we go out to dinner or we party with our friends, once again, using the rational that on January 1st we will start fresh with our New Year’s resolutions — so anything we do on NYE doesn't count right??
It’s now January 1 and here we are sluggish, hungover, poorly motivated and tired… but it’s January 1… clean slate, new year new me.
20% of your life
Let’s rewind a bit — Jump back to the week before Thanksgiving, let’s call it November 19. November 19 – January 1 is nearly 13% of your year. For most people the thought of the “holidays” and/or a New Year’s resolutions provides them with an excuse to disregard any habits or changes they may have made throughout the year — for 13% of their year. Not to mention the couple of weeks or whole month of January it may take to get back on track.
You are now looking at 21% of your year, nearly a quarter of your year that you have strayed from your habits using the ‘Holiday Season’ as an excuse. That’s 4 individual days and a New Year’s resolution to rationalize your actions.
Replicate this across your lifetime and you have now used the “holiday season” and making New Year’s resolutions as an excuse to disregard any habits you may have established leading up to that point for nearly 20% of your life.
While New Year’s resolutions can be great, the storyline above is why I am not a proponent of setting New Year’s resolutions. There is no reason that January 1st needs to be the day that you make a change in your life. By pre-selecting January 1 as the day to make a change in your life, you are giving yourself an excuse to live your life the exact opposite of that change you are trying to make for the month and a half leading up to that day because you have set this “re-start” date in your mind.
the how to
May 2, July 10, February 11, December 20. What do all of these days have in common? They are all perfect opportunities to make a change in your life.
If you recognize something in your life that needs to changed or be adjusted, you have accomplished half the battle. Once you have identified what needs to be changed or what you are trying to accomplish, you now need to establish specific and measurable ways that you can get to this goal.
“I want to lose 20 pounds.”
This does not suffice. This is far too general and does not pave a clear path to accomplishing this goal.
Instead, try something along the lines of:
“Starting on ‘x’ day I will do a UAC class three times a week and on the days I am not doing class I will take a 30 minute walk. I will limit myself to 4 drinks a week and I will eat a serving of vegetables in each of my three meals. I will check and measure my progress by retesting my mile run and my 1K row every 3 months.”
With this as your goal/resolution, you now have very specific and measurable ways that you can track and hold yourself accountable for.
You are also not giving yourself an end date or goal number which allows you to make a complete lifestyle change rather than just a temporary change to achieve a bounded goal.
It can be difficult to be able to identify an aspect of your life that is not where you want it to be, and it is challenging to have enough introspective motivation to physically write it down. It can be even more challenging to tell someone about the change you are trying to make in your life.
I suggest the following three ways to hold yourself accountable for these actions:
Write down what you are trying to accomplish somewhere you will see it every day
Tell someone you trust, a friend, family member, UAC coach, etc. about the item you are trying to accomplish
Have weekly, informal check ins with that individual about your progress
Often times the person you choose to discuss this with will be trying to accomplish something themselves (if not, it may motivate them to) and this will create an interesting weekly dialog between the two of you and potentially grow your friendship.
While January 1 is a seemingly great day to make a resolution, it also gives you the excuse to make poor choices leading up to January 1 because you know mentally you have “January 1” to fall back on. This is why I tend to discourage the traditional “New Year’s resolution.” Any day of the week at any point in time throughout the year is the perfect opportunity to make a change. When making a change, remember, make sure the goal you are making is specific and actionable, and avoid putting a time table on the goal. By removing the timetable, you give yourself the ability to create a complete lifestyle change that will get you through the “holiday season” next year, rather than a temporary short-term change. Also remember, write the goal/process down, tell someone about it, and check in with that person on a regular cadence to casually discuss your progress.
Disclaimer: The ideas, thoughts, and suggestions detailed in this blog post and subsequent blog posts are the ideas, thoughts, and suggestions of Matt Moosavian and are not necessarily reflective of Urban Athletic Club as a whole, or the UAC staff individually.