I’ll let you in on a little secret; New Years is my least favorite holiday of the whole year. There may be some level of posttraumatic stress syndrome involved here, for me. It seems that New Years has been a time of loss, loneliness, turmoil, upheaval, drama and distress at many points in my past. In fact, my personal history has proven that any major upheaval or difficulty is usually proximate to New Years. I know not why. I’m a super positive person most of the time, and I certainly don’t dwell on the past, but as New Years approaches each year, I anticipate it with a certain amount of trepidation and solemnity.
I also hold time at a very high value. Time is more valuable than money, and while we can save and accumulate, invest and bank money, we cannot save, accumulate, invest or bank time. The celebration of the passage of time is one I don’t understand. I get that some see New Years as a time of renewal. I see every second as an opportunity for renewal. To party at the passage of another year confounds me. But I’d still like to be invited to the party, just so you know, I’m very social no matter what the date on the calendar is.
Okay, so I didn’t get to kiss my Sweetie at the stroke of twelve last night and I may be pouting a little about that, too.
There is yet another aspect of New Years that detracts from my general joie de vie; “the resolutionists”. Bless their pea-picking hearts. This being the time of year when the gym is overcrowded with people with big ideas and short attention spans. There are lines at all the cardio machines and the classes are all full to capacity. True, it is a short-lived problem and things are back to normal within a month, still, it is not a good month at the gym for those of us who go there regularly and consistently. Resolutions, shmesolutions.
I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. I know, you’d think I would. I don’t. At all.
How can this be? I believe in setting goals and making an effort to evolve into the people we deserve to be, into the people we are capable of becoming, into something much more than we are presently, which is, perhaps, much more than we were in the past. True. But none of this growth and evolution came from the setting of a resolution.
Let’s explore the word “resolution”; it means to resolve. Let’s look closely at the word resolve; re + solve. So, we are then going to re-solve all of the same old problems because we didn’t completely solve them before, or our solving of them was only temporary. So, each and every January 1st, we just spend some time, a day, a week, maybe even a month, re-solving the same things we re-solved the year before. And the year before that. And the year before that. Resolutions, then, really, in application, mean a temporary solution to an ongoing desire, issue or problem.
I can’t help but think that in our resolute attempt to solve these desires, issues and problems, year after year after year, they must have some level of importance to us, and, for whatever reason, or reasons, we fail to solve the desire, issue or problem completely or permanently. I think that by reframing these desires, issues or problems as goals, and then managing them appropriately, we can have successful, lasting and complete solutions. And, so, I believe in solutions, not resolutions.
Solutions. How to solve stuff, once and for all.
Be specific and thorough. Don’t be vague. If you want to be healthier, great! But what, exactly, does healthier mean? What does it mean to you, personally? Does “being healthier” incorporate weight loss, or better cardio endurance, or eating more wholesome food, or wearing a certain size of jeans, or being able to accomplish some task or feat, or gaining control over a disease or physical ailment? Being “healthier” can be any of these, some of these, all of these, or none of these. It is up to you to determine what it means, to you, exactly. Define it, in every dimension, in every detail. For me, “being healthier” ended up encompassing several unique goals, each of which were managed separately, beginning at separate points and then managed on their own individual timeline. I managed exercise separately from eating clean, and once I mastered those, I added physical endurance. Separate from physical endurance was core strength and balance. Now, I’d like to add flexibility and muscular strength, two more completely separate, unique goals. You may have to take your all-encompassing goal and break it into several blocks and then decide how to organize them.
Once you’ve defined your goal or goals, and have broken them into their unique blocks, prioritize them. It is very likely you won’t be able to tackle them all simultaneously, so decide which is first and what’s to follow. One reason our resolutions fail is that we are taking a huge, vague idea and trying to install it immediately into our lives, we usually become overwhelmed by the magnitude and impossibility of it all and abandon the entire idea, only to try to tackle it, again, the following New Year’s. Rome was not built in a day, a week, a month or even a year.
Once our goals are defined in detail and are prioritized, we need to decide how we can measure our progress. Progress is what will motivate us to keep going. Progress can be difficult to recognize if we have no ruler by which to compare it to. To make a goal measurable, we need to define, first of all, what “success” or “completion” of the goal is, in other words, what is the definition of “done”. For weight loss, this may be pounds or inches, dress, jeans or shirt size. For endurance, the ability to complete a race or competition, perhaps, for strength, the ability to lift or manage a certain amount of weight. You get the idea. We need to know the definition of done. Having determined the end, we need to consider setting intermediate markers or milestones. To go from couch potato to 100-mile endurance run is a very long process and inserting some intermediate measures to note progress is going to be helpful and extremely motivating. In this example, perhaps a 5k, then a 10k, then a half-marathon, a full-marathon and then a fifty-miler. Likewise, with jean size, going from a size 22 to a size 4 is, and should be, a fairly long timeline. Perhaps set a preliminary goal of size 18, then size 14, then size 10, and so forth. Having, personally, gone from a size 16 to a size 6, it was a huge accomplishment every time I HAD to go buy jeans! I resupplied at size 12, 8 and finally 6, and each time I did, I was so happy with my accomplishment I never despaired at the overall length of time it took to achieve my ultimate goal.
Our goals also need to be realistic. We are all capable of accomplishing nearly anything we set our minds to, true, but pay attention to the word “nearly”. We can’t go back in time and we cannot change other people, for example. Our goals need to be personal and cannot involve progress, change or evolution of other people in our lives. For me, getting to a size 0, making someone love me, and running an average 6-minute mile for a full-marathon are not reasonable or realistic goals. Getting to a size four, being lovable and running a full-marathon in less than four hours, however, with time, a great deal of diligence and effort, are realistic goals.
So, as the first day of the New Year draws to a close, and your resolutions loom large in your mind as the holidays fade into the rear view and the reality of daily life lies ahead when the alarm goes off in the morning, consider reframing those resolutions as well-defined, prioritized, measurable and realistic goals. As solutions. Organize them, manage them and find a lasting solution, rather than a recurring resolution. Party on.