Every year, we all make resolutions. We all make bold, loud, and likely obnoxious claims about all the ways we are going to change our lives for the better.
For the month of January, we do okay. We keep them in the forefront of our minds because this year is our year.
But it’s not. It’s our month. Because by February (or March at the outside), our New Year’s Resolutions are being swept under the rug, overshadowed my our day-to-day lives and stress from our established routines.
We feel terrible about ourselves because, once again, we failed at improving our lives.
It happens. We all do this. We all fail at keeping resolutions.
Because, in all likelihood, our resolutions are complete bullshit. They’re vague platitudes that you can’t fully achieve because they don’t actually mean anything.
If you want to make your life better in the new year, be specific about what you’re resolving to change. Like any change you intend to keep for the long haul, make them sustainable amid your life, not around it.
What Does That Even Mean?
It’s really pretty simple.
If your New Year’s resolution is something like “lose weight,” “eat better, “work out,” or “be a better person,” you’re doing it wrong. You will fail. You see you’re being too vague. You can’t really track success with those goals, only failure. Here, let me break it down for you.
I Resolve to Eat Better/Lose Weight This Year
Given that New Year’s Resolutions come immediately after the holidays, saying you’re going to “eat better” is a pretty easy goal. If you don’t load yourself up with cake, pie, mac & cheese, pounds of meat, and every other savory and sweet feast item on the dinner table (like you did over the holidays!), then congratulations! You’re eating better!
You won New Year’s! See how easy that was? Now you can go about your year with confidence in how you changed your life for the better.
Only you didn’t. Not really. It is a hollow victory. You’re not eating better in terms of your everyday life. You’re not making any lasting change if you consider that a victory. Sadly, most people who make this kind of resolution can’t see past losing their holiday weight or their holiday eating habits.
The same thing applies to “lose weight.” If you base your “lose weight” resolution on the point at which you start the new year, then the victory will be empty because it doesn’t apply to your real life.
So how can you resolve to eat better and lose weight and see real results?
Easy: make your goal something you can gauge and track and sustain year-round. For instance, instead of something vague like “eat better,” why don’t you think about “eat one raw vegetable at each meal each day” or “eat fruit or nuts as an afternoon snack”?
Resolutions like that are easily quantifiable–and sustainable year-round. You can find some good tips on how to use quantifiable and sustainable nutrition from this source.
For “lose weight,” it’s as simple as setting a goal weight within a reasonable time frame. Shoot for “20-pounds lighter by July 4” or “lose 35 pounds by next Christmas.” Something like that is long-term and doable. Because if you just want to “lose weight,” and think that’s all you have to do to make your life better, you have another thing coming.
I Resolve to Work Out
So it’s January 1, and you have a new gym membership. Your resolution is to “work out” or “work out more,” and you’re hitting the gym rip-rearing and ready to go. You smash the treadmill, you own the elliptical, and you rock that Smith machine all January long. Each day gets harder and harder. I mean, 6am is early.
But then February comes, and you slack off a little. Instead of 3x a week, it’s 2. But that’s okay. You’re still working out way more than you did last year.
By March, though, it’s once a week, and you’re bored. You’re not seeing the results you wanted. You’re not swole, you’re not ripped, and you’re sore all the time. Not to mention that if you see another .1 tick past on the treadmill, you may go insane.
So you stop going to the gym, but congratulate yourself for sticking with it through March. Go you, am I right?
You failed. Sure, you worked out more, but that’s the problem with “working out.” It’s exercise for the sake of exercise, which is unsustainable (seeing a trend here?).
If you want to avoid gym burnout and “working out” fatigue, set yourself some real goals. Try something like deadlift twice my body weight by Christmas or run a 5K.
Those are easily trackable goals that you can work toward using varied plans. You have an end-point, and you have something to look forward to. You know when you cross that 5k finish line, you achieved your goal. You know when you pick up and put back down your twice your body weight, you won.
But how can you tell if you’re “swole” enough? How much did you work out last year? Are you sure you “worked out” more? And if so, what good did it get you?
See my point? Set goals and use your resolutions to meet them. Otherwise, you’re literally just beating yourself up for no reason.
I Resolve to Be A Better Person
I hear this one a lot. I hear people say they want to be a better person, and they do so by…what? Cooking dinner for their spouse once week? Doing the dishes? Changing some diapers? Not complaining about in-laws on Facebook?
Being a better person is hard (impossible?) to quantify. But if you’re not moving toward this resolution with a plan or an idea of what will make you a better person, you’re gonna be the same person you were in the previous year. Believe me.
So what can you do to be a better person? What makes you better than you were last year?
Honestly, I don’t know. The way I look at this one is by doing something deliberate every single day. Even if that is something as small as smiling at a cashier, or asking how a stranger’s day is.
You might be the only person who smiles at them all day long. Or you might be the only person who cared enough to ask if they’re all right.
Sure, it’s small talk and you don’t know them, but have you ever been around a service worker or retail worker who honestly told you how their day was? I have. And they seemed to brighten up to have someone listen.
That’s all it takes to be a better person–seeing other people as people, not objects. Be nice. Smile. Say hi. Recognize that other people have feelings and lives, too.
And just let me be clear here: “Being a better person” does not involve paying for the person’s drink behind you at Starbucks. That kind of thing doesn’t work. It starts out with good intentions, but then it guilts people into buying other people’s stuff. No one gets anything out of it except for the first person (who did something deliberately for the person behind them) and the last person (who said “screw you guys” and took the free stuff and left without paying for the person behind them.
Congratulations on rewarding that kind of behavior all in the name of “being a better person,” and all it turns out to “not looking like a dick” to the people around you.
New Year, New You?
My point in all of this is that the way we look at New Year’s Resolutions is flawed. We look at them as temporary changes, and they can’t be. If you want to succeed and really change your life, then you have really want to change your life.
You have to have a plan. You can’t get out of the rut in a month at the gym or by eating a few salads instead of cakes. You have to make an effort. And that’s why most people fail at keeping their resolutions–because the effort it takes to effect real change is just that..effort.
But believe me, folks, when I tell you that it’s worth it. Believe me when I say that if you make the right changes with the right mindset and resolve to make your life–and the lives of those around you–better, sustainable and lasting change is possible.
Just remember that “eat better,” “lose weight, “work out more,” and “be nicer” are bullshit resolutions. Instead, try to resolve to eat more nutritious food, exercise twice (or three times!) a week as you work toward running a race or lifting a specific weight, and say or do something nice for someone else once a day.
If you do, I guarantee that you’ll find success comes a little easier this year.
Happy New Year, everybody!