I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. To those who know me, this comes as no surprise, as I’ve ranted about it before, both vocally and in written form. My thought has always been that if you’re going to do something to improve yourself, you just do it. You don’t wait for some arbitrary date to start doing it.
But alas, it seems I’m in the minority, as every January the yoga and spin classes I usually walk into with no problem are now booked solid. That, however, isn’t the problem. Crowds I can deal with — people who saunter into class late and insist on gabbing and texting the whole time, I cannot. There’s nothing quite like trying to find your center when you’re hearing the ‘ping’ of an iPhone.
I’ve felt this way for years, and every year the flames are fanned a bit more by the New Year’s resolution armies that descend on gyms and studios with their shiny new apparel. A few days ago, however, I had a conversation with a yoga instructor that got me thinking.
“I know it’s annoying, but if people are trying to better themselves, it’s always a good thing,” said Kim, after I remarked at how difficult it is to arrive 20 minutes before a class. In some people, that type of relentless positivity can come across as fake, but Kim is completely genuine, because she truly believes the things she says.
For instance, during the recent cold spell (New Jersey had a 10-day stretch where the temperature didn’t approach freezing, hitting marks as low as zero), Kim told us to embrace winter for what it is — a period of recovery and calm that we needed before spring hits. At first, the statement made me want to roll my eyes (the only body part that wasn’t frozen), but the more I thought about it, the more I understood what she meant: you can’t change the weather, but you can change your mindset. I despise the cold, but that doesn’t mean I have to walk around in an angry mood until April. Instead, I can focus on the things I do enjoy about this season, like using my slow cooker, sitting by a fire, watching the Winter Olympics, and going skiing.
Perhaps the same can be applied to New Year’s resolutions. Maybe, just maybe, instead of sticking with my blanket statement that they’re all silly and pointless, I could take a new approach. And so, I’ve come up with a list of ways to make resolutions much more practical.
- Formulate a plan. If you want to lose weight, don’t just fast for a few weeks. You might shed some pounds, but it won’t work in the long-term. Join a program like Weight Watchers or join a gym that has classes that appeal to you.
- Use benchmarks. For example, rather than saying, ‘I’m going to eat healthier,’ identify a specific goal like ‘I’m going to have at least two pieces of fruit a day and eat a salad before every dinner.’ Or, instead of resolving to work out every day, pledge to exercise 2 to 3 days a week,’ suggests a Men’s Health article.
- Hold yourself to realistic, yet challenging, standards. Here’s where a lot of people falter; those who aren’t avid runners pledge to run a half-marathon, which simply isn’t realistic. If you’re trying to get more into running, start with a 5K. And if you do sign up for a race, find an online training regimen (I found one that I used before competing in my first 5-mile race, and it helped enormously.)
- Appoint a buddy. There truly is strength in numbers. No matter what your goal is, enlist a few friends or coworkers to join you (I’m definitely much less likely to skip out on a class if I know a friend is going to be there).
- Celebrate successes. Many leaders (including Dale Sanders) believe recognizing milestones and achievements is critical in a team’s success, and the same applies for individual success. Sometimes there’s no better motivation than seeing the progress that has been made.
- Cut yourself a break. What’s even more critical than acknowledging success is forgiving failures. No matter how solid the plan, how strong our willpower, we’re all going to slip at some point. Instead of using it as an excuse to quit, use as motivation to do better next time.
Above all, remember that any objective — whether it’s as big as transforming your life or as small as cleaning out your closet — is just that: an objective. What gets results is a willingness to formulate a strategy and execute on it.
So if you’ve made a resolution, I wish you luck. Just do me a favor and make it count — and please, don’t disturb my Zen.