Monday, January 17, 2011

Mental Health Monday - 1/17

Resolution No-Go

I don’t believe in or support New Years Resolutions. I love goals. I encourage you to set goals, to dream big and have high hopes for your life and self. I don’t, however, want you to set any New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s why:

1) The Resolutions are too big. “I want to lose 50 lbs this year”, “I’m going to quit smoking cold turkey on January 1st” “I’m going to run a marathon in July!” Most people get inspired by all of the hoopla they see everywhere at the first of the year and set goals that are far too big and inevitably set themselves up for failure. Fifty pounds is a lot of weight and while you very well may need to lose 50 lbs, focusing on that will only discourage you when at the end of the week you’ve only lost one. Goals that are too big will overwhelm you and make it much more likely for you to quit trying all together.

2) A Year Gives You too much room for slacking. If you want to lost 50 lbs by the end of the year then the first months are going to be full of nothing but excuses and next-times. Oh just eat that extra piece of cake, you still have 10 months to lose the weight. I’ll just focus on exercise next month…next month…next month. And next thing you know, it’s December and you’re goals were last thought of in May.

3) There’s Nothing Special About January 1st. As a matter of fact, it’s a really horrible time to start making these changes! You’ve just come off a fun, indulgent holiday season and the odds of sticking to a cold turkey plan of anything is extremely unlikely. January is cold, there isn’t much going on and unless you can afford a gym, a horrible month to start exercising.

So what should you do then? Just let everything stay the same and never make changes or aspire to do anything different with your life? Hardly. Here are my suggestions for meaningful, healthy steps toward a life change or goal:

1) Set Your Main Goal: Figure out what it is you want to accomplish. Weight loss, cessation of smoking, reading more, cooking at home, couponing, exercising – whatever your end result is, identify it and immediately move on to #2.

2) Set Daily Goals: If you are wanting to lose 50 lbs then focus on today. Start with breakfast, set a goal for breakfast and when you’ve accomplished it, move on to snack, then lunch, etc. When you have these mini goals, if for some reason you hit a bump at lunch you can make up for it at dinner. Also, if you have a particularly hard day, at the end of that day, take inventory of exactly what happened to push you off your path. These daily check ins and recaps will help you nip something in the bud and focus on avoiding the trigger the next day and every day after that.

3) Reward yourself along the way. If it’s diet and exercise you’re focusing on, reward yourself with a new pair of running shoes or pants. If it’s quitting smoking, reward yourself with a teeth whitening kit from Walgreens. You get the picture.

4) Be Accountable to someone. Let someone know your goals and be honest with them about your struggles. This can make all the difference in the world and give you freedom over what is holding you back.

5) Focus on a lifestyle and not a quick fix. Remember the reason you are doing what you are doing – Life Change. Weight loss should never be about fitting into an outfit by May. It should be about living a healthy, active lifestyle so you can feel good and live longer. Quitting smoking should not be replaced with another bad habit – you’re quitting so you can be healthier, not so you can run back to it the next time you have a bad day.

6) Tomorrow is another day. While I don’t encourage that you just throw caution to the wind and put off to tomorrow what can be done today, I don’t want one bad day to keep you from your goals. If you have a bad day, refer back to #2, recognize what the triggers are and try again tomorrow.

And while it is possible for some people to set big goals on January 1st and stick with them, the majority of people will not. If they did, the whole New Years Resolution fad would have fizzled out a long time ago.
Today is the day for change – not January 1st.

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