Sunday, January 4, 2009
Ok, I know I promised my rant on Resolutions. I haven't made a New Year's Resolution since I was in junior high. I really believe that 99% of New Year's Resolutions are doomed to fail. By their very nature they are usually too grand and too strict with not enough wiggle room. They also tend to focus on the negative side of life and giving up something. It's like we look at our weaknesses and punish ourselves for them. Well if I can't give something up for 40 days of lent, how am I going to do it for a year. Remember the whole SMART system in goal setting? Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely. Remember short and long term goal setting? So let's look at some typical New Year's Resolutions:
1. The ever popular I will lose weight. Well that's kind of generic - how much? how soon? fat? muscle? A serious haircut or amputating you leg? Even those that are specific - I will lose 10 pounds 0 how soon? and then we get if youcan lose 2 pounds of fat a week - I will lose 10 pounds in 5 weeks. How acievable is this? Seriously , it leaves no room for a human slip up. And if it was realistic wouldn't you have done it in the last 5 weeks? Also what about the rest of the year? You can then gain 15 in the next 5 weeks.
2. I will exercise every day. Not even getting into the same issues the lose weight that this resolution shares, we have several issues. Every Day? so for the next 365 days you will never sleep in, not feel well, get really busy, be tired? And the real downfall to any of the "everyday" or "every week" resolutions is once you miss one day, you feel guilty go all out. Then you miss another day, go all out the day after. Miss another day, but don't have the time energy for a "penance" workout or their is a legitimate reason to miss and you skip 2 days. Then a bit later you miss 3 days, then because you can't make up 3 days you miss 4 days. Pretty soon, every day turns into never.
3. The strict budget. I am not saying budgets are bad, and yes you need to have a realistic budget. The problem is budgets written out while in the over zealous after effects of celebrating the holiday excesses. You are going to put x in savings, you are only going to have 5 dollars in miscellaneous cash a week - You leave not enough wiggle room for an unexpected expense, you get hungry from your extreme diet and spend $5.25 on food! The problem with extremem strictness of any sort is that while you may feel guilty the first time or three that you "transgress" You live through the guilt. You then find it easier and easier with each successive transgression, to finally there is no point to having a budget.
4. The I'm going to get organized. That is a landmine filled resolution. Most of us have so much chaos in out lives that we never even make it tht first week. ( I am assuming most of us can stick to a diet or go to the gym for a week) It can just be soo overwhelming that we become paralysed.
5. And how many people vow to quit smoking on New Year's Eve, manage to keep it New Year's morming because of their hangovers but are smoking by the first bowl game.
And all the corporate sharks are out there circling. Watch TV for an hour. The commercials for nutrisystem, bally's shapes, curves, lean cuisine, weight watchers, different financial places, space bags etc etc etc. Gyms are real tough - sign on the line we'll charge your card $X every month for the next year - even after you stop coming in March. Weight loss centers - membership fees or agree to 10 weeks of inedible food, even if you're back in the hagen das in 3 weeks.
Please, please don't get me wrong. I am not a total cynic. i am not against goals, I am not against taking stock of your life. The end of the year in my view is a good time to review your year/life. See what you did well as well as what you could have done better. Don't beat yourself up. You are human. But be honest with yourself. if you really can't think of anything you did well, you need some help with self-esteem issues before you can tackle a resolution. But I'm not a shrink here, so that's for someone else's blog. January is a great time for planning. You plan your spring garden, start planning your summer vacation, well start planning you life.
Look at what you did well. Either by design or by accident it doesn't matter. How can you keep this up, possibly even expand on it? Tweak it a bit. So for example, I was really hating work this time last year. This was stretching into months of hating work and actually considering leaving. Last summer I found a way to change my job a bit, and even though 90% stayed the same, that change made me happy again. Now they changed my job again ( as you regular readers are aware) well now I hate it again, but I'm not considering quiting this time, I just have to figure 0ut how to tweak it. This is not a resolution, I don't even know what I'm going to do yet, but I am thinking, planning. Another example, I both saved $$ and lost 8 pounds last year, by making and bringing my own coffee and peanut butter sandwich everymorning instead of hittimg dunkin donuts for an xl coffee and toasted bagel with butter, that is a positive I'm going to maintain.
Did you do some charity kntting that made you feel good? I did chemo caps and afghans. Now here is a positive that needed tweaking. I got rid of a lot of my stash yarn, I made goods for excellent causes. But I over extended myself on the afghans and the entire month of october knitting became a serious chore and added stress to my life instead of relaxing me. So I still want to knit for charity. i have to tweak how I approach it though. I am going to make afghans or squares for VJGC again this summer. it is a cause I really get behind. I am not going to start more than one 'ghan at a time. I also learned that maybe strip afghans are the way to go. I really don't like to seam, but the ripple ghan taught me that knitting one ghan can bore me to stress. I had also switched to mostly crochet because it was faster - but I don't like crochet as much as I like to knit, so while not ruling crochet out, I am going to focus on knitting for charity. But once again - it's planning no making some kind of decree.
In the same vein - look at what you did poorly or want to change. The first thing to look at is your motivation for change. Do you want to lose weight so guys will fiind you hot? Do you think you're husband will love you 10% more for every dress size you are less? Did your doctor tell you to lose it? None of these will work at least not long term. No even the doctor part. If the doctor part worked we'd all be non-smoking skinny minnies. same for exercise, smoking, getting organzed etc etc. So once you find the reason YOU want to do this for You, then you can come up with a plan. Use the whole SMART system to create the plan. And remember it is easier to make lifestyle/habit changes in small mamageable increments. if you need to lose 50 lbs - that's over 25 weeks. That is tough. This is where long vs short term goals come into play. short term lose 5lbs at a time, long term keep it off. ( Me i need to find the inner motivation to lose almost 100 lbs so trust me I'm not preaching) But it took more than 5 weeks of eating wrong to gain weight keep that in mind.
Now some last thoughts ( I told you this would be a rant) while you are making your plans. Why plan in January and not December you ask? If you plan in December you can implement everything by royal decree on Jan 1. First of all no matter how you're holidays are going happy , elated, depressed, what holiday? - there is holiday induced brain damaging sentiments that occur. No matter how logical you are the rest of the year - you have brain damage during the holidays. Also you end up only reflecting on 11 months. I don't know why the brain doesn't do Dec thru Nov, it just doesn't. And most importantly - keep this in mind during your planning period - you can't successfully make a bizzilion positive changes in oure life at once. They will be doomed to failure. so prioritize. start one thing at a time. Mix it up, start a long term change, mix in a short term, hard, easy. Try to put things in a positive light. Don't look at losing lbs (after all we're traing to find what we lose right?) See it as fitting into a new pair of jeans , making it up another flight of stairs without huffing and puffing, or ypu knees hurting that much less. And reward yourself. If you're getting in shape, maybe not with cheesecake. but a skein of yarn, a new top, an afternoon/evening all to yourself, a movie in theater , rented or on tv, it doesn't have to blow your budget, just somethiing that you can look forward to that makes you happy.
Remember don't rush it and next December you're done well list will be that much longer!