December 17, 2009

Resolving To Do Better Next Year


Is it later than you think?
Photo: a2zindianews

As a hard-core, long suffering Red Sox fan, I know well the meaning of the phrase, "Wait 'til next year." It's great fun to be a sports fan - the excitement and rivalry - but if they don't win next year, it doesn't really impact my quality of life. Sure, there are those annoying New York Yankees fans who have a whole year of high-fiving right in my face but beyond the mild humiliation of having backed a losing team - again (sigh) - I'm still basically intact.

But what happens if you keep saying, "Wait 'til next year" when it comes to your health? That, unfortunately, can't keep being put off because each time you drop the ball, you're paying in terms of health and longevity. It doesn't affect Derek Jeeter's life if you're 40 pounds overweight. Big Papi's still sleeping soundly at night even if your blood pressure's going through the roof. New Year's and all the resolving that goes along with it is the perfect time for your personal game changer.

It's that time again when one year is coming to a close and another is just about to begin. Are we going to burden ourselves with regret for the things we didn't accomplish this past year? Or are we going to take those disappointments and roll them into opportunities for personal growth and achievement in the New Year? Hmmmm...tough one. Time to flip a coin.

Of course you're going to opt for bettering yourself and making that resolution to get fit this year! I mean, consider the alternatives, right? Do you want to keep being asked to play Santa at your kids' school (better known as Old Fat Man Solstice here in the politically correct climes of the Northeast)? Are you tired of being considered the office perv because of all the heavy breathing and sweating which occurs naturally and not as a response to the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated? And just how many times do you have to insist that you aren't wearing a petticoat - that those are, in fact, your thighs?

Weight loss and getting fit are always right at the top of New Year's resolutions lists. What makes the difference between people who succeed at keeping those resolutions and those who don't? It's a little thing called "self-efficacy", which loosely translated into English means the level of belief you have in your ability to reach your goals. People with high self-efficacy believe that their potential is unlimited and dynamic. If they're not reaching their goals it's because they're not putting in sufficient effort and so they double down and get it done. Huh? Kind of smacks of personal responsibility, if you ask me. Isn't that kind of old school in this no-fault society of ours? Well, it turns out it's been around so long because it generally gets results. People in this category tend to have higher levels of success and set - and reach - more goals.

And then there are the low self-efficacy among us (cue oboe music here). Having majored in Slacking with a minor in Excuses, I'm more than qualified to weigh in on this one. This group of slugs people tends to believe that the ability to change is a fixed and limited resource and much of how they end up has to do with things beyond their control; such as claiming that big bones and cheese-coated arteries runs in their family. What's a person to do? It's out of your hands, right? This is the just the lousy hand you've been dealt. Not surprisingly, people in this group had a low level of success in reaching their goals.

Hopefully, we're more of the high self-efficacy group. At least that's what we're putting on our resumes and in our Christmas letters. But even if you are a closet LSE (low self-efficacy - oh dear, that an unfortunate resemblance to the word "LoSEr", now isn't it?), there are some suggestions that can help lay the groundwork for success.

The most commonly recurring tip I found when looking into how to keep your New Year's resolutions was to break down your goal into manageable pieces so as not to get too overwhelmed with the enormity of your ultimate goal. Say you've got 50 or more pounds to lose - try breaking that down into mini goals of 5 or 10 pounds at a time so you don't feel like a small loss is merely a drop in the bucket.

You should be careful not to try to change too much at once. Maybe kick the smoking habit first and then tackle the weight loss. Rome wasn't built in a day, right? Keeping it simple and orderly will help you stay focused and calm as you go about changing things one at a time.

Plan ahead and really think out your goal. Like anything else you do, setting yourself up for success requires a thought process a bit more complex than "paper or plastic." Avoid making hasty resolutions at 11:59 pm on December 31st. Write down ahead of time what you want to do and the time frame in which you want to do it. You should also keep records as to your progress to spur you on when you hit those bumps in the road. Take "before" pictures, measurements and sizes and you'll get a lot of pleasure and satisfaction in watching them get smaller the farther along your journey you go.

Make sure to reward yourself along the way for staying on course, taking care to avoid the bad habits of treating yourself or celebrating with the same bad food choices that got you into this fix in the first place. Non-food goodies like books, music, videos or a special outing are good substitutes.

But why wait?! If this is something you've been thinking about for a while and are fairly well organized already, start now. Give yourself the gift of a head start and enjoy that feeling of being ahead of the crowd. I know, I know - you want one last dance with that egg nog cheesecake. But you know what? Egg nog cheesecake will always be there - as will every other thing you enjoy eating. You'll enjoy it again, albeit in much smaller amounts. It's not like you're Dead Man Walking and this is your last meal before going to the chair. Don't panic and start scarfing down everything in sight on your Farewell Tour - it will only make your task that much harder.

So what are you resolving to do this New Year's and how will you go about getting it done? And will you start early or take the last train out of town on December 31st?

21 comments:

  1. I'm not sure if I'll make a New Year's Resolution or not. I've made them in the past, but haven't made them in a while, b/c I'm probably one of the "LSE" people. I have a goal of losing 50 pounds, but for me, I need to just have balance and moderation, which I have struggled with a lot. That's what I want to continually work on.

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  2. Once of the most important things I've learned with goal setting is "proximity". Saying "I'm going to lose 3 stone next year" doesn't have the same urgency as "I'm going to lose a pound a week starting this week!!". Goals are dreams with deadlines, so makes sure they are timed.

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  3. I don't really make New Year's resolutions since I don't see the point of waiting till the new year. My goal for 2010 is the same as it was in 2009: Get rid of my knee pain and resume normal activities.

    Go Sox!

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  4. This post reminded me of the last time I made a new years resolution....it was three years ago and it was to get healthy. 100lbs lost, better fitness, better emotional balance, and stress management later...guess I don't fall into the LSE group. Oh but many years before I did.

    Anyway I don't really set new goals around new years anymore. I just do them throughout the year. For example my biggest goal right now I'm working on is getting certified as a personal trainer which is a goal I set back in Oct and looks like I should be on track for late march for completion. I think setting goals should occur all the time not just cause the year on the calender is about to change.

    Great tips about actually planning out your goals, taking baseline measurements, and keeping records of progress is very helpful.

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  5. OK, that was very motivating!

    I'm doing pretty well on health and fitness, but I have lots of other goals that seem to be in the "I'll get to it someday" category. But now is as good a time as any to get going!

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  6. It makes me crazy when I hear people say that they are going to wait until the new year to lose weight. What's wrong with the here and now?

    Another pet peeve-"I'm going to lose weight first and then start exercising" Huh? That is just backasswards! Wow, I sound like a real witch, don't I? Sorry folks, had to get that off my chest.

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  7. There is a great Warren Miller quote that I just love and think about often.

    "If you don't do it this year, you'll be one year older when you do."

    That's pretty much motivation to bear down and do anything!

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  8. My goal is to do a Half-Ironman triathlon next year. but qualify that goal with "...and not end up in the hospital" I'm sort of getting a jumpstart on it simply by not letting myself go completely this winter, but it's something I've been working towards for years.

    I think resolutions like "lose x amount of weight this year" are too vague, making them harder to keep.

    I think it's better to make goals like running a 10K this year, exercising every day, keeping within a certain caloric intake a day, or learning a new sport, etc. The weight will come off, and you have a goal that is simpler in it's directive. At least that's how I do it.

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  9. Lots of small goals will be ongoing, but I don't tend to make huge resolutions any more.

    Great quote, Amanda! I read something similar once: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

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  10. Aw you're such a buzzkill. I want cheesecake.

    :D Tehe. You're absolutely right, Crabby! We gotta start NOW. If only I could put down the nuts and bolts... sighs.

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  11. I don't do New Year's Resolutions. I do "get your butt in gear now" resolutions. :) I'm working on a few already. (Although I am being a little lax and giving myself the latitude to enjoy all the holiday munchies.)

    But Gigi - quit your whining. You don't know the meaning of long suffering unless you're a Cubs fan.

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  12. Damn. My resolution was to care less.

    I better rethink this. Tomorrow.

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  13. My resolution for this year is to achieve world domination.

    What? Why are you looking at me like that? I think it's a lot more realistic than making it a goal to lose 2 pounds this week. I mean, I can do everything right (exercise & eat moderately, mostly plants) but the body's going to lose weight according to its own schedule, not mine. I might lose only 1 pound, or 1/2 pound, or even gain a bit this week, no matter how good I am.

    Definitely going for world domination.

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  14. Must add to the great quotes - even if I wind up repeating myself. "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?" -- John Wooden

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  15. Those of us who are really determined don't want to wait until New Year. I could gain a significant amount of weight between now and New Year's if I really threw caution to the wind. It would just make January harder. I have 40 to lose. I can't control how much I lose but I can control how hard I try to do it.

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  16. I started six days ago. I am ready for next year!

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  17. I'm at a university on the quarter system, so when my winter break started, I figured this was as good a time as any to lose the weight I put on at my sedentary office job this summer. Grad school is notoriously crazy for a reason, and it's true that I stopped exercising around midterms. So it's been really satisfying to take my winter break and spend it working out. I figure this way, come midterms next quarter, I'll have more muscle mass to tide me over until spring break. If not completely healthy all the time, then as healthy as possible as much of the time as possible, I always say.

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  18. I don't think I'll label my goals as New Year's Resolutions. But I will be making resolutions and goals that I want to achieve as I start my journey to a healthier life.

    -Denise

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  19. The wonderful thing about starting/continuing/doing a bit more now, is all the wonderful calories you can burn - and then have to replace!
    If my pesky knee allowed, I would now be covering serious pre-marathon mileage. 10 miles gets me about 1000 extra calories to eat - Ho Ho Ho!

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  20. I don't make resolutions but I have bumped up the exercise to hopefully minimize the holiday explosion in my weight. I have always exercised to support my eating habit. When I have things balanced well they even out.
    The holiday season is bad as I am an ex-smoker who tends to reach for appetizers in social situations, mixed with wine, where I used to reach for a smoke.

    I am one of those HSE people otherwise known as unrealistically optomistic. It defies logic really.
    And quite often sets you up for disappointment, and guilt.

    Well I guess I just didn't work hard enough this time but next time...

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  21. Great post, thanks for sharing. My NYR is to not obsess about my weight. 43 pds gone, and about 10 more to go give or take a few pounds, I have to give myself a break and realize that slow and steady does win the race.

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