Even back in 1909, people totally sucked at keeping resolutions
image: wikimedia commonsBy Crabby McSlacker
For those of us who were nutty enough to make official New Years Resolutions January 1st, or set some other sort of goal, formal or informal...
Well gosh, a month has gone by now, hasn't it!
Is it time for a little smug celebration? Some minor tweaking? Some major re-thinking? Or perhaps some hysterical WTF-was-I-smoking laughter?
Well, here's the thing: no matter how hopeless you feel about your progress now, if you are able to force yourself through this entire post, I can
Wait, how can I be so optimistic? I'm hardly ever "pretty darn sure" about anything!
It's a simple trick, actually. You see, this blog post is purposefully selecting for people who are about to make a shift away from wussing out and giving up, and towards doing something positive to put together pieces of their former resolve.
Because you are still here reading, right? And you did not run screaming away from a blog post that has "Resolution" at the top of it?
This means either:
1. You didn't make any resolutions, so my job is done here.
2. You did make one or more resolutions, but are doing reasonably well. Yay you, you rock! Let's keep that going! or,
3. You did make a resolution or two, and all is not going as hoped, but you are willing to actually take a minute or two and reflect upon why the heck that might be, and perhaps even to contemplate modifying your goal or doing something differently.In case you are a #3 person and are not giving yourself sufficient credit? This is HUGE!
In fact a recent lifehacker article reminded me that some Harvard Business Dude named Chris Argyris has a theory about what he called "double loop learning," one that the New York Times slobbered all over itself praising last year, calling it the "secret ingredient to success."
But best I can tell it's kind of an obvious thing we all know anyway: if you're not getting results, stop reflexively doing the same things over and over and ask yourself why it's not working. Question your assumptions and beliefs and methods. Shift your goals or approach to something different.
But people or businesses that do this are apparently exceedingly rare. Go figure.
If you're still here and are willing to do some navel-gazing? You too can be a double loop learner!
Photo: The Wandering American
Double loop learning requires stepping back and actually digging up and examining some of the assumptions you may be making about where you want to go and how you want to get there. Some possible questions:
Do you even have the right goal?
You may be assuming that because a goal is worthy, and everyone agrees it is good, i.e. to lose excess weight if you are obese, or quit smoking or get more sleep or get more exercise or whatever, that it therefore is always an appropriate goal and a good time for you to tackle it.
But maybe deep down you don't really care all that much right now?
Are you assuming progress will be linear and predictable and that it will correlate with the effort you expend?
Sure, the fitness experts and more cheerful health magazines and websites will imply that if you work hard and stick to your plan you will inevitably get results. But seriously, don't count on it always being obvious, or any time soon. Bodies behave differently, and yours may be a more stubborn model with its own agenda. And if somehow all does go as it's supposed to, count yourself as lucky and don't get too used to it, because plateaus and valleys are gonna eventually be part of your journey--especially as you get older.
No, it's not fair. Yes, it does suck.
But if you don't question this assumption, then your subconscious is gonna be all "hey, I'm working my ass off here and I'm not seeing the results my friends are getting, and so therefore this is all a stupid waste of effort and I quit!" Your subconscious loves to have little spoiled brat temper tantrums. And yet you may not even be aware that they are happening and it may feel like a total mystery as to why you ate that quart of ice cream or drove right past the exit where your gym is on the way home.
It helps to step back, recognize that you are feeling ripped off and pissy, and perhaps smash a few breakable objects and scream a bit.
Then, you may have to come up with tweaks to reward effort and process and healthy behaviors more than results in terms of physical abilities, blood test results, or pounds lost. And perhaps even reframe your goals to keep process at the forefront. Rather than "My goals are to lose 20 pounds by swimsuit season and 50 pounds before I turn 50!" you might be better off with: "My goals are to keep a food diary, to average 10,000 steps a day, and to eat X servings of vegetables each week."
There are as many possible hidden assumptions as there are goals and people, so your questions to yourself may vary, but the point is: ask yourself a couple!
Back to the Single Loop
Even a little "single loop" trouble-shooting can be pretty helpful without getting all deep and philosophical about assumptions. Instead of running away from your shattered resolution in shame like most people do, just taking a few moments to salvage a small bit of progress and build on it can make all the difference.
Is there anything you managed to do this month you felt proud of? How could that happen again?
Is there a smaller, more specific change than what you initially envisioned that feels more realistic and doable?
Would a list of pro's and con's help you feel connected again to why you wanted to make the change?
Does it help to know you have a lot of company, and that it's a whole fresh new month?
Whine! Complain! And Get Back on that F--king Saddle and Ride, Baby!
And note: yep, this is one of those Cranky Fitness "goal support" blog posts.
So I'm hoping folks who are working towards any sort of goal might take a moment in the comments to let us know how it's going. And, even better, you might want to encourage others in their quests by replying to their check-ins and offering up some sympathy or congratulations or thoughts.
It is weirdly helpful when trying to be virtuous about something to know that there is anyone out there who gives a crap. Here at Cranky Fitness: we actually do!
And I'd especially like to encourage any lurkers out there. It's easy-- Just hit the "name/URL" option and pick any name you want--well, except Crabby McSlacker--and you can leave the url blank. No need to sign up for anything, or stick to the same name each time, or do anything that feels too constraining. A pair of initials will do, a pet's name, whatever! Because I'd love to hear from you.
Anyone working on any self-improvement type stuff, or have any advice for those of us who are?