How to Set Yourself up for Success in the New Year
Sometimes I wish I could write these letters to you directly: ask you how the kids are doing, catch up on career related talk, and maybe discuss goals for the next year. Someone recently posted one of those Myers-Briggs articles on FB about what each personality type needed to pay attention to in the coming year, and mine was that I tend to drive myself too hard without proper breaks.
In response I ate a scone and set up a 3 month exercise plan.
NEW YEAR, NEW YOU
The tricky thing about cliche resolutions is that they're usually a good idea... and we're usually not serious about them. We writers get all fired up about getting up at 5 am and writing a book by 7 am, but the first morning we do it we've only gotten past washing our face and boiling water by 5:30, and at 6 we probably sit slumped over a keyboard after writing about 100 words, thinking about a wonderful essay we could dedicate to our bed. In the interest of research, we go back to bed.
It's just too hard.
Or there's the person that wants to lose 10 pounds with visions of swimsuit season dancing in their head and the first cold, dark afternoon in January they arrive home from work discouraged from lack of regular meals they plow into a plate of wet burritos. Why do we start diets in the months where comfort food means the most?
It's just too hard.
I have this idea that there are three things that go into a completed goal.
When you prepare for a race, you train, but no one ever "trains" for resolutions. The idea simply doesn't occur to us to prepare for a goal as if it were something like a race beyond our current abilities. The exercise program I'm about to begin has a four week pre-training course because the actual program is beyond the level of the beginner, which is actually a really wise addition on the part of the trainer. Humbling for us, but it will give first-timers a better shot at finishing.
Let's say you want to start getting up earlier to write or read, or simply sit and drink a quiet cup of coffee with your spouse. You and I both know that when the next three mornings roll around and the alarm rings at 6 it will be pretty hard to leave a cozy bed. Probably, you will have gotten to bed later than you intended last night and figure you can use the extra sleep now. Bam, there went the extra quality time.
What if you'd start getting up 1-2 mornings of the week instead of trying for all 5 (because no one counts Saturday or Sunday) for about 3 months beforehand? Prove something smaller and you might get to a bigger goal. On the nights before those mornings set out some warm clothes, pre-ground coffee (if you're not a coffee connoisseur) and do a little pre-training.
2. GET A MEASURABLE PLAN
We tend to be afraid of actually setting specific goals within our vague wishes. If I made the statement that I wanted to lose 10 pounds one of the best things I could do would be to set up a quantifiable plan. It won't simply be enough to think, "I'll eat less" because that leaves too much up to chance, and chance can be a huge discouragement 2 weeks in when there is no progress. There has to be a solid way for how, an idea for how to combat the obstacles that will pop up, and a way to measure results.
The best part of planning is strategy: know your weak points. To use myself as an example - I know two things about myself and dieting: carb-cutting never works (low-functioning adrenals and blood sugar issues) and dinner is my favorite meal. Cutting out meals and carbs usually makes my sugar levels/energy hit a roller-coaster, and cutting out dinner (the comfort meal of the day) hits me at a weak point mentally. Strategy: eat smaller portions but continue to eat 3-5 times a day. Identify the obstacles and work around them.
All this is going to be hard to keep up if there are no results, which is why it is important to set up a plan that can be measured well but not too often. The rule of thumb here is to do a lot of what leads to results, and check-in perhaps weekly or monthly. Checking too often leads to obsession, rather than setting healthy habits and patterns that will benefit us in the long run.
3. DO IT WITH ALL THE STRENGTH IN THE WORLD
This is otherwise known as 'Don't think, Just Do.' You did your thinking in steps 1 and 2 and when it is time to get up in an early morning it is better not to allow doubts to creep in; it's good to work at something for a few weeks at least before reevaluating. This isn't to say that you have to run with shin splints if you can buy better shoes, or that things can't be tweaked to fit the plan better, it means instead that a decision to change something shouldn't be made in the heat of the moment or the coziness of bed. Do your tweaking later, when the discomfort is lessened and you can evaluate if you really want this bad enough to keep going for it.
Because if you don't even want it, then why go for it. But if you do....
Then don't let you stop yourself. Excuses originate in the mind and the mind can justify just about anything. If for example you are trying to get up earlier the mind is not ready to reason at 6:00 am in the morning. If you can strengthen your mind, your body and habits will follow just about anywhere. Do it with all the strength in the world.
But please remind of that in about two weeks when every muscle in my body will scream to get out of bed.
P.S. Follow along on Instagram stories to see the saga of the first-time exercise challenge program participated in by L. Raine.