Resolution

My Own Failed New Year's Resolution

January 1995.

This was going to be the year! It had been six years since I had last played soccer and I was yearning to get back into the game. 

I remembered back to my high school days how preparation for athletics meant conditioning first. "Conditioning" was the month before the season where, every weekday, we'd run ourselves back into shape having taken almost a whole year off from our respective sport. This is how we did it in the 1980's before year-round strength and conditioning became the norm. 

So there's me facing a blustery, cold morning on January 1st, wearing old-school sweats and a pair of black Mitre indoor soccer shoes that were flat and wide. Although it was late morning, the steel gray clouds made it seem like dusk. After a few quick stretches, I left the comfort of my nice warm apartment to jog through a parking lot covered with ice and snow.  

The total distance was probably a half-mile, but after six years of a sedentary lifestyle fueled by a steady diet of fast food and soda, it seemed like a marathon. My pace was terrible; one foot after the other.... for 25 minutes! 

I still remember barely making it back to my apartment winded, sore, and frozen. It was miserable. But in my mind, it was necessary.  

My plan was to quicken my pace a little the next day, a little more the day after that, and so on until this run became easy. By spring, I figured my gains would translate into the strength and endurance I needed to get in a few minutes here and there with a rec-league team. 

Easier said than done!

With a 24 hours to recover, I set off again. Only this time, in addition to the elements and my lack of conditioning, I had to deal with muscles that were sore and stiff. Shortly after I began, the words, "this sucks", started to repeat in my brain and pretty soon I was forced to walk, jogging periodically only when I caught my breath. 

Utterly discouraged, thus ended what I now call, "The Resolution of 1995". 

January 4th, 2016.... Are You Ready???

January 4th, 2016 is right around the corner. What is so significant about this date? It's the first Monday of the New Year. This is when all of the New Year's resolutions kick in and people flock to the gym to get back in shape. In other words, I call this day 'Black Monday'

If it has been some time since you last exercised, you might benefit from some of the prior posts on this site about planning, setting expectations, and reinforcing new habits. 

To recap, increase your odds of successfully 'getting back into shape' by following these two simple guidelines:

  • Planning Ahead
  • Setting Realistic Expectations

Your resolution to get back in shape should start long before you show up to begin your first exercise in the form of a PLAN. Know which exercises you want to do, and know how to do them. Write down some alternatives in case the stations you want to use are occupied. This will result in a more efficient use of your time and energy, and reduce the chance of injury. 

Setting realistic expectations through your plan will encourage you to capture some 'quick wins' and give you a sense of accomplishment on which you can build. Remember, it took months, years, and even decades for most of us to fall out of shape, and it wouldn't be fair to expect one to recapture fitness over a day or two. Keeping your expectations tempered is a way to condition yourself to experiencing exercise as a fun, positive outlet, over the long-term. 

These two simple tips will keep you motivated, allow positive results to be experienced quicker, and increase the odds that an active lifestyle becomes a permanent habit!

An Empty Gym

Like clockwork, it's the middle of February and the gym is a virtual ghost town. I half-expected to see a tumbleweed roll through, despite it still being winter! 

For the last few weeks, the place had been packed. There were lines at every machine, weight rack, mat, and workout station. Everyone was brimming with new-found urgency and manically working themselves until exhaustion. If one could harness this energy, it could probably power a major metropolitan center for the next year. 

Where did everyone go? 

For many, 'Happy New Year' just turned unto 'This Sucks'.

Why? 

  • Workouts were too long
  • Expectations were too high
  • Results weren't apparent
  • Injuries and exhaustion were just too much

Who wants to spend a ton of time doing unpleasant and painful things with no reward?

New habits must be enjoyable to be sustainable, and fitness can be enjoyable. 

I can show you how.

More later...

My Method for Prioritization

"Which method would I choose?", you may ask.

I find a lot of truth in the old saying, "Take care of the small things and the big things will take care of themselves." 

That said, I prefer knocking out the easier, less time consuming goals first, i.e., the "Low Hanging Fruit". As stated previously, this will give us some quick wins, give us a sense of accomplishment, and promote an environment of achievement. Furthermore, we can begin developing good habits that can be applied to more ambitious projects later. 

Developing the habit of accomplishment is more important than any individual resolution or goal, because it is a transferable skill.

Which to Choose?

When looking at your list of goals, categorize them once in terms complexity or duration, and once more in terms of satisfaction. These can be arbitraty numbers for now, say 1, 2, 3, etc... 

Next, order the first list with by complexity/ duration from least complex to most. Then, order the second by satisfaction level from highest to least.  

Here is an example:

Complexity/ DurationSatisfaction
1Volunteer at Food Bank (easiest)9Write a Novel (highest)
2Clean Basement8Earn Master's Degree
3Paint Front Porch7Exercise/ Lose Weight
4Live in the Moment6Travel to China
5Travel to China5Save more Money
6Exercise/ Lose Weight4Volunteer at Food Bank
7Save more Money3Live in the Moment
8Earn Master's Degree2Paint Front Porch
9Write a Novel (hardest)1Clean Basement (lowest)

As you see in this example, there is somewhat of an inverse relationship between the two. I would expect to see something like this from most people. If your number one goal is the same on both lists, then you are lucky; by all means, this is what you probably should get started on right now! 

However, if your lists are ranked similarly to those above, then there are three general strategies on which route to take: 

1. "Low Hanging Fruit", or in other words, tackle the easiest items first. The advantages with this method are that they will promote the habit of being productive, provide immediate results, and instill a sense of accomplishment. This strategy will de-clutter the your list and build momentum, putting you in a great position to take on bigger challenges later.

The drawback? Time-sensitive goals that score high in satisfaction would be at risk. For instance, someone who is turning 60 may not have the luxury to wait to get off the couch and begin training for that first triathlon.

2. Focus on the one item that would bring you the most satisfaction. Dive into writing that novel or get started on that degree. To quote Confucius, "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." Success in these areas may reward you the freedom or opportunities that will fulfill your lesser goals. 

The drawback? Results and accomplishments aren't as pronounced, nor as frequent. We're putting in for the long-haul and we need to be mindful that the journey does not turn into a death-march. Going down this path may take a lot more planning and discipline in order to realize success.  

3. Use the two lists to find a nice comprise. In the example above, "Travel to China" appears to provide a moderate level of satisfaction, and seems relatively straight forward to achieve, all things being considered. 

The drawback? Not being the easiest nor the most satisfying goal on our list, we run the risk of giving up on this one all too easily.  

As you see, it really is up to you. 

Bear in mind, one look online and you can find a myraid of prioritization models that can help you statistically score your choice, but I wouldn't overthink this. When you see your list, generally the top ideas jump right off the page. 

How would you choose, David? 

Strategic Goal for a Singular Purpose

To begin, we need a strategic goal; a primary sense of purpose to which you will become dedicated. This is a thematic statement about what you would like to achieve in the most generalized terms.

Here are some examples:

  • Exercise/ Lose Weight
  • Save more Money
  • Live in the Moment
  • Travel to China

You may come up with quite a few. Once you get thinking, it may be hard to stop coming up with ideas! After all, at this point, time, cost, location, etc... doesn't matter. We're dreaming with a purpose right now.  

If you came up with a list, now I want you to focus on trimming that list down to the topic about which you are most passionate. Given one wish, on which one goal would you spend it?

"But I have so much I'd like to do! Why just one? How do I choose?"

More Later...

Happy New Year! Resolution Time...

Happy New Year!  

A time for beginnings and fresh starts. Relationships, Finances, Health, Career, you name it; we all make promises we intend to keep. What better time to do this than the start new year, right? After all, from Halloween through New Year's Day, we've had the license to splurge, with the promise that we would make good on our goals once the holidays were over. Never mind the fact that we've never once seen any of our resolutions make it through February.  

But here we are! It's now January and time to make good on those hasty promises. 

Happy fun time is officially over. 

Time to dig in, buckle down, and get to work.

And this is why most resolutions die so quickly on the vine.

No more fun?

Buckling down?

Getting to work?

There's nothing enjoyable about this whole setup. Enjoyment must be the underlying motivation of anything worth doing consistently. Consistency is what breeds habits. 

Consider this. 

As humans, it is in our DNA to take the path of least resistance and to seek pleasure over pain. No sense in making things harder or more time consuming when they don't have to be. Therefore, our habits are the routine choices we make to maximize our quality of life with our allocation of time and resources. We rely on these habits because they give us a feeling of control over life. Even when the habit is bad or becomes obsolete, we cling to what we know because it makes us feel normal, and normal is safe. 

Then we wake up one day and realize that our habits aren't meeting all of our needs. Some habits may even be leading us down a very bad path. This usually comes in the form of an empty wallet or not being able to see one's own feet when standing up. Sometimes it is more severe, like walking out of a doctor's office with news that your bad cholesterol is the highest your doc has ever seen and you have high blood pressure to boot! So, we eventually come to grips that a change is overdue. 

Now we're talking talking swapping out bad habits that provide us with perceived efficiencies and feelings of safety for a new method of living that only hints at a long term benefit. Sounds overwhelming, doesn't it? 

Putting that way, it is

One just doesn't completely jettison a way of living for something completely new, overnight, and expect to maintain it for long. 

It's even more difficult to overlay a new set of rules onto existing habits, because there are only so many hours in a day. 

So, how does one flip that switch and commit to a major lifestyle change?

More to come....