It’s that time of year. We’ve over indulged in rich food and spirits, and under indulged in exercise and self-discipline. Our skinny jeans from September/October have made way for the one-size-fits-all stretchy leggings that shamefully give us unlimited room to expand….and we have.
So! We’re making a new years’ resolution to go on a diet, join a gym, and start a healthy way of living; in other words, do a complete 180! But are we being realistic, i.e., can we sustain this new lifestyle?
Those who do not pledge to change their health status make other resolutions. They’re going to create, and stick to, a new budget, or they’re going to commit to reading one book a week, or make a point of staying in touch with friends they’ve long neglected. Maybe they’ll take a course or make a concentrated effort to stop biting their nails, or promise to call their mother every Sunday, and actually do it. Or not.
The reality of new years’ resolutions is that we seldom follow through. Our busy lives resume and old habits return because it’s easy, easier than effecting change. It’s not that we’re lazy, we’re just not ready. And it’s not that we don’t really want the proposed changes to our lives, rather it’s more a matter of having to impose them at a time when we’re not ready for them. Nobody likes to be told what to do, not even by our conscience.
The diet can start any day of the year. You can read a book anytime, if you want to. If your friends want to hear from you, they’ll take your call/email/text whenever it comes – even in June. And mom will always gratefully answer your call. So why do we put this pressure on ourselves? Is it a form of self-inflicted punishment for having over indulged throughout the holidays, and now we have to pay for our sins? Or maybe we just feel compelled to set new years’ resolutions because that’s what we’re supposed to do. Magazine ads and radio and tv commercials will all be focused on helping you start the new year off right by joining a gym, buying a new car or changing your career – in short implying that we all need improvement.
And maybe we do, but we need it on our terms because if we set unrealistic expectations and timelines on ourselves, we are guaranteed to fail and then we just spend the next 364 days spinning our wheels.
My best advice for new years’ resolutions is, don’t make one. Look deep within yourself. Make a pro/con list if you’re so inclined. List everything about yourself you love, then everything you’d like to ‘improve’ about yourself. Reread the pro list frequently so you don’t wallow in the list of your shortcomings because we are all our own worst critics (and you’re probably not in need of as much repair as you think).
Reflect on the things you accomplished throughout the year and look upon those you didn’t without urgency. They are next on your lifelong to-do list and will be addressed in order of need. You may find that over time that particular ‘need’ becomes less of a priority because if there’s one good thing about aging, it’s that we learn to see what’s really important, and in what order.
So ignore the ads that tell you you have to change. Take pride in everything you did right. Focus on the positives of your lifestyle. Integrate change gradually, and only when it feels right. Be proud of what you did accomplish this past year and embrace that feeling to give you the confidence to face that to-do list without pressure, and set no hard and fast timelines. Everything will come together when the time is right, and not before, and when it does, you’ll feel a stronger sense of accomplishment for having done it your way.
If you truly feel compelled to make a new years’ resolution let it be that you will be kinder to yourself because you probably don’t need the new car, can’t realistically commit to the gym, or have no interest in higher education or reading. And that’s ok……but you should still call your mother.
I wish you a very happy, healthy, and stress-free New Year!