We as human beings tend to go to extremes when it comes to anything in life.
Spend cash like drunken sailors, then restrict our spending like misers.
Binge-drink over the holidays, then do “Dry January.”
Stuff ourselves sick with sugar, fat, and tasty treats, then diet and exercise like mad come the new year.
Prior to COVID-19, we all knew people who bought gym memberships with the good intentions of losing weight and shaping up in the new year, then fell short. And they are not alone. According to CompareCamp’s 2019-2020 gym membership data stats, 50 percent of all new gym members quit going within six months of their annual membership.
Just in time for the new year, I have come to terms with the fact that the more I try to restrict anything, the more I spiral out of control. The all or nothing mindset is so limiting that in actuality, it is too unrealistic and could never work. Rather than striving for balance or allowing for flexibility, the plan is so rigid that failure is inevitable.
Try, fail. Try, fail. Unintentionally, I’ve sparked a vicious cycle that, over time, depletes my spirit and weakens my resolve. One day, I just wake up and say to myself, forget it—until the day comes when I decide to try yet again.
When we pair unrealistic expectations with strict rules and extreme limitations, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. When we create a long-term plan that builds in room for mistakes, missteps, and off days, we increase our chances of success. If we do not plan for those, we plan to fail.
To establish new habits, we must be determined and committed, but we must also be patient and forgiving with ourselves. Like life, we will have our ups and downs. The behavior change process takes time, and we will fall short here and there. That’s a fact.
But when we remove the self-limiting thoughts and extremist mindset, there are no limitations. We can more easily and readily pick ourselves back up when we fall and move forward, recognizing our setback as just that—a bump in the road, not the end to what we are trying to achieve.
Even more important than determination and commitment is readiness. Timing is everything. No matter how much thought and energy we put into preparing for this journey, we must be ready. And for those like me, sometimes that just happens when we stop trying so damn hard.
Studies show that only eight percent of Americans who make a New Year’s resolution actually keep them all year, and 80 percent have failed by the start of February. Clinical Psychologist Joseph J. Luciani, PhD, says most resolutions fail due to sabotage caused by a lack of self-discipline.
So my 2021 New Year’s resolution is no resolutions.
I will not obsess about eating healthier, losing weight, or getting back into shape. I will not force myself to start on January 1st or Monday or any other day after that. I will not get frustrated or despondent, pushing myself to do what my mind and body may not be ready to do.
Instead, I will be patient with myself and be aware of the positive steps that I make each day that will accumulate and gain traction—when that time is right.
After all, 2020 certainly didn’t turn out as planned, so 2021 holds much potential.
May it be a healthy and hopeful new year for all.