I am a little afraid to ask – but how are you doing with those resolutions? Is it a ‘new year, new you’ yet? Have you quit the habit, dropped the weight, eaten the salad? Ah yes, all those lofty promises we made weeks ago when we were looking bright eyed and bushy tailed at the promise of the new year. I am willing to bet that for so many of us they are inevitably starting to drop off one by one. I mean, it’s hardly your fault. How could you not pick up the bag of chips and the bottle of vodka on the way home from the job you hate? Have you seen the state of the world?
That head of lettuce sits in that drawer in the refrigerator where new years resolutions go to die. Looking at it is depressing. You feel bad for the lettuce. Like you’ve let it down. But it’s been a rough few weeks! It’s dark. It’s cold. You’d love to just go hang out with all of your buddies but the residuals of the nightmare that was 2020 aren’t allowing that to happen.
So you plop yourself in front of the television set. Grab a napkin to wipe up that burger juice running down your chin. You feel bad. You thought at least you’d get through January this year. You look at your water glass full of vodka and you know drinking it isn’t going to make you feel any better. In fact you understand that all of this is surely going to make you feel worse. Why do you do it?
Human beings are interesting and complicated organisms. We develop habits that are incredibly difficult to break, even when we know those habits might well be killing us. It’s comforting to do something that is familiar, especially when we’re faced with stressful or frightening situations. They call it ‘comfort food’ for a reason. When you stuff your face with macaroni and cheese it’s the emotional equivalent of hiding in your mothers skirts.
When we look at the scenario logically we understand that we are no longer able to hide from our big scary problems, but we also understand on an intellectual level that our coping mechanisms maybe aren’t that hot. We know in our heads that macaroni and cheese is adding pounds to our thighs and even taking years off our lives. We understand this to be true, and yet it is just so hard to change. Tonight just one more drink. Maybe two. There’s that bit of leftover cake that would be a shame to waste. Where’s my fuzzy blanket? Time to pass out on the couch again with our eyes glazed over from way too much Netflix.
Ah it does sound like bliss, doesn’t it? Until you wake up one day over weight with a heart condition and diabetes. You’re completely miserable and desperately wish you would have tried harder when you were younger. You will think this at every age. At 30 you’ll wish you started in your 20s. At 40 you will daydream of what it might have been like if you had started in your 30s. At 60 you’ll wonder where the time went and why your back always hurts so much now. And on and on it goes. The point is it doesn’t matter where you are in this – it’s not too late, and it’s also not too early. It’s just right. Now is the time to change the way you look at those resolutions and find a way to not only get on with your promises to yourself, but to actually enjoy and appreciate the changes you’re making in your life.
There are a lot of missteps people make when people set new year’s resolutions. Many of us will set ourselves up for failure right out of the gate. We set these huge goals but we have no real idea of how we are going to get there. It seems we all believe in the magic of ‘new year’s eve’ where everything just magically happens with little effort and no regret. We seem to think that we are going to put down those cigarillos and craft beers and float away on a cloud sprinkling fairy dust and ‘I told you so’s’ as we are whisked away into ‘I did it’ land. Occasionally the magic is strong and it works. More often our cloud turns into acid rain and we fall screaming and crying directly into the vast pit of regret and despair.
So now we know that there is no such thing as magic. (Not new years eve magic anyways) And by mid January we have figured out that changing something big in our lives is no picnic. It’s not easy, you won’t feel immediately amazing, you won’t be lording over your friends and family how awesome you are. Not yet, because right now you’re busy feeling terrible either from habit withdrawal or regret or some combination of both. Changing your life isn’t easy. It’s not supposed to be. Hang on to that idea of how you thought you would feel (you know, fairy dust and all) and let’s be more realistic about how to get there.
Intellectually we all know how to succeed, but so few of us actually follow the steps. Why? There’s something satisfying in saying ‘ah well, I tried’. Your peers will do that head tilt nod thing that they do and say ‘yes, good effort. Maybe next year, eh?’. You will feel satisfied that your attempt has been acknowledged, and yes, in fact, maybe next year indeed.
That’s not going to happen this year because you are going to set yourself up to succeed! Somewhere floating around that big beautiful mind of yours you already know how. You are going to pick apart your vision and set small achievable goals. You are going to find an app for that – because good grief there certainly is an app for that I promise you. You are going to use social media for good. (Yes! It can be for good! I promise!) You are going to find those groups that offer support and tips. You are going to follow people who are succeeding at doing the thing that you want to do. You are going to engage and read and ask questions. Someone will recommend a book. Read it. Someone will recommend a movie. Watch it.
More importantly you are going to change the way you think – and this is the ticket. We need to shift our mindset from rewarding ourselves by doing negative things to our bodies to an entirely new track. How did that ever come to be in the first place? Why is it when we are celebrating something we gravitate to actually doing something that will negatively impact our lives? Promotion? Alcohol. Birthday? Junk food and cake. When you really stop to think about it that’s actually quite ridiculous. How about to celebrate our lives we instead choose to do things that are nourishing and positive and actually make us feel good instead of feeling bad!
All of a sudden you’ll find that you’re doing it. You’re doing it!!! You’ve got a brand new head of lettuce in that drawer but this time you aren’t looking at it with disdain because someone has shown you how to turn that lettuce into something delicious that you’ve never tried. You’ve laced up the running shoes because that podcast inspired you to just start walking. You’ve sweated through those first days without your cigarettes and vodka and that was the hardest thing you’ve ever done, and your people on that Facebook group understand exactly how you feel and cheer you on endlessly.
You can do this. I know you can, because I’ve done it myself. What a change from how I thought the next decades would play out. I figured I was somehow fated to be overweight and tired, not able to concentrate, eating bad food and feeling worse for it, drinking a couple of bottles of wine every night. It wasn’t easy to pry my lazy arse out of that ever expanding comfortable rut, and yet somehow here I am with absolutely no regrets.
Quitting the bad habit is one thing. Yes you will no doubt get healthier, healthy lungs, healthy heart, blah blah blah. No one told me about how great I would feel in my mind. How proud I would feel of myself. How good it feels in my bones to be taking care of myself.
That is my wish for all of you. To know how good it feels in your soul to take care of your body. We’re here for such a short time. Let’s get on with it, shall we? Stand up, start over, and kick ass!