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Own Your New Year's Resolutions Like a Boss
By Carmen Schober
Ah, New Year’s Resolutions.
You know them well – those tricky little declarations (usually about losing weight or spending less) that we get excited about for approximately five and a half days before we start a new Netflix marathon and succumb to normal, not-that-motivated life.
It’s okay that these goals usually fizzle (because we have 365 days to turn it around), but wouldn’t it be nice to look back this time next year and really feel like you made some big changes for the better?
I remember when I started boxing when I was fifteen. I walked into K.O. Boxing very insecure, chubby, and easily-winded, but then some crazy guy named Brad (Or Brett? Or something else with a B) made me work out harder than I have ever worked out in my entire life, and it was horrible and glorious at the same time.
My mom would pick me up after two hours of nonstop boxing/squats/lifting/lunges or whatever new torture Brett/Brad could think of, and my legs would shake so badly I could barely walk to the car. When I finally made it in, I would slide down the leather seat from sweating so much (sorry, Mom), and in the shower, it hurt to lift my arms to wash my hair.
Those were not the most glamorous of moments of my life, but after a few months of that stuff I was stronger and leaner and faster and healthier and more confident than I’d ever been. I was the weight I wanted to be, and I could also kick someone’s ass if I needed to, and that was a good feeling.
I’d resolved that I wanted to learn how to box and get into shape, and by Jove, it happened.
“Resolution” has a surprising number of definitions and associations, with the most common being something along the lines of “a strong determination” or “firm decision.”
Popular American culture generally presents resolutions as goals for self-improvement, whereas historical and legal connotations emphasize resolutions as solutions to problems. (Cool, huh?)
Weirdly enough, the Latin equivalent of “Resolution” means to “loosen or release,” and I like that definition best because it suggests that we have something inside of us (like drive or energy or power), and our resolutions simply unleash it.
We’re not starting from scratch – instead, we’re harnessing abilities and inclinations that are already natural and abundant to us.
So, to release the full power of your resolutions this year, I have 5 (simple-ish) suggestions:
ONE. Practice Your Death
It sounds a little morbid, and it might be, but I think it’s valuable to stop and consider what we’ve done and what we’d like to do in relation to the very real time limit we have before we die.
Imagine (briefly) that you will die in the near future. Firstly, what have you done that gives you comfort in the face of death?
For me, if I were to die in a year or so, I’d know that my family knows that I love them. I’d know that Jeff knows I love him, too. I’d also know that I have peace with God, and worked hard at the things I thought mattered. Lastly, I’d know that I experienced some amazing things (through friends, travel, work, play, and worship), and I was mostly thankful and happy and hopeful. Not so bad, right?
The next (scarier) question to ponder in your pretend death: What have you done (or not done) that concerns you?
For me, really only three things come to mind. The first is that there have been too many times that I’ve chosen to hurt or hate someone (and sometimes for good reason) rather than be kind or understanding or patient. The second is that I let my life get cluttered with things that don’t matter – material stuff and opinions, mostly. The third is my potential.
If I knew I was going to die in the next year, the hardest part of that would be knowing I hadn’t reached my full potential. There is a lot more I want to do, and a lot more that I know I can do, and I’d want more time.
And, thankfully, I have more time. That is the beauty of taking a moment and pondering your death. It’s not happening (hopefully) any time soon, but it can still give you unusual clarity on the things that matter. And thinking about death also drives home (in a more impactful way than someone simply telling you) that your time should be valued and put to good use.
The New Year is the one time where people really stop and think about “the end” and “the beginning” in specific ways, and once you know what you cherish and what you still need to do, it’s easier to choose meaningful resolutions and stay resolute.
TWO. Pick 2 Really Easy Things to Do/Change
Now that you’ve got an idea of what seriously concerns you/what you’d like to accomplish or change, choose 2 resolutions that you can do fairly easily and reap major benefits.
Why easy goals? The easier the better because change is always hard. And 2 simple changes is much more feasible than 12 or 15 or even 5. You can always add more later, but focus on 2 to start.
The main reason you should choose 2 easy resolutions is because achieving those will help you get excited for other resolutions and more confident that you can do them. If you can make one successful change and see benefits, you’ll be more fired up to make more small changes, and small changes add up fast.
Some Quick Tips for simplifying your resolutions:
1: Drop the clichés that don’t work (like exercising three times a week, or waking at up 6am every day, or smoking your last cigarette on New Year’s Eve). There is legit scientific evidence that proves that these do not work as resolutions (excluding a few superhumans).
Instead, be more specific about changes/solutions to your real, actual life. Working out three times a week is great, but if you work all day and have kids or homework or other stuff that takes up your time in the mornings or evenings, three times a week may not be feasible. Why not once a week? And take a 15 minute walk at lunch and dinner? Simple. Easy. Feasible.
If you’re worried about results (i.e. “I won’t look/feel noticeably different doing those small, not-hard changes”), I would challenge you to think about the bigger picture. Even if you can force in a hardcore workout regimen for a few months, is it going to be sustainable over the long-term? If not, what’s the point?
The changes you want to make need to be easily accommodated by your life. The more accommodated they are, the more likely you are to stick with the change for a long time – and if you do anything good for a long period of time, there will be noticeable, gratifying result.
Tip 2: Avoid absolutes. No, you should not “never” eat sugar, or “never” watch television, or “never” eat bread, or whatever other scary ideas you can come up with. “Never” is silly, besides when it’s applied to stuff like never killing someone or never tucking your jeans into your socks.
“Never” and “Always” and “Everyday” will just get you down because you are not all-powerful and unchanging, and those words carry that kind of weight. Toss them out of your resolutions.
It’s much more effective to associate your resolutions to specific actions that you already do, like driving to work (throw in listening to an educational podcast or audiobook), or making breakfast (adding more fruit and less bacon), or visiting family (pray hard in advance).
The key is simplicity. Like I said before – the more seamlessly you can integrate your resolutions into your life, the more successful you will be. And scary absolutes might thwart your organic transformation.
STEP 3. Only 1 Life Changer (if you’re serious)
This is where people go crazy. They want to do everything. Be super healthy and fit and save all of their money and organize every possible nook and cranny of their home/office/cars/closets and delete Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and build an eco-village for their friends and neighbors and world peace. Yeesh. Exhausting.
This sort of thinking is like when I made a goal (a few summers ago) to walk every single sidewalk in Manhattan in a week. WHAT? THAT IS LIKE MILES AND MILES AND MILES AND MILES OF SIDEWALK. And Manhattan is hella hot in the summer. That is not a good goal. (And it did not happen).
Just ONE of life changer will be sufficient. More than one is unnecessarily overwhelming. Cut out sugar OR get rid of social media OR organize your house. A string major life changes can’t be rammed through haphazardly.
Think long and hard about the most important change you need to make (Health? Finances? Family? Work? There are a lot of possibilities) and determine how important it is for you to make this change. You can’t cut out sugar and processed food if you don’t really believe it’s vital that you do so. You can’t save tons of money unless you believe that you need to – because the alternative (spending it) is so much easier.
A few years ago, I had to cut out popular media. Facebook, television, radio, all of it. I was in the midst of a prolonged anxiety attack and pretty severe heartbreak, and for some reason that stuff made it a lot worse (maybe because I’m a Pisces). I started to realize that I felt better(much better) when I read or napped or prayed or walked or wrote, and so I did that instead.
I went about a year without T.V., and I honestly didn’t miss it because I knew what I was doing needed to be done for my mental health and happiness.
Consider what makes you most unhappy. What kind of changes would you have to make to fix it? It could be a series of small, easy changes, or something much more drastic. If it’s the latter, fixate on how important it is to make the change. Why do you need to do this? What will happen? Prove to yourself (often) that it’s vital and necessary.
Do the best you can, and don’t quit until it’s done.
Want some extra help? We can hook you up:
Use our beautiful goal-getting workbook. 108 pages to help you clarify, organize, strategize, and execute your goals. People have used our guide to save money, lose weight, start businesses, make new friends, and much, much more.
Or take one of our goal-getting courses. We have 4 and 6 week options, as well as classes on site in MHK and online. You’ll use the same workbook, but you’ll get the chance to work with other goal-getters and find more accountability.
That’s it. I hope you come up with some kickass resolutions and see them through. Here’s to 2017 – may it be your best year yet.
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