Yet another New Year’s Resolution blog post

Yet another New Year’s Resolution blog post

I loathe New Year’s Resolutions.

I don’t know exactly when this loathing developed, but suspected it was shortly after I discovered that I don’t actually need to change in order to suit anyone else. Change for the sake of change — or to satisfy some unacknowledged sense of “I’m not good enough” — just stopped making sense to me.

There’s also the danger of failing to keep a resolution, usually within a couple of weeks, and then the subsequent self-flagellation. It’s no secret that gym memberships and Weight Watchers meetings swell in January and then by March are back to their normal traffic.

And yet, every few months, the Write or Consequences team gets together to say, “I resolve to complete a goal,” and then attempts to meet that goal.

But when it comes to traditional New Year’s Resolutions, we usually aren’t looking to achieve a goal, per se, but rather to make a life change. We want to eat in a more healthy way, or be more active, or stop multi-tasking so much. Even if we want to write more, or write more consistently, this is a life change, these are very different goals than “finish the first draft” or “self-publish the series.”

Life changes are what we’re after every time we read a self-help book: How can I get more done? Be more successful? Win more friends? Manage my time better? Stop making bad decisions?

I’ve learned a tip or two from choosing bad New Year’s resolutions:

  • Do resolve to do something that’s a variation on what I’m already doing. Personally, I’ve found it super-difficult to introduce a new habit from out of nowhere, but what I can do is choose to do something different whenever I’m already going to do the thing I don’t want to do.

    For instance, I really like a snack around 3 in the afternoon. My normal habit is to go grab some corn chips and salsa. The change I made was to grab some carrots and sunflower kernels instead. I still have the snack (cue = I’m a bit peckish), and the routine (grab a snack), and the reward is the same (I’m not hungry anymore) — but I’ve made a healthier choice.

  • Don’t try to change more than one thing at a time. One of my favorite (read: most self-defeating) resolutions was to get up an hour early to hit the gym. You can see immediately that this lazy night owl was not going to be successful at all, but I mistakenly thought that going at the problem with plenty of willpower would make the difference.

    Uh, no.

    These days I at least recognize that I need to change 1 thing rather than 2 things at the same time, and that I need to work with my body schedule as well as my already-successful daily schedule. What worked better for me (until my daily schedule changed) was to stop off at the gym on the way home from the day job. The only thing that changed from my regular routine was that I pulled into the gym parking lot after work 3 times a week rather than driving straight past it. (Though I had to get mindful to remember to pull into the gym parking lot for a couple of weeks!)

  • Do commit to a short-term micro-goal rather than a long-term macro goal. Like Lorinda talked about in When Pigs Fly, sometimes the “big goal” is overwhelming and I need to break it down into smaller chunks.

    For example, I wanted to stop being the last person to finish a mile warm-up run during my exercise class. With that goal in mind, I’d start out at full speed, then quickly run out of steam and have to walk the last several dozen yards. So I decided that maybe “not last” was too ambitious. Maybe I needed to work toward an incremental goal of “keep running” instead of “walking for part of the mile.” This new goal enabled me to concentrate on the mechanics of “keep running” until “keep running” came more naturally as I got stronger. Then my micro-goal became “run a little faster for the first half-mile” while still holding onto “keep running.”

    Success builds on success. I’m still last most of the time, but that has ceased being an important goal — it’s more useful to me to simply be a little faster this month than I was last month.

The question for me now is what resolution I’m going to come up with around my writing. Given the spirit of micro-goals, changing existing habits, and committing to only one thing, I’m going for:

  • Write 300 words a day
  • At lunch during the day job
  • Throughout the month of January

How will it go? Ask me again in February…

 


Some good resources for changing habits:

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (Amazon)

How to Stick To Your New Year’s Resolution (NY Times article)

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy (Amazon)

 

Sandra K. Moore

Sandra K. Moore has been writing one thing or another since she could scribble on a Big Chief tablet. A former Silhouette Bombshell author, Sandra has given up (temporarily) the kickass heroine and is now writing from her softer side for the self-published Promise House series. This novella quartet explores the journeys of four young women finding their way — and remaining true to themselves — through the social expectations and turmoil of 1950’s Houston.

9 thoughts on “Yet another New Year’s Resolution blog post

  1. I don’t think anyone LIKES resolutions. After all, they’re all about doing away with our bad habits, and these bad habits often represent our comfort zones. So a resolution is nothing more than an intention to be uncomfortable. Who wants that?

    I love the way you’ve broken it down into a small daily “task” that doesn’t require a huge change of habit. And I don’t have to wonder how you’ll do. I know you’ll do great!

    1. I agree no one likes them, but I also think that our hopeful optimism can easily outgun our realism — at least for the short term.

      It’s why, when I worked for a health & fitness software company, I heard countless stories about how gym memberships and attendance spike in January and then trail off back to normal levels by March. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again….

      So how to make it a little easier to keep going the day I realize reality has finally met my waning enthusiasm? That’s the real challenge!

  2. I resolve to enjoy my new grandson. I guess that’s a cheat since I’m already doing that!

    For real I already committed to my When Pigs Fly goal. So here I will commit to personal goal. I already eat everyday 🙂 but my incremental positive change is to prepare food for myself instead of fast fooding it three times a week with the longer term goal of upping that number

    1. What a great idea! And preparing food at home can be super-simple. Lord knows there are millions of crockpot and casserole recipes out in the world.

      Good luck!

      And congratulations on the new grandson! He’s a handsome devil!

  3. I’ve often wondered how the tradition of New Year resolutions got started. I assume its because the New Year offers a clean slate – so we resolve to make tomorrow better than yesterday. We resolve to lose weight, spend more time with family, improve our diet – the list of possible improvements seems endless. And isn’t that exactly why we fail? It seems you and Ann have figured that out, and are breaking it down to smaller, more manageable goals.

    I’m facing back surgery #3 this year and the prospect is sucking all of my energy and optimism away. So, what I’ve learned is that I do best with a daily resolution. Today, I resolve not to worry about the things I cannot change. I resolve to be thankful that I can spend time with my grandsons. I resolve to do my best to stop feeling sorry for myself!
    Terri

    1. Well, the Babylonians and Romans did it, so the tradition has been around for a while. 🙂

      The prospect of another back surgery must be daunting. Not to mention an enthusiasm-killer! A daily resolution based on how you feel each morning sounds like a good way to go and honors your present reality.

      Have you thought about any resolutions around the writing, or are you concentrating primarily on “life stuff”?

    2. Fluffy Butt Syndrome? Is that a crack at the reigning queen of FBS? Ignore something and its goes away, a philosophy that has worked sooooooooooooooo well for me.

      Glad everyone is working out plans for tackling areas in your lives that could stand a little improvement. I recently heard an expression, “If we’re not battling, we’re defeated.”

      So yay Terri for looking to your attitude with regard to this surgery. I remember how it went for you last time, and I’m hoping the fact that you are in the hood this time around will help you mend a bit faster. And writing, too. Way to go!

  4. Terri: this “sounds” good, but too many days in a row of not worrying about tomorrow will lead to a major case of fluffy butt syndrome!

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