Originally published 1/5/2016
Each year around this time, I hear the joke from several people to avoid the gym for the next three weeks for all the New Year’s Resolutions. I’m sure gyms make a killing by signing people up for a year’s membership, only to have them stop showing up a month later. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we commit to completely reinventing ourselves overnight? And why are we so convinced that each year will be different and the changes will stick?
I know what it’s like to beat myself up after indulging over the holidays. I used to tell myself that after letting the pendulum swing too far over into Indulgence Apex, the only solution was to swing the pendulum back to the other extreme of Restriction Summit. It took a long time for me to realize how appropriate this analogy was for my behavior. I was constantly swinging from one extreme to another, unable to strike a healthy balance. After years of doing this, I finally learned a couple of important lessons. The first is that guilt and punishment are no match for love and compassion. Berating myself for eating baked goods over the holidays or missing a workout only left me feeling drained. When I learned to love and accept myself and appreciate exactly where I was at that moment, I learned to make lasting changes. The second lesson I learned was that total overnight transformation never works. I was overwhelmed with the number of changes I would try to make at one time, which ultimately caused the pendulum to swing back the other way with a lot of momentum.
In a recent newsletter from Neghar Fonooni (if you don’t already follow her, you should start), the whole theme was about focusing on small, incremental changes that become sustainable. We are not equipped to handle drastic change easily. I also like the analogy that willpower is like a muscle. We can get better and stronger, but we have to practice and work at it. We can’t go to the gym and automatically bench press our body weight, but we can work up to it. We need to work up to big changes in our lifestyles in much the same way. Studies have shown that when you have to resist eating cookies, your willpower to persevere in problem solving is diminished, whereas resistance to radishes does not have the same effect.
All this is not to say we shouldn’t bother making changes to ourselves and our habits. I absolutely believe in setting goals and intentions to become the best versions of ourselves. I just don’t like the flurry of temporary momentum we gather as the calendar flips to a new year. We don’t need to wait for January 1st to make changes in our lives. With love and acceptance, we can challenge ourselves in small ways to make changes for the better. And we can set ourselves up for success. The picture above is one of my 2016 intentions. It is my happiness jar. I want to capture my happiest moment of each day this year, so I can reflect back on it as the year comes to a close and remember all the small memories that add up to a lot of happiness. I took some time to make a jar that I love to look at, and I put it on the dresser in my room so I see it multiple times per day. At the end of each day, it’s easy to stop for 30 seconds, write down my happiest moment, and drop it in the jar. The same can be done by buying gym clothes that make you excited to go to the gym or taking a different route home to avoid one of your vices. I’ll leave you with a beautiful quote I saw on Happy & Hale’s Instagram feed for the new year (if you like delicious food porn and good vibes, you should follow them too):
Ditch the resolutions.
To resolve means to find a solution to a problem.
You are not a problem.
The way you showed up for your life this past year
was necessary for your growth.
Now is a time to reflect. To learn.
To create an intention, a positive call to shift,
a spark of magic + manifestation
rooted in self-love
and backed with actions.