It’s the end of January, which is the perfect time to evaluate your New Year’s resolutions. Be honest. It’s probably been long enough for you to migrate back to the comfortable patterns you had in 2015. Or perhaps you’ve already taken a head-first leap into the abyss. It’s okay if you’ve failed to keep your resolutions. New Year’s resolutions suck.
You don’t make massive lifestyle changes stick just because you hang a new calendar in your work cubicle. Hopefully you selected the calendar with cats or beaches this year (sans nearly-naked men); you don’t need Sally calling HR again this year over your poor taste in workplace art. Do you?
Despite my distaste for resolutions, I made some great ones for 2016. No, wait. I didn’t make resolutions, I established a new approach to get myself ready for the 2016 running season. Nothing exotic or crazy. I had the best intentions for slowly and progressively building strength and endurance. I wanted a solid running base to avoid the annual repeat of nagging, chronic, middle-aged running injuries. It was all going well until the last week of December. Yep, I didn’t even make it into the new year before my resolutions – er, training plan – went to Hell. I got injured doing strength and flexibility work that was intended to avoid getting injured.
Life Requires Adjustments
And that’s why I don’t like resolutions, also known as fantastical plans designed to reign in a nihilistic view on health. Life happens, and we need to make adjustments that keep us moving toward our most important objectives. The black-and-white, specific and measurable changes that are typically associated with resolutions rarely allow the flexibility to adjust to the shit that will inevitably occur. When we miss those specific targets, it is easy to become discouraged, which causes us to quit on our objectives. Nobody likes being a quitter.
Your employer, and hordes of experts will tell you that goals are not supposed to be flexible; they must be specific and measurable, and they need to provide a structure of accountability. Yeah, I get that in the workplace, and it is probably true when planning things like retirement income and college savings for your kids. But living a healthier lifestyle is not the same thing as becoming the top-grossing salesperson in your company by the end of the calendar year.
It’s important to set goals for improving your health, but it is equally important to be realistic about life. Realism requires the ability to make adjustments that keep you moving toward your objectives. Adjusting to life’s circumstances as they occur is far better than ditching your New Year’s resolution because you failed.
If you fail to achieve your work-related goals, your employer may invite you to find your happiness at another company. When you fail to make progress on your health, you may be expediting your need to cram for the heavenly final exam. These are significantly different consequences; you can always find another job. A healthy lifestyle is a journey, not a destination. Making progress is done one decision at a time, and doesn’t have to fall apart the moment you succumb to that Double-Double with cheese, or when you miss an early morning workout because of a meeting at work.
Keep Making Progress
I haven’t scrapped my new training approach because of an injury. I’ve made the necessary adjustments, which currently require me to focus on rest and therapy in the short term. I am also focused on making tighter decisions with nutrition because I know I don’t need the extra calories when I am not running or training, and the extra carbs will not help me manage blood sugars.
Improving health and being healthy is a lifestyle, not an outcome. It always comes down to how we make small choices every day, and not whether we are able to maintain the unrealistic expectations that most of us set every January 1st.
What small changes have you been able to make and sustain in the new year?