Focusing or Resolving in the New Year

December 31, 2011 in Fitness, General, Health, Psychology of Food by Joyce Bunderson

My beautiful daughter, Heather, took her fire hazard (Christmas tree) to the backyard on Christmas Day. Resolutions are often like that; discarded faster than a dried out fire hazard. Otherwise, they are likely to kindle and burn you with guilt and self-doubt. Because many people have had failure experiences with resolutions, they increasingly decide not to make any. But my experience tells me that success does not always come on the first (or the tenth or twentieth) try. I love the story of Thomas Edison, who tried and failed nearly 2,000 times to develop the carbonized cotton-thread filament for the incandescent light bulb. When he was asked about it, he said “I didn’t fail; I found 2,000 ways how not to make a light bulb.” Whether it was 1,000 ways or 2,000 ways (a little controversy), the point is stated well by Confucius, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.”

Call them what you want; plans, strategies, tactics, or maybe focusing on new behaviors. But sometimes it’s helpful to evaluate what is going on with ourselves and give a little thought to the need for a change – maybe just a little tweaking. I find the method of fine-tuning/tweaking to be an excellent method of getting to where I want to go. Instead of striving for perfection in a single bound (Superman’s tactic), many of us mere non-fictional mortals, can make more progress through iterations and small alterations. I like Mark Twain's advice: "Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man (or woman), but coaxed downstairs a step at a time."

Certainly there are hundreds of areas of life we can assess and decide upon to focus our attention; to redirect our behaviors in order to bring us a better quality of life and happiness. Some that are popular are those that lead to more balance in life; building healthy relationships/spending more time with family and friends; thinking more positively; doing more for others/being more compassionate; keeping our minds sharp/learning something new; managing stress; taking steps to achieve a dream; getting in touch with lost friends; scheduling time to laugh and enjoy life; to name a few.

People often make resolutions to improve their physical health; this of course, is no small feat and it can be enormously important. Health brings freedom; very few of us realize the value of that freedom until we no longer have it. If we desire to embrace health, we, especially in this country of abundance and sedentary lifestyles, need to pay attention to the nutritional and exercise needs a healthy body requires. If we ignore our health, too soon it will leave us encumbered and inhibited. Do we need to focus some attention on making some alterations in our health-related habits?

If yes, you may want to read some of our past posts for ideas regarding nutrition/exercise: Resolving to Escape the McVictim Syndrome; Mini-Resolutions – Trimming Big Resolutions Down to Size; January 2011 Newsletter; and January 2010 Newsletter. In addition, a few words to support successful strategies follow:

  1. Make your goals specific, meaningful and readily attainable by you.
  2. Make concrete plans, the more detail the better.
  3. Eating right is often at the top of the resolutions list. Could it be that holiday eating is so clear in our recent memory? Remember that you don’t usually do holiday eating all year round. Focus first on doable ‘everyday eating habits.’
  4. Center your attention on permanent healthy habits. Say, ‘nix’ to a crash diet.
  5. Instead of going on a highly restrictive diet – have you considered making a resolution to stop dieting? Consider beginning by adding more veggies, fruits, whole grains, more beans, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, fish; and by reducing the frequency and amount of processed food, processed meats, and red meats.
  6. Contemplate the possibility of improving cooking skills. You can learn quite a bit right on line; there are many demonstrations for the right price – free. Or maybe consider taking a cooking class. Cooking tasty foods can compete favorably with fast foods and processed foods. With a little practice and good organization, it can compete on cost, speed of preparation, and definitely, yumminess. (Remember not to try the Superman single bound perfection tactic. Start from where you are and choose the alterations and iterations method. Think of Mark Twain's advice - coaxing down the steps.)
  7. Think about what to buy and eat out of the house and what to purchase and bring in. Maybe review: Willpower or Environmental Power?
  8. Ponder scheduling time to plan each week/ or two/ or month, an assessment of progress; and then plan to take the next step. No need to postpone having your first assessment until next New Year’s Eve.
  9. Don’t forget your all-important exercises! Maybe your first step is just finding the little time slots to fit exercise into your life. You need both strength training (2-3 times a week) and aerobic exercise (a minimum of 30 minutes daily). On Finding Time and Making Exercise Happen may be a helpful review.

10.  The most important hint is to start where you are with any goal and design a reasonable, do-able objective.

If you are realistic and kind to yourself, you will be less likely to be tossing off a resolution so lacking in the principles above that it could be likened to a dried up fire hazard. It will quickly either be rejected out of hand, as the threat to peaceful living it is, or will kindle into a flame of guilt and self-doubt. Instead of casual or hazardous resolutions, make plans that will be more likely to make it to the ‘How did it go?’ assessment of progress stage, enabling you to confidently make decisions about the next step to take, with a rewarding feeling from each small accomplishment the assessment reveals.

Sending our very best to you in the New Year.

The Dr. Grandma’s Team