We are well into what is allegedly 2021 and not 2020, so dare I ask how those new year resolutions are going? Whether you made any or not after the struggle it was just to get through last year, if you’re anything like me motivation is a daily challenge in itself these days. That’s why today I want to talk about resolutions vs solutions and how I plan on going about setting myself up for success in this still-covid-19 world we’re living in.
For starters, I’d like to move the conversation away from “resolutions” and more toward “solutions”. To me, thinking of something we want as a resolution seems so lofty — like we set it and forget it. Solutions require us to show our work (thinking back to my school days) with a step-by-step path written out that takes us from the problem presented to the answer.
Often times there are many ways to write out the work that leads to the correct solution and even multiple ways to write the solution itself. The same can be said for reaching our goals. What makes the toughest of problems easier is not just knowing or thinking we know the steps to get from start to finish, it’s writing them out one by one until we reach the solution.
I’m no math teacher (and I’m also not particularly good at it) so let’s break this idea out in real life along with five other straight-forward, no-frills ways to get from where we are to where we want to be.
Show Your Work
Whatever your goals, resolutions, solutions, or any other word you’d like to use are, let’s start by mapping out step-by-step how we plan on getting from where we’re at now to the finish line. An easy way to do this is thinking in terms of SMART goals, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. For example if our resolution is to lose weight, what is the solution for us to make it happen? “I want to lose five lbs per month for the next six months by doing a workout for at least 20 minutes five times per week.” Sounds pretty SMART to me.
Gimme One Good Reason
I don’t know about you, but I was always better at the classes (and things in general) that I enjoyed and that meant something to me. So before we come up with our solution, it may be wise to ask ourselves why we even want to solve the problem to begin with. Perhaps we want to put aside money every month to take a really great trip once the world opens up again (I know I do). If that’s the case, having a deeper meaning behind it, like revisiting the place you met your spouse or best friend will keep that money funneling into your savings account instead of Jeff Bezos or some other billionaire’s pockets.
The more personal meaning something has behind it, the more effort we put into it. So for every solution, let’s not forget to write out the meaning for solving it — the deeper the better.
Get Scientific to Form Habits
We really are taking on my least favorite school subjects today, but important ones they are when it comes to getting from point A to point B. One of my favorite books is Atomic Habits by James Clear because it really provides a crystal clear, step-by-step psychological explanation as to how good habits are formed. In other words — he very much showed his work.
A key takeaway I always try and remember is that new daily habits are more likely to be successful if they are placed into things we already do. For example, if watching TV is something that keeps us from your weight loss or gain goal — let’s do it while we exercise. If work get in the way and we find ourselves with a long conference call on our calendar, let’s take a walk while we’re on it.
Real change takes time and comes from good habits that we’re able to keep up day after day without stopping or taking long breaks from. So, finding a way to make them as enjoyable as possible is crucial.
One of Clear’s most helpful concepts for me was one about lagging measures: a thing like being overweight is a lagging measure of what you have eaten over time. One night of eating pizza won’t do it… pizza every night and over a long period of time however will drive that weight up. Our savings accounts are lagging measures of how much we have saved every month. It takes time, but consistency is the key to real change and it can be disappointing to be consistent when we don’t see immediate results. Don’t give in to that disappointment. When it comes to forming good habits, slow and steady wins the race.
Let’s make things easy at first with short term goals. If we make them too hard, we will avoid them and not have the drive to succeed. For me, for instance, I wanted to be on my phone less, so at the top of every odd hour I give myself 15 minutes to catch up on texts, news, and anything else in that addictive glowing box of mine.
Back to exercise, which is one of the few habits we all should have in common: One of the most frequent problems I see is with clients new to working out and wanting a big weight drop or gain really fast that would require them to train at a professional athlete’s level to achieve. My advice: Make goals of how many times per week you workout and the time you spend doing it before driving toward a number of pounds you want to shed or gain. These things you really have full control over either accomplishing or not. You’re also forming a habit and the weight lost or gained will be a bonus that comes much easier.
We’ve all been forced to almost entirely digitally communicate with one another for far too long at this point. But, be it online or in real life — let’s be accountable to someone and let someone be accountable for us and what we’re trying to achieve. Check in with them and ask that they check in with you regularly to keep you accountable and on track. If we are going to try to exercise more, let’s find a partner to do it with — a trainer, a friend on zoom, a class on video, an app with built-in messaging directly to a trainer *cough, shameless BrütCamp plug*.
If we are trying to eat better, let’s find someone who will cook with us online or in real life. Let’s get a healthy meal delivery service with a friend and compare recipes. If we want to go to sleep earlier, let’s get your mom to text us every night at a specific time asking if we’re in bed — it’s a lot harder to lie to her than ourselves… Hopefully? Whatever your goal may be, be expected by someone if you want to reach something unexpected for yourself.
Be Honest with Yourself and Others
No change can really happen without taking a cold hard look at where we are, what has worked, and what hasn’t. Ask yourself and the person you’re accountable for questions. How did you get to where you are now?
If you aren’t exercising, is it because you can’t get started, or feel too isolated at home? That first moment of getting ready to workout is never fun but what is stopping you?
Almost any change will at first seem most like a sacrifice. What’s your sacrifice, why will it be difficult, how can you get through those difficulties, and are you ready and willing to make that sacrifice? Being brutally honest will help set us up for success.
Don’t be Afraid to Fail or Change Your Path to Victory
We are not machines and it’s a struggle to give up the easy things in life. Maybe your goal is to get to the gym every morning before work. Would I rather be in bed still asleep at 8am or up swimming laps in the pool? I can tell you from time to time I don’t even snooze that alarm, I turn it off entirely and go back to bed. But, if I do, I make it a point to hit the pool later on in the day. Having a pre-prepared, ready-to-go backup plan incase we misstep is important when it comes to staying on course.
Whether you have your new year solutions in mind or not, think of this weekly column as a weekly checkpoint for yourself. No matter what I’m yammering on about that week, take measurement (yes, put a number to it) of where you’re at. Ask yourself the tough questions.
When it comes to achieving our goals we have to weigh out what makes us happier in the short term vs what will make us happy long term. Long term goals take many short term sacrifices. The most important thing to remember though, is that failure is temporary — it’s giving up that’s permanent. Have a plan in place to get back on the horse if you ever fall off and keep on keeping on. If you want it bad enough, you’ll get it.Photo Credit: Drew Quizon, @dq_fotography