New Year’s Resolutions Are For Suckers

No, this title is not a misprint. I know you’re used to the buzz at this time of year; that frenzy of the holidays, followed by the ascetic lifestyle of those who are newly resolved.

Oh yeah, we party like it’s 1999 and then turn on a dime and attempt to live like warrior monks who spend their days starving themselves and practicing grueling exercises. Then we wonder why we can’t keep it up for more than a few weeks.

Why do we do this to ourselves? It just seems cruel. I’m beginning to think this is a symptom of a much bigger problem.

We can’t seem to understand that there’s no short term fix for a life that is lived in the long term. I want that to soak in.

There is no short term fix for a life that is lived in the long term.

The life you have right now is a combination of years of experiences, beliefs, and behaviors that have accumulated and piled up to create the reality that is you. If things are going to change this year, we need to get real about what change is and how to make it happen. You cannot simply cut the ties that bind you to this reality in the amount of time it takes the Times Square Ball to drop. So give yourself a break and let’s just begin with today.

Today is a glorious opportunity to live wholly! Today is the day you decide to eat a salad for lunch and take the stairs. Today is the day you skip that crime drama and beer for a sparkling water and a board game with your kid. Today is the day you take the dog for a longer walk, just because she can’t get enough of the new snow. Today you laugh a little more.

It’s wonderful to have goals that we work toward, but most of us are confused and think that the goal is what we need to focus on to be successful. We post pictures of skinny models on on our fridge. Or we write a fake check to ourselves for a million dollars. Yet these “tools” of inspiration are more like bringing a can of gasoline to fight a fire. They often have the opposite effect we want them to have. They keep us focused on what we are lacking and not what we need to do to reach our goals.

By focusing on the far off goal, we get overwhelmed and ignore the steps needed to get there. This is why we fail. Our focus should not be on the end of our journey, but rather, on the steps we need to take today. That’s it.

So if you want to resolve to improve yourself and your life, I want you to begin with today. Begin small. Take little steps that don’t stress you out, but instead make you feel good about yourself and build a sense of well-being. If you take small actions over time, you’ll begin to see real change!

I have recently experienced how very small behaviors can have a big impact on my life. About six weeks ago I was injured by a fall. My ankle was sprained severely and I couldn’t walk for a week. The doctor told me that I needed to ice it several times a day and to begin physical therapy as soon as I could put weight on it again. So, four weeks ago I started physical therapy.

In the beginning, I could barely move my ankle at all. The pain was about a five or six on a scale from 0-10. I would wake up in the middle of the night with a dull deep ache that made it impossible to get comfortable. I would have to ice my ankle and take ibuprofen, just to fall back asleep. A simple trip to the bathroom felt like an ordeal. This was every day and every night.

The first week of PT I received a few daily exercises to do, as long as the pain and swelling stayed down. At first, it was disheartening to see how much effort I put forth and how little my ankle responded. I struggled to do the most simple movements with my ankle and even those made the swelling and pain increase. But my lovely therapist told me that we were making improvements, and that’s all that mattered. Even if I could only do a few of the exercises, I needed to keep going.

It has been almost a month now, and each week she adds a few more exercises. I do them as often as I can, fitting them in while I sit down to watch a bit of TV. It doesn’t seem like much each day. In fact, it feels like I’m barely doing anything. But, nearly four weeks later my ankle is stronger and more flexible than our first visit, and my pain is only about a one or two after each session. This is a huge improvement!

In just one month I have gone from shuffling around and feeling miserable, to having only a slight change to my gait. I still can’t go for a run or do yoga, but I can walk for about 15 minutes at a time. I just stop and ice my ankle again, and later in the day I will get up and walk for 15 more minutes. I will do my exercises and my stretches and when I have my next assessment I’ll see even more improvement.

So if you have big dreams that you need to reach, remember to do a little bit each day. It doesn’t matter how small, as long as it is in the right direction. All of those little exercises will add up to amazing accomplishments and abilities.

So this year, ignore the siren song of the New Year’s resolution and resolve to take a tiny step today. And tomorrow, you just need to take one more step.

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Realizing the Sun

I am a coach, writer, and public speaker dedicated to bringing a little light into everyone's life. I am passionate about using the latest research in Positive and Social Psychology to live our best lives.

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