A Softer Approach to New Year’s Resolutions

Tis the season for New Year’s resolutions!

Fundamentally, I know that January 1 is not intrinsically different than December 31 or January 2, but it feels different. January 1 feels like a new start and it feels like a new start partially because others tell us this. From the banners at the top of the pages we browse online to the employee performance reviews we go through at work, everyone is telling us that we get to start anew. Some of us might in fact need to start anew, but I think most of us do not and we have plenty to work with. Starting anew is stressful and loaded with expectations. And, starting anew implies that we’re leaving behind what we already have.

Often what we need to do to get somewhere where we think we’ll be happier is a tweak in our approach. Because, for the most part, we are already doing things that we want to do and all we need to meet a goal is to tweak our approaches just a bit to actualize the fullest version of what it is that we want.

For example, a priority for 2016 for me was to be healthier. To live according to that priority I had to eat nutritious food, exercise my body, and get enough rest. That priority wasn’t something new – my health has been something that I’ve cared about for a long time. But, because I had been retaining a bit more fat than what I like and felt tired more often than I like (particularly in the mornings) I knew that I needed a change. The change would come from changes in behavior.

Instead of telling myself that I would begin anew and dreaming up some irrelevant and unattainable body for myself, in the pursuit of which I would get frustrated and ultimately fail to reach, I tried my best to focus on behaviors that were in line with my priorities. Each of the behaviors were actions that supported a goal I set up for myself, which were selected to help me live according to my values. Being healthier, was one of my top values — hence, a priority. (In an upcoming post, I’ll explain values (and priorities) vs goals vs rules and why those distinctions matter)

These are the rules of thumb that I came up with for myself, for my be healthier priority:

  •  Breakfast has to be egg based and skip the bread
  •  No dinner after 7:30pm. This initially seemed hard to do if you make group plans but I’ve found that no one really cares if you eat a full entree. They usually just want you there for your company. If it’s me that really wants that meal, I’ll have it. But it’ll be an exception to the rule.
  • Work out during the week with fun exercises that I look forward to. Schedule for AM or during lunch otherwise I won’t make it. I find that by the time I finish work (in school and at my now full-time job), my mental energy is depleted and I’ll look for any excuse to not work out, even if its a fun workout that I would otherwise look forward to. I’m not kidding when I say that there have been times when I’ve thought of ways to skip the workout after work while on my way to the class! Lol ridiculous.
  • If I want to go home instead of going to a social engagement because I’m tired, I should. Now that I’ve started doing this, I no longer have anxiety around seeing people enough or disappointing them by not showing up. I make time for people that I want to see because I want to see them – but that time together is set by both of us and not by my guilt or social anxiety.
  • No workouts for Saturday mornings, don’t even aim for one on the weekend (inside a gym). If you end up doing one or even two, that’s a bonus. I usually am pretty active and on my feet throughout the weekend so I’m not hurting myself by not scheduling a class. Funnily I find that this attitude usually leads me to take a class during the weekend and if I don’t then I feel extra motivated that Monday and Tuesday. So all in all I work out inside a gym 5 to 6 times a week. A few years ago that would have sounded like a lot to me but now, that I live this way, this does not feel difficult at all.

As an intense type A sort of person, this behavior focused approach that is softer to my psyche enables me to do more and do more of what I want because it relieves the pressure I place on myself to achieve. But, like I said, that softer approach then results in me achieving more of what I want. And so, I continue to follow this softer approach, it becomes a positive feedback loop and takes me to where I want to be, in a less painful way.


So, what am I planning for 2017? What am I hoping and wishing for – what’s getting me excited? I’ll share that in the next post, right after New Year’s. Until then, I hope I’ve left you with a few thoughts on how to be softer with yourself.

Previous Post: Johannesburg or… Be Willing to Evolve!

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