Resolving To Do Better Next Year

Is it later than you think?
Photo: a2zindianews

As a hard-core, long suffering Red Sox fan, I know well the meaning of the phrase, "Wait 'til next year." It's great fun to be a sports fan - the excitement and rivalry - but if they don't win next year, it doesn't really impact my quality of life. Sure, there are those annoying New York Yankees fans who have a whole year of high-fiving right in my face but beyond the mild humiliation of having backed a losing team - again (sigh) - I'm still basically intact.

But what happens if you keep saying, "Wait 'til next year" when it comes to your health? That, unfortunately, can't keep being put off because each time you drop the ball, you're paying in terms of health and longevity. It doesn't affect Derek Jeeter's life if you're 40 pounds overweight. Big Papi's still sleeping soundly at night even if your blood pressure's going through the roof. New Year's and all the resolving that goes along with it is the perfect time for your personal game changer.

It's that time again when one year is coming to a close and another is just about to begin. Are we going to burden ourselves with regret for the things we didn't accomplish this past year? Or are we going to take those disappointments and roll them into opportunities for personal growth and achievement in the New Year? Hmmmm...tough one. Time to flip a coin.

Of course you're going to opt for bettering yourself and making that resolution to get fit this year! I mean, consider the alternatives, right? Do you want to keep being asked to play Santa at your kids' school (better known as Old Fat Man Solstice here in the politically correct climes of the Northeast)? Are you tired of being considered the office perv because of all the heavy breathing and sweating which occurs naturally and not as a response to the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated? And just how many times do you have to insist that you aren't wearing a petticoat - that those are, in fact, your thighs?

Weight loss and getting fit are always right at the top of New Year's resolutions lists. What makes the difference between people who succeed at keeping those resolutions and those who don't? It's a little thing called "self-efficacy", which loosely translated into English means the level of belief you have in your ability to reach your goals. People with high self-efficacy believe that their potential is unlimited and dynamic. If they're not reaching their goals it's because they're not putting in sufficient effort and so they double down and get it done. Huh? Kind of smacks of personal responsibility, if you ask me. Isn't that kind of old school in this no-fault society of ours? Well, it turns out it's been around so long because it generally gets results. People in this category tend to have higher levels of success and set - and reach - more goals.

And then there are the low self-efficacy among us (cue oboe music here). Having majored in Slacking with a minor in Excuses, I'm more than qualified to weigh in on this one. This group of slugs people tends to believe that the ability to change is a fixed and limited resource and much of how they end up has to do with things beyond their control; such as claiming that big bones and cheese-coated arteries runs in their family. What's a person to do? It's out of your hands, right? This is the just the lousy hand you've been dealt. Not surprisingly, people in this group had a low level of success in reaching their goals.

Hopefully, we're more of the high self-efficacy group. At least that's what we're putting on our resumes and in our Christmas letters. But even if you are a closet LSE (low self-efficacy - oh dear, that an unfortunate resemblance to the word "LoSEr", now isn't it?), there are some suggestions that can help lay the groundwork for success.

The most commonly recurring tip I found when looking into how to keep your New Year's resolutions was to break down your goal into manageable pieces so as not to get too overwhelmed with the enormity of your ultimate goal. Say you've got 50 or more pounds to lose - try breaking that down into mini goals of 5 or 10 pounds at a time so you don't feel like a small loss is merely a drop in the bucket.

You should be careful not to try to change too much at once. Maybe kick the smoking habit first and then tackle the weight loss. Rome wasn't built in a day, right? Keeping it simple and orderly will help you stay focused and calm as you go about changing things one at a time.

Plan ahead and really think out your goal. Like anything else you do, setting yourself up for success requires a thought process a bit more complex than "paper or plastic." Avoid making hasty resolutions at 11:59 pm on December 31st. Write down ahead of time what you want to do and the time frame in which you want to do it. You should also keep records as to your progress to spur you on when you hit those bumps in the road. Take "before" pictures, measurements and sizes and you'll get a lot of pleasure and satisfaction in watching them get smaller the farther along your journey you go.

Make sure to reward yourself along the way for staying on course, taking care to avoid the bad habits of treating yourself or celebrating with the same bad food choices that got you into this fix in the first place. Non-food goodies like books, music, videos or a special outing are good substitutes.

But why wait?! If this is something you've been thinking about for a while and are fairly well organized already, start now. Give yourself the gift of a head start and enjoy that feeling of being ahead of the crowd. I know, I know - you want one last dance with that egg nog cheesecake. But you know what? Egg nog cheesecake will always be there - as will every other thing you enjoy eating. You'll enjoy it again, albeit in much smaller amounts. It's not like you're Dead Man Walking and this is your last meal before going to the chair. Don't panic and start scarfing down everything in sight on your Farewell Tour - it will only make your task that much harder.

So what are you resolving to do this New Year's and how will you go about getting it done? And will you start early or take the last train out of town on December 31st?

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