|Posted on January 3, 2012 at 11:10 AM|
The Christmas decorations have been taken down, the party hats and whistles swept away. The family is headed home and resolutions have been made. Collectively, we tell ourselves that this year will be different. This is the year that we are going to lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking, drink less, pray more, fix whatever is broken in our homes and in ourselves. Then the sense of deja vu sets in. Isn't this the same thing we said last year?
Resolutions, as they say, are meant to be broken and the only difference between a true resolution and an empty promise are actions. For a great example of a promise not backed by actions look no further than the gym. January 1st always brings with it a swell of gym memberships. One who goes to the gym regularly can always spot the newbies. They walk around looking perpetually confused and choose machines at random, not knowing what they do or how they work. They engage in stretches and exercises not seen in any video or found in any magazine.
The lack of planning and educating oneself about how to effectively begin an exercise routine inevitably leads to frustration and then failure. Like turtles trying to reach the ocean, only a persistent few make it past the sand. The rest shrug their shoulders and say "'maybe next year'". One can hardly blame those who do give up. We as a society are constantly being told to shape up, get up and move, and eat healthy while we shop at megamarts that offer countless convenience foods and snack aisles. We are bombarded with advertisements for pills that will make us slim and machines that claim we will look like Brad and Angelina even if we look like Danny Devito and Rosie O'Donnell.
The reality is that most of these machines, even when used properly did not deliver the results promised. The diet pills only worked as long as one was willing to take it with a bland breakfast and a "nutritious" shake at lunch and dinner. The disappointment is akin to ordering a mouth-watering steak and only getting parsley. The difference is that parsley will not leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Breaking resolutions is not only relegated to to crash diets and lofty fitness goals. Every year parents tell themselves that they'll spend more time with their children only to have this goal undermined by a demanding work schedule. Couples who resolved to fix their marriages found that a new year did not necessarily mean a new start for them. So what does it mean then when we make promises to ourselves and don't keep them? Does it mean that we have failed ourselves when this happens, or is a better question whether or not these goals were realistic to begin with?
Resolutions are not a bad thing. They can be followed through. Where they become problematic is when they are made not by our inner-selves, but arbitrarily mandated by a date on a calendar. New Year's resolutions in particular have a built-in failure mechanism because of when they are concieved; most of them are made in the week following Christmas, a time that is generally too busy to think through and carry out decisions that may effect us throughout the year. To put this another way, a resolution is a gift you give to yourself to positively affect your life and the lives of others. Trying to do this in the midst of a season based around the idea of only giving to others makes this nearly impossible.
For a small percentage of the population, the strength-in-numbers approach to setting a goal on the first of the year works. For the rest of us, maybe another strategy is in order. For someone just beginning at the gym, it can be intimidating trying to figure out where to start. This is where matching the goal with the action becomes important. Was the goal to lose weight? Focus on cardio equipment, walking or running tracks, or swimming and worry about the rest after you have familiarized yourself better. Enlist a friend who has a similar goal or consult with a trainer to help you with your fitness goals.
Are you not spending enough time with your family because you work too much? Maybe something as simple as learning how to say no could fix that. If saying no is not an option, or the requirements of your job force you to choose between work and family, you may have to consider a complete reevaluation of your priorities. Again, a decision such as this requires careful thought and focus that is hard to achieve during the holidays.
The key in these scenarios is that small steps are made in order to make the resolution attainable. Rather than looking at the big picture, it makes more sense to ask if you've looked at the obvious, and go from there. By doing it this way the actions required to achieve each step is not so great that it feels impossible. PRN of Kansas has had a great year because of our volunteers who resolved to be part of the future through medical research. We hope all of you have a great 2012 and that you fulfill all your resolutions both great and small!