By Patricia: Most of us make New Year’s resolutions, and most of us break them within the first few weeks of the year. We start out being very positive and sure that THIS year, we will keep those promises to ourselves. And we begin that diet, or that exercise routine, or that new attitude, or whatever we promised ourselves, usually jumping in with both feet. Then something happens. We get hungry, and decide one little cheat won’t hurt. We wake up the day after we started exercising so sore we can’t even get out of bed. We go to work with our new attitude, and our supervisor dumps someone else’s work on us and walks away. That little cheat becomes two, then three and so on, and we slide right back into our old eating habits. We skip our second or third day of exercise because we hurt, and start going to the gym less and less, finding excuses to skip it today. We let our supervisor’s or co-workers’ attitudes affect us, just like always, and we give up trying to be more positive.
What it often comes down to is that we cannot meet our own high expectations and give up. We go back to the same old behavior we have always done. When we do the things we have always done, we continue to get what we have always gotten. We get discouraged and decide it is hopeless to try to change our habits and settle for the life we have right now, even though there are parts we are not happy with.
So, what do we do instead? Quit trying for big changes too fast, and don’t set your goals so high you cannot reach them. Break those goals down into smaller pieces. Instead of saying, “I want to lose 35 pounds” (or kilograms, etc.), try telling yourself “My ultimate goal is to lose 35 pounds, but right now, my goal is to lose 1 pound this week.” Instead of cutting out all sugar or all carbs, or whatever the diet you are looking at recommends, be more realistic. I, personally, won’t stick to a diet that has no sugar and no carbs. I would be miserable, and would end up binging on chocolate and hating myself for it. This is the voice of my experience. So instead of cutting out all sugar or whatever, I pay attention to my normal consumption and decide to cut that down by, say, 10 percent. Instead of that whole piece of pie, I cut the piece just a little smaller than I usually would. I take a smaller scoop of ice cream or eat 1 less cookie. That way I can meet my weight loss goal without feeling deprived and I will be able to stick to that. Next week or the week after, I will cut it down again until I reach the ultimate goal. It takes longer this way, but I see small gains every day. I have small victories every day, and if I blow it on the desert for my lunch, I can check myself and cut down on the desert for dinner, and still have that victory, even though I slipped. Then, when you meet that first goal, congratulate yourself and set the next one and plan how you will reach it.
Whatever your goal is, cut it down into smaller pieces. If you want to go to the gym, don’t go for a full hour’s workout on the weight machines the first time. Work up to what you really want. Learn how sore you can make yourself without skipping the next workout and hold yourself to making yourself that sore. You will be gradually increasing your workout as your body gets stronger. If you overdo, don’t skip the next workout, but make it shorter or do stretches instead of weights. You will begin to develop the habit of pushing yourself just a little more each time and getting closer to your fitness goal.
If you want to change your attitude at work, don’t beat yourself up because your supervisor got to you and you became negative again. Just check yourself, take a deep breath and try to set your anger or hurt aside. If you can’t do that the first time, that’s OK. Try again in 10 or 15 minutes. Keep doing that until you can set it aside and re-establish the positive attitude you want to have. You will develop the habit of taking short (30 seconds or so) breaks to take a deep breath and calm your anger or ease your hurt, whatever the emotion is that you are trying to minimize. You will be clearing your mind so you can get back to the positive attitude you want. Note that I don’t mean you can’t get angry if you have been wronged, you can and probably should. You just don’t want that anger to taint your response to what happened.
None of these things will happen right away, and that can be discouraging. The trick is to take a longer look at what you are doing. Yes, you won’t fit into that smaller size next week, but pay attention to how you feel and how your clothes fit. You will begin to be able to tell that your clothes are starting to fit more loosely, that you can take that flight of stairs without breathing so hard. You will notice that you are starting to feel better at work, even when things aren’t perfect. As time goes by, take a longer look back and remember where you were when you started and you will be amazed at how far you have come without really realizing it, because it happened gradually.
One thing to remember is that it is much easier to maintain changes that occurred gradually than ones you achieved in a short amount of time. This is because, instead of looking at the final goal and doing whatever it took to get there, you have gradually developed the habits you will need to maintain your new lifestyle. You will be used to smaller amounts of the foods that caused your weight issues and may have been able to cut them out entirely without feeling deprived. You will be in the habit of adjusting your diet to allow for the fact that you had something special at dinner last night. You will be used to going to the gym on a regular basis and will actually miss it if something does interfere with your regular schedule. Your attitude at work will gradually improve, and that will spill over into the rest of your life, and you will be happier overall because you developed the habit of managing your anger and replacing it with more positive feelings. You will also be able to deal better with the issues that make you angry, because you will be addressing them calmly instead of from a place of anger or hurt.
Instead of looking for grand gestures and immediate changes in your life, learn to watch yourself for small or even tiny progress each day. If you take one tiny step every day, or even almost every day, you will cover an amazing amount of ground over time. It is trite but true that slow and steady will win the race to your goals.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Love and Light,