Health Resolutions for 2017 that Work!
What health resolutions lead to being healthier in 2017?
It's 2017! Where did the time go?! Have you made your New Year's health resolutions yet?
In the new year's spirit, most of us make new year's resolutions about our health. We are going to exercise more, eat better, walk more, sleep better, drink more water, eat less junk, etc.
Some of us do well with these and carry them into new habits that have us feeling happier and healthier on a daily basis. Statistically, most of us don't.... : /
What gets in the way?
We could talk about all of the stuff and details....
"It's hard to find healthy food near work...."
"I don't have a decent gym near me...."
"I just get so stressed out about the bills I can't sleep and I need to fix that first...."
"I sprained my ankle and now can't do my favorite exercises...."
(that one is mine btw)
However, if we go up a level of thought and look at the meta-problem, the odds are that we simply haven't developed a concrete personal system for changing habits in our lives yet. Without the confidence that you CAN change habits, it's very unlikely that you WILL change habits.
And let's face it, as a developed system for personal change, "New Year's Resolutions" has a pretty bad track record. How many people do YOU know that made NY resolutions and stuck with them?!
So, what IS going to work for you?
Making Health Resolutions that Stick
And the answer is......I have no idea. Or rather, I don't know which specific kinds of support systems will work for you.
I'm not YOU.
I can give you a dozen different ideas for support systems that will help you build new habits. You can read a hundred articles on it.
In fact, EVERYONE you know will be happy to tell you exactly how THEY mastered their health resolutions, and if you just listen to them, it will work for you too. However, unless you are just lucky, it probably won't work for you. They are a different person than you are.
And until you declare that you are going to keep experimenting until you find a system for change that truly does work for you, you'll never build the confidence to know that you can change your habits.
Without that confidence, all you've got is hope. Which sounds nice, but hope isn't really going to support you much when the chips are down.
However, if you give up on "hope" and instead work to build POWER in yourself, you'll be able to achieve most of the change that you want in your life.
In order to build your personal power, you are going to need to take responsibility for taking action, and you are going to have to hit some obstacles along the way. They are going to feel like "failure."
Step 1: You are going to have to rewire your thought process and self-judgements on "failure." True change of self and habits is going to involve a decent amount of "fails." This is a simple fact of nature, yet we judge ourselves harshly time and time again.
Example Health Resolution: I am going to wake up at 7 am each morning, meditate for 10 minutes, then stretch for 10 minutes.
You might do well for several days, then go out late one night, and BAM, 7 am shows up and you hit the alarm and go back to sleep.
Your internal monologue goes something like this:
"Argh! I can't believe I did that, I'm such an idiot....I'm never going to make this work. Forget it, I quit."
Maybe not at first, maybe it takes a several times of "failing," but eventually, the "I quit" shows up with some sort of negative personal self judgement attached.
When this happens, you are making something wrong with you, when in fact, the issue isn't with you at all. It's with the SYSTEM.
The system didn't account for x (late night out) and when x showed up, the system failed. Not you.
So rather than feel bad about yourself as being flawed or incapable, you can look at the "fail" as a opportunity to update the system in a way that seems likely to improve it, and run the experiment again.
Step 2: Take action again, regardless of breakdowns, with the goal of creating a system, not just one new habit.
We all hear catch phrases like "never quit." But what does it actually mean to quit? One definition is that you stop taking intentional action towards a goal. The important word there is "intentional." Remember, the goal here is not actually to just get this one new healthy habit in place, but to create a system where you KNOW that you can build any new habit that you want.
So getting lucky with a few actions that just happen to work for you on one particular habit might feel great. But luck isn't going to help you build the confidence to tackle other things.
However, if you start getting wins based on YOUR OWN intentional choices and actions, that is going to feel far more powerful and reliable.
Step 3: Track and measure the results of your experiments
If you only had one goal to declare for 2017, declaring that you'll create your own system for personal change that is proven to work for you to change and grow would be an important first goal. This is the "teach a man to fish" part of the old adage. Except you'll be teaching yourself to teach yourself. How's that for "meta?"
An important part of any system that works is that part of the system has ways to track and measure the results of your actions.
Most of us subconsciously avoid tracking and measuring...getting the first batch of results in an experiment back can be a serious blow. You expected to see something like 60-80% on target and you wound up getting 10-30% instead! When this happens, refer back to step 1. That's what it's there for 🙂
Scientists track and measure the results of experiments meticulously and view any result as further data to improve the system. By design, science is not a "hope" based system. It already acknowledges that your initial results are usually nowhere near on target for the goals.
Be a scientist who studies yourself until you find a system that works for YOU to produce the results that you want with a high degree of certainty!
In order to create a trustworthy system to track and measure, you'll need to set up several components:
a) What is the data that I'm tracking? This needs to translate to actual numbers. Examples: "How many times this week did I exercise and for how long?" or "How many hours of sleep did I get last night?"
b) How am I recording that data? This needs to be easy to input data into, and to read data when reviewing. Examples: excel spreadsheet, phone app, notebook, etc.
c) How will I review the data, observe results, and adjust my experiment to improve results? I suggest a weekly review for 20-30 minutes to go over the results. Preferably routine, scheduled in your calendar and not bumpable except in cases of emergency.
Step 4: Keep going until you are satisfied with your results
There are two important parts to this step.
a) keep going
Nobody has ever created anything of worth without running into major obstacles. If you attach anything at all to the fact that it's not "easy" (ie "I must be stupid if it's this hard") then you engaging in a toxic form of magical thinking. Every time you hear something like, "the idea just came to me," or "I just did it..." that statement is being filtered. It sounds cool, but doesn't match with what really happened. The reality is that hundreds to thousands of hours of study and hard work came before the inspiration.
World class artists, scientists, musicians, athletes, etc. all know that it takes dedication and practice to arrive at mastery. Whether they thought about what they were doing in the step by step way that I'm laying out, they all created systems of personal growth and change that worked for them. You can create your own too. You just need to keep going, even when obstacles get in your way.
b) satisfied with your results
This is where our thinking gets muddy. Satisfied according to whom? Most of us have a broken satisfaction meter. We might objectively be making improvements and growing, but if we are not meeting some outside measure that was set by our parents, siblings, society, friends....enemies, etc., then we don't allow ourselves to feel any satisfaction.
Imagine that you are your friend's 9 year old nephew who you just watched lose a soccer game. You'd feel pretty awful saying anything less than, "hey, you did great out there! That was a great shot on goal."
So why treat yourself worse than you would treat that kid?
There is a reason we give kids an A for effort, even when they lose the game, don't ace the test, don't win first place, etc. The A for effort supports them to KEEP GOING.
Be willing to give yourself an A for effort, even when you don't get the results you want on the first, third, or thirtieth try. If you keep going, you'll get it.
Step 5: Even when you start getting the results you want, keep evaluating and tweaking your system.
If you've stuck with the first 4 steps of this for several months, you are bound to start seeing the results that you wanted on your health resolutions and are starting to feel pretty good about it. Congrats!
However, don't quit while you are ahead. Even when you find something that works for you, there may be a more efficient, better suited, more satisfying way to accomplish what you want if you keep looking at your system. You never know when some new app or device, or some new book, friend, colleague, class, etc. could add to your system and make it even smoother for you.
Also, if your system is working and you are getting the results you wanted with your first simpler resolution, it's time to test it out on something more challenging!
Health Resolutions that stick: 5 step review
To sum up, here are the 5 steps to creating a personal system for changing habits on health resolutions that will work for you:
Step 1: Change has obstacles, obstacles involve "fails," rewire your thoughts on these
Step 2: regardless of inevitable breakdowns, take action - your goal is creating a system, not just mastering one new habit
Step 3: Track and measure results
Step 4: Keep going until you are satisfied
Step 5: Continually tweak the system
Try it out, or as Yoda says, "There is no try. There is only do or not do."