Years ago I had the pleasure of managing a gym, and the start of the new year brought in a wave of people into the facility, which predictably receded well before Spring. It seems as though New Year’s resolutions are the kiss of death for most individuals’ efforts at self-improvement.

The problem with most plans is that the mind is in the wrong place from the start. The individual says “I’m going to go to the gym more often,” or “I’m going to eat healthier foods.” The heart is in the right place, but the mind is not. There’s a reason why they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions…

Instead of doing something, you should be something. Instead of saying, “I’m going to do more running this year” you should say, “I am a runner.” In one case you’re asserting the desire to engage in an activity and in the other the activity is integral to who you are. Psychologically, these two positions seem to be only off by degrees, but when you plot out the vectors they produce, on a long enough timeline the differences are profound.

It always puzzles me to see people go on drastic diets or exercise programs. They swing life’s pendulum wildly in one direction and convince themselves that it isn’t going to come barreling back the other way. They enter into an exercise program that leaves them unable to walk for days on end, get discouraged and then give up because they didn’t scale the workouts to their ability level. They go cold-turkey on drinking or smoking or eating — or whatever the vice may be — and then fall right back into bad habits because they never properly committed to the right lifestyle to begin with.

When you take possession of a lifestyle, questions disappear. You don’t have to wonder whether or not you should have that extra piece of cake — you just don’t. You don’t have to wonder whether or not you’ll exercise the next day — you know that you will. It’s what you do because it’s who you are.

Over a year ago I severely injured my shoulder. I couldn’t lift my left arm up to wash my hair and had nights where I couldn’t sleep because of the pain. Needless to say, when I finally was able to start exercising again my weakest exercise — the pullup — was even worse. I made a rule: Any time I exited or entered my room I would do a set of pullups. Over time I got stronger … and stronger … and stronger, until one day I realized my pain was gone, my mobility had returned, and what was once a weakness was now one of my strengths. It took almost a year for that reality to unfold, but it all began with a mental directive that while the timeline was negotiable, the end result was not.

Mother Nature uses time and pressure to mold the physical world around us, but I firmly believe we too can use the very same methods to achieve success, wealth, health and happiness in our own lives. Once you honestly determine the person you are, your mind will seek out ways to bend reality to your will and you’ll attract the kind of company into your life needed to assist you in your endeavors. Make that switch from doing to being and check in with me three, four or five years down the road. My bet is that you will have done away with the practice of making big New Year’s resolutions in favor of constantly recalibrating the little things, which reaffirm and enhance the better person you’ve become.

7 comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more with this post. I’ve often told people that I don’t really like making New year’s resolutions, because, quite honestly, it just gives me more reason to fail. I fail enough in everyday life that I’m not particularly open to inviting myself to do it even more. People always look at me as if it’s a cop-out, but deep in my being, I knew it made sense. Your post today gave me confirmation of what was already inside me — now I can put into words what I’ve already believed for awhile.

    Any resolution is usually built on some unrealistic expectation(s) that eventually you won’t be able to adhere to. For example, my husband is the exact opposite of me — every year, come Jan. 1, he comes up with these plans for his life that he often expects me to embrace as well. This year, he’s planning to try a cleanse diet for 21 days, where he eats nothing but fruits and vegetables and some kind of whey shakes, after he has eaten completely unhealthy during the entire holiday season, including excessive amounts of soda. I asked him what happens after the 21 days, and he said he’ll be in a better frame of mind then to make better choices. I don’t agree, as I’ve seen his patterns over the years. And yet he gets very upset that I don’t make these similar types of goals in my life. I don’t believe in them, therefore, I won’t commit to them. And somehow I’m wrong for not being on the same page as him.

    My goal this year, thanks to your post, is to become more of the person that God created me to be. I’ll trust Him to offer guidance as to what my daily steps should include. Thanks for your inspirational post and helping to point me in a better direction.

    1. First off, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I’m glad that the post was inspiring to you.

      With that said, I do think this quote is informative:

      “I don’t agree, as I’ve seen his patterns over the years. And yet he gets very upset that I don’t make these similar types of goals in my life. I don’t believe in them, therefore, I won’t commit to them. And somehow I’m wrong for not being on the same page as him.”

      My experience has been that when you try and force someone to see things a certain way, they rebel. I’m assuming you and your husband both have the same end goal — to be healthy. An infinite number of paths exist to reach that goal, so I’m not sure why you should have to adopt his. Regardless, every marathon begins with a single step, and it looks as though you’re well on your way to the finish line.

  2. Honestly, that was your best post I’ve read of yours. Well-written, logical flow, easily read, and a positive message. Bravo, Doug

  3. I agree as well, Doug. I didn’t set any New Year’s Resolutions this year, largely because whenever I do, I never wind up accomplishing them. It’s like I become a slave to the Resolutions and become some focused on trying to accomplish them that I wind up failing.

    1. To me, there are just certain things that shouldn’t be “tasks”. They should just be a part of who you are. Everyone has their different goals, but my default example when I talk about this stuff usually pertains to fitness. There are so many ways people can stay active and fit that it makes no sense why people who absolutely hate running try and take up running. Or why people who hate lifting weights, lift weights. The list goes on and on.

      While sometimes doing things we don’t like is good for us (and sometimes you can turn something you THINK you hate into something you actually love), it just seems as though people try and go against the grain and then act surprised when they get frustrated with how the process plays out.

  4. Points well made, Douglas. There is a world of difference between the things we adopt as part of a lifestyle, which tend to be quite enjoyable and become integral, and those things which for myriad reasons we force ourselves to do, which seem laborious and unpleasant, and these seldom take hold.

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