Where do you sit on New Year’s resolutions?
Do you consider the date to be arbitrary? Just a point in time to co-ordinate calendars and computers?
Do you make grand plans to improve yourself? From the usual “lose weight, be kind, make money” to some personal BHAG. Fervently believing, hoping, “This year will be different!” despite all evidence to the contrary. (Yes we’ve all read the stats about how many gym memberships go unused from February)
Of course commitments to improve don’t have to be made at midnight on 31 December. Sheesh I hope not.
In saying that I have used the date to change my life. Like quitting smoking on 31 Dec 1986. From 30 per day to zero and not a puff since.
Like most decisions, success has little to do with why or when you make it, and everything to do with your commitment to seeing it through. So it is arguably more instructive looking back at the factors that helped or hindered any life changes rather than rely on hopeful thinking.
For me anyway…
WTF? aka Why?
2019 was mostly a year of elimination, and I resolved to consume no:
- French fries/hot chips
- Sodas like Coke etc. This included zero sugar drinks.
Yep, the refrain of “Why?” or “WTF?” or even “But you’re eating/drinking X, you may as well have [list above]?” was constant. Continual. I found myself having to explain my rationale at virtually ever event, meetup, or meal with others.
Which of course was the point. Everything on that list was something that we (I) take for granted. Maybe not everything. Maybe not everyone. For those of us trying to avoid carbs, bacon is common for breakfast (not to mention on burgers). Pies? Well most of my week-end motorbiking routes include some bakery, and pie eating friends…
The other common refrain was “I couldn’t do that!” Especially for alcohol.
Of course you can! Even alcoholics go dry. It’s not that hard actually. Don’t buy any and it’s not in the house. I can think of 10 things I’d rather do than have a beer or a glass of wine. But then, food, rather than alcohol is my weakness (no longer).
Anyway, it wasn’t (entirely) about health or even weight control that I chose this list. Better health would be a great byproduct of course. No, it was about having to make a daily commitment – in the face of constant temptation – to forego something that I love. About having to order something else on the menu or even ask for special consideration.
So, how did I go? Pretty well everything considered.
I had no bacon, chips, or sodas at all in the year. It came close a couple of times, and I amended the definition of chips to exclude sweet potato fries and wedges for the handful of times there really wasn’t an alternative.
I drank alcohol 4 times:
- Two beers at a client hosted Rugby game in the UK – I wish I hadn’t.
- Three glasses of red at my daughter’s wedding.
- Two and a half pints at an employee’s farewell lunch – I could probably have given that a miss.
- Way too much (shared bottle champagne, a cocktail, and wine) at our 25th wedding anniversary.
I also had 3 pies – at that same game of Rugby in the UK – which I don’t regret in the slightest. They were absolutely the best pies I’ve ever enjoyed anywhere. After all Wigan is known for Pies.
I find two motivators generally work for me, especially when combined. Competition, and accountability to others (affiliation). So I chose this list specifically to rule those out.
I wasn’t competing with anyone, and no-one else was doing this with me. Quite the opposite, especially wrt alcohol. 🙂
Mostly what worked was changing my identity. I guess like becoming a Vegan, an Olympian, or converting to a religion. There are just some things you don’t do/eat.
It is quite a simple mental hack actually. It works whether you’re alone, with friends, or at an event.
After a year of “I don’t drink/eat X…” some of my tastes have changed. I most likely won’t go back to sodas.
As for alcohol, in the last fortnight I’ve started drinking zero alcohol beers. Turns out I like the social aspect, and refreshing taste of beer more than intoxication. I’m no longer tee-total, but will opt for Zero Alcohol drinks as a preference. I’ll still have the odd cider at a BBQ.
For everything else, these are covered in my new eating plan. Essentially on “cheat day” anything goes, and if it’s the only thing on the menu, I won’t get hung up about it.
Nope, I will relish chomping into a Bacon Roll or Pepper Steak Pie like the best of them.
New Year Resolve 2020
If 2019 was mostly about elimination, 2020 is about addition. I want to increase my creative pursuits: Writing, video and photo production, music.
I already do 15 – 20 mins of Spanish per day. 30 – 45 mins of trumpet practice (plus two bands and a weekly lesson), and read about a book per week. Not to mention listen to podcasts, audio books, and watch hours of YouTube and Netflix.
So currently I’m working out what to knock on the head, what to start, and what to change.