The Irreverent Rules of Resolutions

A resolution post…it’s Jan. 31..did you procrastinate again….

Well… yes, but it’s totally relevant. First, because January is basically just recovering from the holidays and being cold, and second, it’s a perfect time to troubleshoot your resolutions. So if yours was say….get your SHE articles done by the 15th of each month, you can easily take stock and keep that resolution from having to be  made again next year.

Resolutions are more fun to make than keep! 

When I worked at the YMCA, members would adamantly complain about the January people parking in their spaces, treading on their treadmills, and getting “the good towels” (psst they’re all the same). We’d always reply, “don’t worry, it’ll calm down,” and it always would as many of these newcomers decided that binge watching Grey’s Anatomy was preferable to scratchy towels.

That’s because working out is not that awesome. Sure, there are a few people who actually love it, but those people are aliens. When most of us are faced with a choice to do something healthy, and something comfortable, it takes an act of willpower to avoid Netflix and coma. When you realize that most resolutions revolve around goals that are either vague or harder than we think, it makes sense that we struggle.

Resolutions are laudable, and I think everyone should make them.  Sadly though, we kinda suck at behavior change, and shakily composed resolutions are as tenuous as my ability to fit into Yoga pants. That doesn’t mean give up. It means make better resolutions.

Get Specific…but not too specific

First, ditch vague resolutions. Too often we take the advice we get from self-help books and artfully laid out memes, handbags and stickers that show up this time of year. “Do more of what makes you happy,” “take the road less traveled,” “YOLO.”

These sentiments indicate that thinking about a thing makes it happen. Often I’ll talk to people who say, “I’m being more mindful of food,” or “I’m trying to get more activity.”  These resolutions allow us to believe we are making progress without actually doing anything. When this yields little result, many of us move into a hardcore mentality and either/or resolutions like “I’m giving up all sugar.”

However, these hardcore, overly concrete resolutions can be just as bad.  Let’s say you decide to lose 20 pounds. That’s nice and specific. Twenty pounds seems super doable over the course of a year, but it’s harder than you think. First, you have to plan for holidays, vacation and other times when the cake is not a lie.  Then realize your body doesn’t like to let go of fat (because fat is delicious), and that our weight can fluctuate wildly. No scale movement often leads us to the “screw it, give me ice cream,” mentality.

So, instead, consider striving not for the goal, but for consistent effort. While the research on willpower is contradictory, it seems we can build it up like a muscle. Resolving to keep a food diary, working out daily, or getting a certain number of steps per day will likely yield more results than constant scale watching.

Mix resolutions for quick wins 

When you set your goals, consider mixing in some that are quick. We get a blast of happy chemicals  when we accomplish things. That’s why you write completed tasks on your to-do list just so you can cross them off (it’s cool, I do it too!). I like to make some resolutions I can knock out in a weekend like, “get crap up on my walls so it doesn’t look like I’m still in college.” The quick resolutions help me feel like I’m making progress.

Plan for down days

Last up, think about what might derail you. I once read an article that claimed exercise was useless for weight loss. Now I had already lost 20lbs exercising and not eating all the chocolate but somehow, that was enough to derail me. As soon as I hit a plateau, I stopped doing all of it.  While that seems silly, remember our brains are jerks. Also, watch out for the people on social media giving advice.  For example, if someone tells you “you must do morning yoga or it’s worthless,” smile at them, don your yoga pants, and do it when you damn well please. I guarantee doing 10 minutes of yoga at the wrong time will have more benefits than 0 minutes of yoga when the effing planets are aligned, remember:

Any Movement Forward is Good Movement

You may also consider investing in your resolution. I’m a penny pincher, so if I buy something, I feel guilty if I don’t use it. If your goal is to drink more water, consider buying a really nice water bottle. Interacting with beautiful, well-made objects can make you feel awesome. Last year, I wanted to drink more tea in the morning. I found a mug at Target that said “don’t give up your day dream,” in one of those soothing fonts….(oh great), well anyway, I liked it so much, I drank a lot more tea and a little less soda.

Whatever your resolutions, don’t be afraid to refine and change throughout the year. January really is just another date on the calendar, but if you want to make changes, there is no time like today. I’ll be right there, struggling along with you. Now, where did I put that yoga mat?

Author: Lisamariepavia

Lisa Pavia-Higel is a St. Louis based writer, educator and performer. By day, she’s a mild mannered Communication and Media professor at a local community college and runs her own small jewelry company, Geekery Gal. By night, she’s a stage combat fighting, comic reading, critique writing, productivity advice giving mama. She loves trying things that she’s really not very good at, like sewing, painting and writing succinct biographies. She is indulged by her little geeklet Sofia and intrepid feminist, geeky husband Matthew. She’s too long winded for Twitter, but you can tweet to her at @geekerygal


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