New Year’s Eve is fast approaching, and with it our favourite annual tradition: resolutions.
A fresh start. A new year. The perfect time for a reset.
…Or is it?
We Love That Fresh Start
This idea of reset is so appealing. A new you. Just circle that day on the calendar, and GO. No looking back.
The problem? Life does not always go along with our plans. And “This time I’m gonna succeed, honest!!” becomes a tired old refrain.
We Lose Momentum
Some of us do make it stick. New year, new day; we start a new fitness routine, lifestyle or diet. And we push through and achieve our goals.
Most of us, however, lose momentum at some point.
For some, it’s almost immediate. We wake up New Year’s Day with a hangover or sleep-deprived, and hit the “f*ck it” button.
Some of us start as planned, but get derailed later on. We catch a cold, or get busy at work, or experience some other life stress, and take a break from our goals.
So we pick a new restart day. The first day of next week. Or next month. Or next year. And it goes on and on.
All-or-Nothing Thinking is to Blame
The problem is our mindset: all-or-nothing thinking.
“I need to do all of it, or it’s not worth it. I need to start on this day, or it doesn’t count. If it’s not perfect, I may as well quit.”
And then this becomes a habit. We habitualize NOT doing it. We get really really good at procrastinating and quitting, and inertia becomes the rule.
“If it’s not Perfect, Why Bother?”
I used to run outside regularly. Some days, I’d spend entire mornings walking around the house with one shoe on and one in my hand, arguing with myself over that planned run.
“It’s too rainy. It’s too cold. It’s too hot. I’m too tired. It’s too early. It’s too dark. I didn’t eat enough. I ate too much.”
I always found some excuse.
The problem was that I had scheduled a certain run, and I just didn’t feel like it. An hour, let’s say, or a hill run, or something that involved a certain amount of effort. And when the time came to head out the door, that planned run wasn’t appealing, so I stalled. I told myself, “If I can’t do the run exactly as planned, it’s not worth it. A shorter or easier run? Why bother?”
More often than not, that all-or-nothing mentality impeded my progress. A shorter or easier run didn’t feel worth it, so I didn’t run AT ALL on those days. From 60 minutes, let’s say, down to 0.
I have a math question for you:
What’s zero plus zero plus zero plus zero plus zero plus zero? I’ll give you a minute.
The Solution? A Compromise
One day I decided to choose a different tactic: a compromise.
“I’ll head out the door for 10 minutes. Just 10. If at the end of that 10 minutes I’m still not feeling it, I’ll turn around and head home.”
This changed everything.
10 minutes was easy. 10 minutes was totally achievable. Occasionally, I’d run that 10 minutes and honestly not feel up to doing more. Maybe I was feeling rundown, or was getting sick, or had muscle soreness and needed more recovery time. Some days I did turn around and head home, and it was a good choice. Not once, however, did I end up heading home just because I was feeling lazy.
Most of the time, I’d reach that 10-minute mark and think, “Okay, I can keep going.” But I’d keep it small.
“I’ll just run to that stop sign.” And then I’d get to the sign and think, “I can do a bit more. I’ll just run to that street lamp.” And after a bit of this I’d get into the swing of it, and usually end up doing the whole run I had planned in the first place.
Shall I repeat that? I DID THE ENTIRE RUN I HAD PLANNED IN THE FIRST PLACE, THE ONE I ALMOST SCRAPPED. But only because I kept my expectations low. I moved out of all-or-nothing thinking.
If I had stubbornly stuck with “the full run or none,” I might have ended up with none. Add another zero.
Plan for Setbacks
So consider this as you plan out those resolutions. Set those big goals, absolutely. But also plan for setbacks and obstacles. You want to workout regularly, or clean up your diet. How are you going to handle it when you wake up too tired for that workout? Or too hungry to avoid the drive-thru?
Consider a compromise.
Maybe you are too tired for that workout, so how about you just start it, just the warmup. And then if that feels okay, see if you can add a few more minutes, and then a few more. Instead of whole workout or no workout, choose something in the middle.
Or maybe you’re driving home from work, and you’re ravenous, and won’t be able to make it home in time to cook that planned, healthy meal. Consider a compromise: stop at the drive-thru, but don’t buy everything on the menu. Choose a healthier option, something small to hold you over until you can get home and cook that nutritious meal. Instead of perfect meal or full-on crapfest, choose something in the middle.
By choosing something, instead of all or nothing, you are practising the skill of pushing through when things get tough, instead of practising the skill of putting it off or quitting.
Setbacks will happen. Obstacles will come up. You won’t always feel like it. January 1st may come and go. But by compromising with yourself, you will still be able to work towards those goals, even though the path might not look exactly as planned.
Take Action Today
Go ahead and make those resolutions. Plan out those goals. But… do you really need to wait until that magical circled day on your calendar? And possibly end up walking around your entire life with one shoe on and one in your hand?
Or can you start right now?
Can you just run to that stop sign? That one, right there.
I know you can.
Consider that health- or fitness-related change you’ve been wanting to make, but have been waiting for the “perfect time” to start. Is there a small action you can take today in pursuit of that goal? Just 5 or 10 minutes? Some small action to overcome inertia and start building momentum?
Check out this infographic from Precision Nutrition. It offers some great tips on overcoming all-or-nothing thinking:
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