What’s Your WHY? (January 1, 2018)

You’ve Got to Know Your “WHY” to do your “WHAT”.

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Welcome to 2018!  I’m moving a tad bit slowly this morning after having a busy day and late night last night.  You might be feeling the same way. 

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So, here we are, Day 1 of this brand new New Year! 

How are you this morning?  Excited, tired, purposeful, determined, unimpressed, thoughtful, or meh…

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People feel a lot of different emotions on this 1st day of a new year.

Many of us have made some resolutions, or challenges, or goals for the New Year.  Call them what you will, but many of us like to look at the New Year as a time to refocus, re-balance, and recommit our thoughts and actions to specific efforts that take us closer to where we want to be at this point a year from now.

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People have been making goals and resolutions for a very long time, but we are notoriously terrible at actually accomplishing those goals!

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We usually have our “WHAT” firmly in mind – WHAT it is that we want to do. 

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Some common examples:  lose weight, eat healthy, stop smoking, learn something new, travel more – the WHATs are as diverse and creative as the people who commit to them.

But in order to accomplish your WHAT, you also have to know your WHY: 

WHY you are committing to this WHAT. 

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Because if you don’t have a clear view of your WHY, it will be much harder to stay the course when actually trying to accomplish your WHAT gets challenging. 

And the WHAT always gets challenging. 

Unless your WHAT is to “sit around and do nothing more often in 2018”.  That one is pretty easy to do without a WHY!

IT'S HARD

Shout-out here to Audrey Russell, my fitness coach, whose first question to me was, “OK, what is your WHY?”  At that point, my answer was mostly, “I don’t know… just BECAUSE!”   Audrey is awesome and friendly and never once said, “That’s a stupid non-answer, Rebecca!  You have to have a WHY!”  She just encouraged me to think about it and then went on her way being awesome and stuff.

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But, dang it, I did think about it, and found that knowing my WHY made a huge difference in setting goals and being committed to accomplishing them. 

I discovered that I do a lot of WHATs, and love taking on challenges.  So many interests, so little time!  But I have been less successful in completing them because I didn’t focus enough on my WHYs.

So, “what’s a WHY”, you ask

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Let’s start out really basic and ask, why are you setting a goal (any goal) in the first place? 

Is it because that’s what people do on New Year’s Day?  Is it because you are a “goal setter”, and you HAVE to have goals or you feel weird?  Or is it to accomplish something specific?

Let’s use a specific example.  One common resolution is “I want to lose weight”.  It’s a lovely goal – we Americans are becoming more obese as a nation with each passing day.  So, good on you for wanting to do this! 

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So, if losing weight is one of your goals, ask yourself WHY you want to do that.

  • To look “good” at your high school reunion this summer?
  • To get your A1C levels down and get off the diabetes meds or the insulin shots or the threat of those being part of your life very soon unless you make some changes NOW?
  • Because you’re feeling and seeing the “middle aged spread” that is so hard to get rid of?
  • To feel better, stronger, less sluggish?
  • Because everyone tells you you need to lose weight?
  • Because society says you need to be a certain size to be ok?
  • Because you think Gal Gadot is awesome and you want to be a warrior like Wonder Woman?

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What is your WHY? 

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I’ll make it personal now. 

I would like to make healthier lifestyle choices this year, which will, in turn, include weight loss as a result of the healthier choices.  I would love to weigh less, but more than that, I’d like to just be healthier, more fit, stronger.

I’ve had that goal since Jr. High school, when that whole self-image thing really gets out of control.  I have always been athletic and active.  But my German heritage also came through strongly in my physique and body type (“short and stout”).  Back then, I wanted to be skinny because the skinny girls were more popular.  Because then the boys would like me more. 

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Very 12 year old sorts of reasons.

The problem is, we carry many of those deep feelings of insecurity into our ADULT WHYs, and those aren’t reasons that will encourage you to stay the course in meeting your goals.  Being popular isn’t something you can control.  Having the right boy like you takes cooperation from another human. 

A successful goal has to be something you can control.  Otherwise, the likelihood of failure goes up, because you can’t control anyone but yourself.  And sometimes you can’t even control yourself. 

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I’ve mostly moved past those types of WHYs (I hope anyway). 

But I needed to figure out my adult-version WHYs.

And the good news is, there ARE adult WHYs!

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My WHY now is not just one thing.  Mostly because I like words and analysis and can’t say anything without taking it deeper and using lots of words.  But that’s just me.

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My WHYs for making healthier choices which will lead to a leaner, thinner, stronger me:

  1. I FEEL better – physically, mentally, and emotionally – when I eat healthy, clean food and exercise most days. When I feel better, I DO better. When I feel better, I am kinder to myself and those around me.
  2. I am less tired, less sluggish, feel less heavy on the INSIDE when I make healthy choices
  3. I want to do what I can to ward off the negative health effects of unhealthy lifestyle choices that are at epidemic proportions in our country during this generation. The life expectancy in the US has been going DOWN for years now, which is an alarming new trend after years of our life expectancy averages increasing.  And most of the reasons are lifestyle choice related.  I can’t prevent every illness and disease, or accidents, and I know that someday my body will get old and wear out, but there are ways I CAN make my odds better.  And feel better more of the time for as long as I live.
  4. I want to set a good example for family and friends.
  5. I want to be a good steward of this body and the things I can do and experience in this life if I take care of it.

this is why

These WHYs are important to me.  They matter a whole lot more than being skinny so that I’ll be popular.  These WHYs get to the core of who I am and what is important to me.

Do you get the idea of a WHY now?

You can accomplish a WHAT without a WHY, sure.  But the WHY takes it deeper, makes it more meaningful and personal. 

remember why you started

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So on those days when I’d rather do anything other than exercise, when I would rather have a bowl full of hot, buttered, cheesy rice instead of a (delicious) and healthy salad – I need to remind myself of WHY I choose to exercise and eat clean and healthy.  If that doesn’t work to get me motivated, then I need to switch over to the FIGHT THRU I was talking about in my post a few days ago, and just DO THE THING that I need to do in my quest for good health.

Some people will tell you that once you know your WHY, the HOW is easy.  That sounds good, doesn’t it?  I want to do it THAT WAY, because they are telling me it’ll be easy once I figure out why I’m doing it.

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But the HOW is NOT easy – or you would have done it already. 

And we already KNOW THIS…

life is not easy

The WHAT and HOW will be challenging, and having your WHY clear doesn’t make those things easy peasy. 

It just makes them MORE POSSIBLE because you found a real reason, a deep reason, a meaningful reason, to do those things.

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But easy?  Nah, not easy.  Just worth it.

Your WHY is just as important as, and maybe MORE important than, your WHAT. 

if you haven't found it yet keep looking

So today, as you watch some bowl games, and eat those black eyed peas (I’m a Southern gal; one MUST consume black eyed peas on New Year’s Day!), give some thought to your WHY.

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I guarantee you’ll be glad you did!

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21 DAYS

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This may come as a shock to many of you, but the guy who first said, “It takes 21 Days to form a new habit” didn’t really say that.  Not exactly, anyway.

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I’ll share some thoughts on what it takes to form a new habit in a sec.  But first, as Paul Harvey would say, “and now, the rest of the story”.

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The whole 21-days-to-a-new-habit myth was based on self-image work by plastic surgeon Dr. Maxwell Maltz back in the 1950s.   

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Dr. Maltz noticed that it took a patient about 21 days to get used to their cosmetic changes (say, a nose job or face lift) after surgery.  In a similar way, it would take an amputee about 21 days to stop feeling that phantom limb all the time and become more used to their new situation.

Maltz thought that was interesting, and it happened routinely enough that it made him curious.  He took a look at his own period of adjustment to change and formation of new habits and behaviors,  and he discovered that it also took him about 21 days to form a new habit.  So he documented his findings, and in 1960, published the results in a book called Psycho-Cybernetics

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Maltz wrote, “These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.”  

Read that quote carefully.

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The book sold more than 30 million copies, and that one sentence led to a myth being born!  Lots of self-help gurus (Zig Zigler, Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins, to name a few) grabbed onto his findings, and eventually shortened Maltz’s “a MINIMUM of ABOUT 21 Days” to “21 days!”

People could get their minds around 21 days.  It was a short enough time frame that it was encouraging and inspiring – I can DO that!  People responded to 21 days, and many DID find good results (and still do, I might add).

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But people also got discouraged when, after 21 days, the new habit hadn’t jelled enough to become second nature. 

As with most things, the total story and a reasonable expectation provide better perspective AND a better chance at a good result.

So how long DOES it take to form a new habit? 

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Let’s take a sec and look at the work of Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College in London.  She published a study in the European Journal of Social Psychology where she and her researchers focused on figuring this out for themselves.  

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They took 96 people, and for 12 weeks studied how they fared in creating new habits.  Each person chose 1 new habit and would report daily as to how it was going and how natural (or not) the new habit felt.  The new behaviors were fairly straightforward – drink a glass of water before dinner, exercise for 15 minutes daily, and the like. 

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Then after 12 weeks, each participant was evaluated on the process of introducing a new habit into their daily routines.

Lally found that, on average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic. 

That’s 66 days. 

Which is not 21 days.

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The length of time will, naturally, vary widely depending on the behavior that is changing, the person, and the circumstances.

In Lally’s study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for the people in her study to form their new habits.  I’d really like to be one of the 18-day people…

So, if you want to set your expectations realistically, it will most likely take you anywhere from 2 to 8 months for that new habit to really jell. 

You might be tempted to say “Well, that’s discouraging.  That’s bad news!”

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But hold up!

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That is NOT bad news!  It’s good news for a couple of reasons.

 1.  You now have REALISTIC expectations

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One of the requirements for getting a new habit to take root is for it to be reasonable, doable, realistic. 

21 days MAY be realistic for you – it is for some folks. 

But if it’s not, then you set yourself up for discouragement and, ultimately, failure if your expectation is 21 days.

If you expand your time expectation and are wrong BECAUSE IT TOOK LESS TIME FOR YOU – that’s awesome!  Very motivating and encouraging. 

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Unrealistic expectations are not your friend.  

2.  New Habits are meant to be for a lifetime, so…..

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If you want your new habit to last a lifetime – and any new behavior we choose to introduce is generally something that we want to do from now on – you have to practice it every day. 

make every day count

Every. Day.

The longer you do something, the more entrenched it becomes in your life.  So what if you can’t “get it down” in 21 days? You’re gonna do it the rest of your life, right?  So don’t get all flustered by this news about the 21 day thing!  Just take it a day at a time, and keep doing it.  Which is what you have to tell yourself at the end of 21 days anyway.

3.  21 DAYS of a new habit is an awesome start and great benchmark

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There are some fabulous 21 Day exercise, positive thinking, healthy eating, and lifestyle change programs out there.  They provide fantastic results and are worth the time, effort, and personal investment to follow. 

I’ll be sharing some of them with you soon.

After 21 days, you’ll also have a better feel for how serious you are about making this change in your life.  If it’s working for you and you believe it’s worth the effort, then keep on with it.  If it isn’t what you expected or you aren’t ready for this yet, then you can make that decision at that point. 

You can use 21 Days as your initial goal.  Commit to that, and after you’ve completed those 21 days, make yourself another goal to achieve.  Breaking lifelong goals down into smaller, manageable chunks is the way to go.

4.  You don’t have to be perfect (HOORAY!!)

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Another thing that Lally discovered was that you don’t have to be PERFECT in your quest to form a new habit.  When the people in her study messed up a time or two in their dedication to practicing the new behaviors, it didn’t really change the overall result.

We tend to get discoursed when we skip a day or two of exercise or healthy eating.  Just remember that life – and developing healthy habits – is a process, not a final destination. 

80 20 rule

Maybe you’ve heard of the 80/20 Rule.  Most often, in fitness circles, that refers to the fact that 80% of good health and fitness is about proper nutrition, and only 20% is related to exercise.  (I wish those were reversed…) 

But you can also use the 80/20 Rule for any goal.   80% of the time, put all your efforts into staying true to that goal, but cut yourself some slack on the other 20%. 

Why? 

Because LIFE, that’s why!  We can’t be perfect, but we can get our minds (and our determination) around doing something hard 80% of the time.

Except for marriage.  You need to be committed to your marriage 100% of the time.  But I digress…

Focus on progress rather than perfection. 

And when you do mess up, act like a scientist. 

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Figure out WHY you didn’t exercise or why you ate the plate of cookies or why you smoked the cigarette, and then focus on fixing the problem that got in the way. 

Your goal wasn’t the problem. 

The thing that interfered with your goal is the problem.  So troubleshoot THAT rather than quit.

It’s a process.

Dr. Jason Selk offered some fantastic information and advice about what it DOES take to form a new habit:

(Dr. Jason Selk is one of the premier performance coaches in the United States, with dozens of professional athletes and Fortune 500 executives as his clients.)

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Selk says there are 3 PHASES of new habit formation:

  1. THE HONEYMOON

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We like the honeymoon phase.  It’s easy and it feels fabulous.  It’s when you are excited and everything feels easy and fun and full of possibilities.  Nothing will get in your way! 

The honeymoon phase is usually the result of something inspiring happening – attending a highly motivational conference, reading a book that you really connect with, seeing something on the internet or TV that fuels your optimism and makes you want to do that thing. 

However, we all know that that level of excitement and enthusiasm can’t last forever…  

So at some point we’ll hit Phase 2.

  1. THE FIGHT-THRU

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Reality sets in during the fight-thru phase.  You start to struggle with your follow-through. 

Even your “want to” may take a hit. 

It gets HARD.

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We are not fans of “hard”.   Those old (easy) habits seem so attractive.   We’re tired of making the effort and find excuses not to.

The secret, according to Dr. Selk, is to win 2 or 3 “fight thrus” as you push through the struggle.  This is crucial to succeeding. 

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To successfully fight thru, use the following techniques:

    a) RECOGNIZE

Acknowledge that you are in the FIGHT THRU stage, and tell yourself that you need to win a few of these moments in order to move past it.  When you push thru and get past it this time, it will make it easier to do it the next time (there will be a next time.  Sorry…)  If you give in this time, it makes it easier to give in the next time.  

No Bueno.

So, recognize that you are in a phase of this new habit formation thing, that it is normal to feel this way, and that you aren’t a failure!

    b)  ASK 2 QUESTIONS of yourself

“How will I feel if I do this?” and  “How will I feel if I don’t do this?”      

Yes, I’m telling you to bring your emotions into this fight! 

Let yourself feel that positive sense of accomplishment you’ll experience if you push through, and also the negative feelings and discouragement of NOT fighting through. 

Feel it.

hard work    hard work 2

    c)  LIFE PROJECTION

If steps a) and b) didn’t get you over the hump, then imagine in great detail what your life will look like in 5 years if you do NOT make this change.  Be honest with yourself and allow yourself to envision where you’ll be in 5 years if you continue to give in and give up when it gets hard.

  1. SECOND NATURE

So to recap, Phase 1 is the Honeymoon Phase, Phase 2 is the Push Thru Phase, and this brings us to Phase 3 – Second Nature. 

This is where we wish we’d all be after 21 days of effort… 

We want it to stop being so hard to keep the new habit going.  We really want the new behavior to feel like, well, SECOND NATURE.  

Second nature phase is when you feel you’re “in the groove” with this new behavior. 

It feels pretty good!  You did it! 

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But, hang on a sec.

As life tends to do, there are a few monsters that try to come in and ruin things. 

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Once you are in “second nature”, the following interruptions will try to come in and toss you back into FIGHT THRU:

  1. The DISCOURAGEMENT Monster

The Discouragement Monster has you thinking, “This isn’t working, and there’s nothing I can do…  I might as well not even try… “ 

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We’ve all been there.  Don’t let this Monster fool you with his lies!

  1. The DISRUPTION OF SUCCESS Monster

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We get out of our routine and that makes staying the course more difficult.  Things like vacation, illness, weekends, visitors.  Life will happen and we can fall off the track (so to speak).  Just get back on.  Don’t quit. 

    3.  The SEDUCTION OF SUCCESS Monster

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“Look at me and my success!” 

“I did this awesome thing!” 

“Look at the results of my awesomeness!” 

We did the thing!  But then we get overconfident and lazy…  Plus people think you brag a bit too much.  We think we’re all that, so we don’t focus as much attention on staying the course. 

After all, we’ve got this, right?? 

If one of these monsters grabs you and tosses you back to the FIGHT THRU stage, don’t panic. 

There’s a way back to Second Nature.  And I think you know what it is. 

You’re in the Fight Thru stage again, so – FIGHT THRU!

Winning 2 or 3 FIGHT THRUs will bring you back to SECOND NATURE. 

So, when you get knocked back to Fight Thru by one of the Interruption Monsters, DON’T GIVE UP! 

Bring your focus back to one day at a time, at least until you get past the rough patch.

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You and I and everyone else really wishes that new, positive habits would be as simple for us as breathing.  But we know they aren’t.  We KNOW they take effort, consistent effort, for as long as you want to reap their benefits. 

Achieving great things involves sacrifice.  It involves doing things that others can’t or won’t do.  Over and over again.  Because it’s worth it to reach those goals and enjoy the benefits those new actions bring to your life.  

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GREAT HABITS ARE FORMED DAILY, one decision at a time, compounded over days, weeks, months, years. 

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Good habits require consistent commitment and effort. 

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I wish I could tell you it was easy or that you’d have it down pat after 21 days. 

But I want you to succeed, and so I can’t say those things and just stop there.  You need the rest of the story, for when it gets hard and you feel like quitting.

What I can say is that doing something for 21 days is an awesome start to a new, better way of living.   21 Days of practicing a new behavior will put you well on the road to making it a permanent part of your life.

What I can also say is that if you stick to it, and work through the hard days, show up even when you don’t want to, and pick yourself up and get back on track when you fall off – you will accomplish those goals! 

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Whether it took you 21 days or 66 days or 365 days or maybe you’re still working on it.   

You can do hard things.

wow you did it

 

Three Things About… NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

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For the record, I think New Year’s Resolutions are not just a good idea, but a vital part of living a purposeful life.  Many people think making resolutions is, at best, a nice little archaic exercise that you should stop doing when you hit your teens; and at worst, a silly waste of time that sets you up for failure.

I have a different take on resolutions. 21646_10151308517575949_467860999_n[1]

I know that if we don’t purposefully work to overcome the things that make life difficult for us, those things will not change.  Call them resolutions, call them changes, call them whatever you want:  it’s not healthy or fulfilling to just keep doing the things you’ve always done that don’t work for you.

So, here are my “Three (4) Things About… New Year’s Resolutions” that will, hopefully, get you to see resolutions from a more positive and achievable angle.

1.  You’re Probably Doing it Wrong

The main reason New Year’s Resolutions don’t last for the entirety of the year is that we don’t do them correctly.  We’ll list things like “I want to be healthier in 2016”.  And while that is absolutely a good thing to aim for, it’s not worded in a way that gives you anything to work with.  What does “healthier” mean to you?  What are the steps to get there?  To be useful (and even remotely attainable), a resolution has to be:

  • Reasonable
  • Specific
  • Controllable

new-years-resolution-be-more-awesome[1]Reasonable:  If you are 80 years old, have never been athletic, have macular degeneration, and use a walker to get around, it is not REASONABLE to resolve that you will compete in the Seniors division playing tennis at Wimbledon next year.  It might be reasonable to say that you will find a type of exercise that you can do so that you won’t get so winded when you walk from the living room to the kitchen.

Another common, but not all that reasonable, resolution is, “I’m going to work out 6 (or 7) days/week in the coming year”.  That’s a super good resolution, but I can tell you, things will pop up that will make 6 times a week reaaaalllllly hard to do.

Is it reasonable?  

For most of us, not really.  Think about your schedule, your responsibilities, and how committed you want to be to this goal.  For most of us, resolving to work out 4 or 5 times per week is much more reasonable, much more likely to happen.  We can try to make it to the gym every single day, and some weeks we WILL make it 6 (or even 7!) times. And during those weeks, you’ll feel great because you EXCEEDED your goal of 5 days/week.  Your resolution needs to be reasonable; then if you surpass it, you will feel encouraged and even more motivated.

Specific:  Lots of people say “I want to lose weight this year!”  Which is a great idea if you are carrying around too much weight.  But you have to get more specific or come next December you’ll find yourself disappointed at not having lost any weight (and maybe end up gaining a bit).  You have a much better chance of succeeding in your weight loss goals by resolving to “lose 1 pound per week beginning January 1 until I have lost 20 pounds total”. be specific

To be successful, you can start with a general, high level goal (“lose weight”), but then you have to break that goal down into smaller chunks until you have goals that you can actually take specific action on. 

Example:    

High level goal:  Lose weight this year:

Breaking it down

  1. Lose a total of 20 pounds this year
  2. Lose 1 pound per week until I reach my goal.
  3. Limit myself to 1200 calories per day in order to lose 1 pound per week.

 

Controllable:  Let’s say you are regularly late for work and your boss has said you’ll lose your job if this continues.  So you think, “OK, I’m not going to be late anymore!”.  That’s a great goal to have, but there’s a problem:  you don’t have full control over all the factors that come into play in the transportation arena. 

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For example, you might leave your house with plenty of time to make it to work, but there’s a wreck, and you lose 30 minutes.  If you ride in a carpool, another rider might be late.  Or if you drive yourself, you could have a flat tire.  Stuff can still happen, even when you do everything right. 

You can (and should) still resolve to “be on time in 2016”, but your FOCUS has to be on the things you can control.  

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Most people who are chronically late have some habits that contribute to their tardiness, even if they don’t like to admit it:  staying up too late, sleeping in too long, being unorganized, scheduling too many things too close together (no buffer), addicted to the attention of being late, etc.   

To improve your On Time track record, you need to focus on things like:  

  1. Go to bed by 11 PM
  2. Set my alarm 15 minutes earlier than usual and GET UP when it goes off
  3. Set out my work clothes the night before
  4. Give myself 15 minutes of “buffer time” in my commute just in case something goes wrong

These items are all realistic, specific, and controllable.  

In addition to those controllable things, you can always HOPE that there’s no wreck, and that traffic moves along nicely, and that your tires stay inflated – but those things are mostly out of your control.

Another common resolution is to “get along better with my family”.  Again, that’s a great thing to work on.  But you have to make sure you focus on what YOU can control, and “getting along” involves some effort on the part of the other person/people too.  

toddler tantrumIn case you haven’t figured this out by now, you can’t totally control those other people.  And the harder you try to control them, the more it won’t work.  

By all means, resolve to get along better with the folks you live with, but be sure to focus on things you control, such as: 

  • Set down my phone/ipad/etc and look them in the eyes when they are talking to me
  • Do a better job of listening rather than getting defensive
  • Say “I’m sorry” when I’ve hurt someone
  • Remember that chores don’t have to be done my way

Resolutions have to be realistic, specific, and controllable to be achievable. 

just kidding

2.  You Have to Mean It

If you make resolutions just because everyone else is doing it and you feel pressure to join in, you probably won’t keep them.   Getting rid of old habits and forming new ones is hard, and takes time.  If your heart is not in it, you won’t do it.  You may end up with a nice list of good intentions, but no real improvement. 

Only make resolutions that you really want to change, and then give it everything you’ve got. 

Which leads us to number 3:

can't remember3.  Start with a Max of 3 Resolutions

I know – you have SO MANY things you’d like to work on next year.  But, as I said in my last post, people can only really focus on about 3 things at a time.  If you try to hold more than 3 new ideas in your head at once, you will likely not accomplish any of them because there is simply TOO MUCH.  We humans resist change, even good change.  So 3 changes at any one time is about all we can realistically address. 

repentance_724_482_80[1]Go ahead and make your list of all the things you want to do differently in 2016.  Now, pick the top 3, the three that mean the most to you, and start with those. 

4.  BONUS: Resolutions Aren’t Just for the New Year

Another problem with how we timagesUJ9VXY3Dypically approach New Year’s Resolutions is that we do great for a few weeks, then we slip up, feel like we failed, and give up. 

Let me tell you a secret – you are going to mess us in keeping your resolutions. 

That’s just the way it is. 

No matter how steadfast your resolve it, you are still human.  So you need a plan for when you DO mess up – what will you do? – because you won’t be able to keep them perfectly. not perfect

I recommend a monthly, or weekly, review of those top 3 resolutions.  See how it’s going.  Were those resolutions reasonable, specific, and controllable enough?  Or do you need to tweak them and move forward from here? 

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Don’t get discouraged when you slip up.  Just pick yourself up, accept that you are human and sometimes weak (or tired, or lazy, or sick, or really busy, or just have a bad attitude that day), and start again. 

carb comaIf you really want to lose those 20 pounds, but spent the weekend in a food coma, then re-resolve to get back on track. 

And don’t beat yourself up about the slip-up. 

It happened; you can’t go back and unhappen it. 

Every day is a new day to get back on track, to stick to it better than the day before.  Just like God’s mercies are new “every morning”, so should your resolve be new every day.

run the raceResolution success involves determination, perseverance, and grace for when you mess up. 

I hope there are some things you resolve to do better in 2016.  I know I have some weaknesses I want to focus on and overcome.  And I hope that you will approach resolutions as a long distance run rather than a mad dash until you hit a pothole. 

You can do this! Think of who you want to be, and move towards that future you.

Until next time, be purposeful, and keep your eyes looking forward.

Rebecca

Three Things About… THREE THINGS

logo dec 29 2015 rustic orange 4After letting this blog collect dust for far too long, I’ll be starting up a new series in 2016 called “Three Things About…”.  You’ll notice that the blog theme photo has the numeral “4” behind the title “Three Things About…”.  This is not a typo!  I’m using the number 4 to represent “Three Things” because there are always more than 3 things to say about any topic I decide to write on, and my biggest challenge has always been trying to figure what to cut out so I don’t go on forever and ever with my writing.  So I’m giving myself 4 points to make with each post instead of just three.  Think of it as a bonus!

Today’s post is titled “Three Things About…  THREE THINGS”.  So here we go!

  1. Most people can’t remember more than 3 things at a time.

Articles like “The 12 Things You Never Knew About Phlegm”, “45 Ways to Use Leftover Turkey”, and “10 Ways to Make Him Love You Forever” provide way too much information to be very useful.   We like articles that speak to our tendency to over-indulge:  if 3 things are good, then 20 things must be even better!  I don’t need 3 things that will help me keep my New Year’s Resolutions; I need 40!  The more the merrier!  But that’s not generally very true.  More isn’t always better.   And just like 50 is the new 30, “less is more”.  Three things – and in this case, four – is a bite-sized chunk of info that you may actually be able to remember and use.

  1. I have lots of things rolling around in my head that I want to share with you.

.  I’ve been formulating the idea for this series for months, and am finally putting some action behind the idea. “Three (4) Things” will give me a platform to share these thoughts with you, and hopefully, you will enjoy what I have to say And if not, you only had to wade through three (4) things!

  1. Click-bait lists are annoying.

But they are also one of the most effective marketing tools right now.  For better or worse, it’s the way we connect.  So, even though this series is kind of a click-bait list sort of thing (you have to click on the link to read the article and find out what the “Three (4) Things” are…), I’m telling you about it up front, and hoping it will be worth your while to click anyway. Plus, I try really hard to share useful things in a way that’s humorous while being helpful.  Quirky sometimes.  Controversial now and then.  So, hopefully, you won’t mind clicking!

  1. BONUS! I’d love to hear from you.

Reply to the posts with any comments or questions you have about the topic of the day.  Or suggest topics you’d like to have me address.  Challenge me, encourage me, correct me, or just connect with me and each other.  I can be most helpful as a counselor/therapist and blogger if I get some feedback from you readers as to what you need and want to hear.

So there you have it – the 1st in a series of “Three Things About…”.   Hopefully, reading this has been worth your while, and you are at least a little curious about what I’ll be posting.   I’m excited to get 2016 started, and I hope you are too.  We all had some successes and some challenges in 2015, and now it’s time to focus on the future and apply what we’ve learned.

Thanks for reading.  Until next time, be purposeful, and keep your eyes looking forward.

Rebecca

Return Your Neighbor’s Plow, and Other New Year’s Resolutions

2013 and 2014If you’ve somehow forgotten to return the tractor or plow or some other type of farm equipment that you borrowed from your neighbor in 2013, now is the time to get that taken care of.

Sort of random?

babylonian plow[1]Well, the Babylonians, who (as far as we know) started the whole idea of New Year’s resolutions at least as far back as 153 BC, cited returning borrowed farm equipment as the most frequently made New Year’s resolution.

According to a Harris Poll, modern Americans’ top New Year’s Resolutions are:

  1. Lose weight
  2. Improve finances
  3. Exercise
  4. Get a new job
  5. Eat healthier
  6. Manage stress better
  7. Stop smoking
  8. Improve a relationship
  9. Stop procrastinating
  10. Set aside time for yourself

All respectful things to strive for.

janus1[1]The early Romans also practiced resolution making.  The first month of the year, January, was named after the mythical Roman king, Janus, who had two faces:  one looking backward, the other looking forward.

Janus’ symbolic design reminded the Romans to look back at the previous year and evaluate what went well and what didn’t, and then consider the changes they would like to make during the year to come.

I think they were on to something.

The history of New Year practices includes gift giving.  An interesting tidbit:  In times past, English husbands gave their wives money on New Year’s Day to buy pins and other small items.  This custom disappeared in the 1800’s; however, the term PIN MONEY still means small amounts of spending money.

pin money

The more you know…

The American colonists were a bit more boisterous, as they would get together to fire off their guns, drink, eat a lot, and attend church.

So maybe you, like me, didn’t borrow any farm equipment from your neighbor this past year.  Perhaps you have plenty of pin money.  Maybe you are thinking more along the lines of the Harris Poll list.

Or maybe you hate resolutions and never make any.

no resolutions

As Christians, we sometimes wonder if we should be making resolutions at all.  Does it focus too much on worldly matters?  Is it really God directing our lives, or is it our own selfishness?

While we don’t want the things we do and the choices we make to simply be all about us, Christianity at its core is all about transformation and becoming more Christ-like as we live within the grace God has given us.

Transformation

As with many things, God didn’t say anything specifically about resolutions, at least as we define them.

confused[1]

We have to figure this out for ourselves.

Many people I know don’t make New Year’s Resolutions.  Or if they do, they don’t take it very seriously.  They like the idea of making positive changes, but they don’t take it further than that.  Some say that resolutions never work, so why bother.  Others say that it’s just a meaningless tradition, or a waste of time.

Some people don’t like the word “resolutions”.

My solution?  Call it something else.  Call it making plans, or goals, or decisions.

I think, for the most part, many of us don’t make resolutions because it’s so much easier to make excuses than to actually change old, comfortable habits.

We’ve been making excuses since the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden.  “The serpent made me do it.”  “That woman you gave me?  SHE made me do it.”

excuses_nike1[1]We all have excuses. Honestly, I think people say that resolutions are stupid because they are embarrassed by the fact that they haven’t been able to keep them in the past, so they call resolution-making “ridiculous”, instead of focusing on the real issue – their inability to persevere and make the changes they need to make.

looking stunned

Was that too direct?  Oops.

I believe New Year’s resolutions are worth making.

I believe that, even though grace saves us, our efforts to become more Christ-like, to serve God with every facet of our lives, honors God.

“Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”  ~  James 2:17

And resolutions can help keep us on track in that effort.

Let me tell you why.

not perfect[1]

1.  You aren’t perfect

There are things about you that can and should change.   And if you don’t do this ON PURPOSE, nothing will change.

If you’re honest with yourself, there are some things that need serious thought and reevaluation.  “This is just the way I am,” is an incredibly self-centered statement that basically says, “I know I have a problem here.  I just don’t really care.”

“If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.”  ~  1 John 1:8

New Year’s resolutions fit in very nicely with the pattern of Christian life, which is meant to be a continuous, purposeful renewal, a serious striving to become more like Christ.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  ~  Romans 12:2

When you were baptized, you became a new creation.  God did that to you.  You didn’t earn your salvation.  But He also didn’t throw water at you and say, “Yay!  All done!”

elkThink about this:  People join churches all the time, but they don’t seem to become any more of a new creation than they did when they joined, let’s say, the Elks Club.  And the truth of the matter is that many of these people no more expected to become a new creation when they joined the church than they expected to become an elk when they joined the Elks.

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”   ~  2 Corinthians 5:17

And yet, a new creation is exactly what we ARE.  God does the transforming.  And just like we have to receive God’s offer of salvation – He doesn’t force it on anyone – we also have to allow ourselves to BE that new creation.

2.  Change Doesn’t Just Happen

shazamThe change you want to experience doesn’t ordinarily occur unless you take steps to make it happen.

Sure, you could say “I want to lose weight!” as one of your New Year’s Resolutions, then come down with h-pylori and lose a ton of weight, through no planning or effort of your own.  But it doesn’t USUALLY happen that way, and I wouldn’t recommend that particular weight loss plan.

Most of the time, you will have to DECIDE you are going to make a change.  Become different.  Become more.  You will have to mean it when you say it.

Then you will have to DO something differently.  On purpose.  And that takes planning.

fail-to-plan[1]

When we change, we actually “repent”, which simply means turning away from something.  We stop doing one thing and do something else instead.

This “turning away from” and “turning towards” doesn’t just happen.  It takes purposeful action.  We resolve to do something differently.  Thus, “resolutions”.

A resolution is a plan to change.  That’s all it is.  It’s not a stupid word.  It’s not a meaningless idea.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Are you married?  You made resolutions when you got married.  But you called them vows.  Those were resolutions, and I hope you didn’t think they were stupid.

A resolution is simply a firm decision to adhere to a plan.

Continuous improvement, purposeful living, reevaluating and resolving to change are very Biblical concepts.  When we become Christians, not only do we become new creations…

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  ~  Galatians 6:15

“Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.”   ~  2 Corinthians 5:17

…but every day we become newer than we were the day before.

That’s absolutely amazing.

“Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.  Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.  Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”  ~  Ephesians 4:22-24

I’m going to throw some science at you now.

2nd law of thermodynammicsThe Second Law of Thermodynamics says that everything is running down, wearing out, growing old and dying.  As soon as something new is made, it immediately starts to age, decay, rust, rot, die and disintegrate.

If you challenge the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, you aren’t going to win.

But in the kingdom of Christ, spiritually, we don’t become older and older and decay the way we do here on earth.  God makes us new and continues to make us newer and newer as each day goes by.

IF we’ll cooperate with Him.

purposedrivenlife[1]I love Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life” and “Purpose Driven Church” concepts.  To do good, to bring people to Christ, to discover and refine the gifts you have been given, to be content and useful and a blessing – we have to be purposeful.

Otherwise, we are just flailing around, hoping things work out ok.  We avoid situations that will spotlight our weak areas, instead of facing our issues.  We end up feeling like a victim, like for some reason stuff just keeps happening to us.

And that is not only a shame; it’s a waste of your life.

Most of us live our lives on auto-pilot. Like an airplane that’s been programmed to fly from New York to Paris, we wake up in the morning and just sort of go through the motions of our routine. More often than not, we are completely out of touch with what we are saying or doing: “I can’t believe I did that”, or “Did I really say that?” “I keep making the same mistakes over and over.” “I can’t change.”

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but    be transformed by the renewing of your mind   so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”   –   Romans 12:1-2

 3.  The New Year is a great time to make some changesrepentance_724_482_80[1]

There is no “right” or “perfect” time to put in place a plan for change.

But the New Year presents an obvious time to make a change.  The whole world focuses on the “New” of New Year.  The change from 2013 to 2014 is obvious and everywhere.

It’s as good a time as any.

i give upThe risk of starting your changes on January 1, with a whole entire new year staring expectantly into your face, is that you may feel like giving up when you screw up.  Notice I didn’t say “if” you screw up, I said “when”.

This isn’t going to go perfectly.

We can be awfully hard on ourselves.  “See?  I knew I couldn’t do this.  I might as well not even try…”

But remember “grace”?  You will have to offer yourself grace as you purposefully march towards change.  Don’t keep focusing on the failures.  Stay in the present instead of the past and keep on going.  You don’t give up just because you had a weak moment.

When you fall, pick yourself up, take a look at why you fell, revise the plan if necessary, and begin again.

fall seven times get up eightRight then.  Not next January 1.

Success is not measured by “never breaking” the resolution. Success is measured by renewing the resolution one time more than you break it.

I love reading about the Apostle Paul.  He’s so human, and I can relate to so much of what he writes. Talk about picking yourself up and continuing on after everything falls apart. Throughout his life he was opposed, persecuted, shipwrecked, stoned and left for dead, deserted by trusted co-workers, slandered, and scorned. He experienced a lot of what we would call failure.

But in one of the letters he wrote from prison, we see his steadfast unwillingness to quit.

“Forgetting what is behind, and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  ~  Philippians 4:13-14

I want to be like Paul – no matter what happened to him, he didn’t give up.  He lived his beliefs.  He stopped looking back at all the things that tried to defeat him, and looked forward instead. He didn’t let the fear of failure keep him from trying again.

jonathan edwards 70 resolutionslooking stunnedJonathon Edwards, widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologian, and one of America’s greatest intellectuals, in his 70 resolutions, wrote:

“Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.”

That’s how you keep this from being all about you.  Any change we bring about, we do with God’s help.  Changing old habits is really hard to do.  We tend to fall back into the familiar because it’s so much EASIER.

And sometimes, if we’re honest, we don’t really want to change in the first place.

It is only with God’s direction and strength that we can do more.

“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”           ~  Philippians 4:13

OK, stop for a second.  Most people read that verse and say, “EVERYthing?  Can I be a duck if I want to badly enough??”

duck costume

No.  You can’t.

In that passage, Paul was talking about being content.  He explained how he’d LEARNED to be content – even when he was in prison, shipwrecked, beaten, having plenty, having  nothing – no matter what.

And he wasn’t able to do it because he just scrunched his eyes up, made fists, and tried real hard.

He was able to be content – through all of that – because “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

He wasn’t talking about flying to the moon without a spaceship.  He was talking about being transformed.  On purpose, and because of God’s strength that went beyond what he could do on his own power.

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”  ~  1 Corinthians 10:13

God’s love, grace, and strength enable us to endure crises and temptations that would be too much to bear on our own.

doctor-02[1]If you decide you want to be a doctor, you have to do more than wear a long white lab coat and hang out in a hospital.  Even after you finish your schooling, you spend your life evaluating your skills and your views and your practices, dropping some old ideas here, adding new skills there.  Realizing that there is always more to learn, more to perfect.  And you do this – until you are done being a doctor.

We need to look at our lives the same way.  Only with honest, regular, purposeful review and readjustment will we become who we were created to be.   For as long as we are alive.

So why make resolutions on January 1?

Why NOT?   Why not look for every opportunity to become MORE, to become the “you” God created you to be?

We can all make plenty of excuses.  But I’d rather take an honest look at myself and make some resolutions instead.

Live intentionally.  Live with purpose.

be intentionalSeriously, make some resolutions.

**   My next blog post will focus on HOW to create resolutions that have a good chance of being successful.  **