No More Resolutions

How to Make Changed That Stick This New Year

By Tessa Thomas

 Failing Celebration | Photo by  Kristopher Roller

Failing Celebration | Photo by Kristopher Roller

First, I’ll preface this article by saying that I am not a perfect human, nor do I pretend to be one. We all have our challenges and moments of weakness, but my hope is that this article will help you keep those moments fewer and farther between feelings of strength and confidence.

There aren’t many days left in 2017, and at this time of the year, it’s common to begin looking ahead to what 2018 will bring. What do you want to accomplish? Where do you see yourself this time next year? It’s of no surprise that January is the busiest month of the year for health clubs, because frequently the answers to these questions—I want to lose weight or this time next year I want to have completed my first 10K race—lead people to the gym, with resolutions to make changes.

A resolution is defined as a firm decision to do or not to do something. The question is, if resolutions are such “firm” decisions, why are health clubs super busy in January and comparatively empty in March? What happens during those first three months of the year to those resolute and eager to make changes? If we look closely, there’s a very important word in the definition of resolution—decision.

 Decisions | Photo by  Pablo Garcia Saldana

Decisions | Photo by Pablo Garcia Saldana

Every decision that we make takes effort. The harder the decision is, the more taxing it is both mentally and physically. Whether or not to eat a balanced breakfast, to skip the sugar in your morning coffee or tea, to have a banana instead of the Christmas cookies at work, or to go for a quick mid-morning walk on your break instead of sitting and poking around Instagram are a list of common decisions that need to be made—and that’s just leading up to lunch! Not to mention what to pack the kids for lunch, what to wear to work, and when to book that dentist appointment you’ve been meaning to get to. It can be exhausting. By the time the decision to go to the gym at 5:30 pm rolls around decision fatigue has set in and your willpower reserves are depleted. That once “firm” decision is now mush.

So, how do we make this easier, how can we stick to our resolutions? I would argue that instead, we don’t make resolutions at all, that in fact the easiest way to get to the gym at 5:30 pm is to make it as close to a non-decision as possible, to instead turn it into an act that aligns with a principle.

Principles can be defined as fundamental truths that serve as the foundations for behaviour that gets you what you want out of life. To me, that sounds much more powerful than making a “firm decision.” Isn’t this what we are all looking for? To get what we want out of life—to finally lose the excess weight, to actually run the 10K? A resolution is something you do; a principle is fundamental to who you are. Consistently operating with principles diminishes decision fatigue—when was the last time you thought about whether or not to show respect to your elders? It’s who you are, a person who respects their elders. I’m making an assumption here, but I’m guessing this is likely to be true.

 On the Path | Photo by  Mark Duffel

On the Path | Photo by Mark Duffel

Having a good set of principles is like having a good collection of recipes for success. All successful people operate by principles that help them be successful…to be principled means to consistently operate with principles that can be clearly explained.
— Ray Dalio

Principles are bolstered by habits; they are like the frequently used ingredients in your recipes, those herbs, and spices that you have stocked up and go to daily without much thought to make cooking easier. When we look back at our decision-fatigued morning from earlier, we can see that all of those actions can be grouped together and tackled by two principles, two of my own:  

  1. Eat better, feel better
  2. The body was built to move

Remember, principles are fundamental truths. This is important because it means that you really can’t argue with them—it’s difficult to imagine a world where eating better, for me defined as eating healthy, whole foods, will not have a positive effect on how you feel.

Let’s break this down further into the habits or those key ingredients, that can support these principles, again these are my own:

  1. Eat better, feel better
    a) Realize that YOU have control over everything that you eat
    b) Create an environment where temptations are little to non-existent by leaving the unhealthy stuff at the grocery store
    c) Read food labels to check for ingredients that do not support this principle
    d) When indulging, still seek out high-quality ingredients void of additives, preservatives and artificial anything
  2. The body was built to move
    a) Think about your future self and how you want to move when you’re 80
    b) Avoid sitting for extended periods of time as much as possible
    c) Incrementally increase strength, mobility and flexibility
    d) Play
 Break down your principles | Photo by  Brad Neathery

Break down your principles | Photo by Brad Neathery

I know that when I practice these habits it’s much easier to eat better and in turn feel better as well as to find time to move my body. It means that in the morning when I am looking to eat a balanced breakfast there are no muffins, cereals or donuts around because I left them at the grocery store, that I don’t actually want to put sugar in my tea because over the course of the day I know that each teaspoon will add up, that unless those Christmas cookies at work were homemade with love and high-quality ingredients excluding additives, preservatives and artificial anythings I’m not eating them, and that going for a mid-morning walk, though not taxing, is an opportunity to simply move my body. 

At this point these decisions have become almost automated for me, I don’t think about them nearly as much as you may think. I have made it easier to eat better and move my body—fundamental principles in leading and advocating for a healthy and active lifestyle.

What are your principles? And, do your habits align with your principles? To make a change it has to be deeper than wanting to lose 20 lbs, go to the gym three times a week or run a 10K, why do you want to do these things? Develop your own principles around these ideas, examples could be:

  1. Be present for my family
  2. Die young, as late as possible

Instead of making resolutions this New Years’ Eve, begin now, start taking action every, single, day in the direction of your principles. It will take time, but it is the most efficient and effective path to getting what you want out of life. To misquote Oprah, you can have it all, just not all on January 1.

 New Year | Photo by Annie Spratt

New Year | Photo by Annie Spratt