Promise. Guarantee. Oath. Decree.
Whatever word you want to use, there’s a good chance your brain holds it to a higher standard than resolution.
I want to make it clear I’m not going after people but the principle here. Every January the gyms are smashed by the well-meaning vacationers and tourists prepared to create a “New You” by signing up for a membership and showing up every day they can to work out and become healthier. The fitness industry relies on it. The majority of gyms don’t make their money off the semi-regulars who show up on a Tuesday in March. They make it on all of the new membership dues in those first weeks of January since people are on the hook for the opening fees and sometimes a predatory one year commitment. Every year they come and few survive.
A part of this for the gym goers is the fact that they are not going to the gym for the right reasons. They are not trying to work out to be healthier. They are trying to work out to make 2015 a better year than 2014 and doing that means setting a date instead of just doing it. The people who succeed in being a healthier person in 2015 start that in 2014. They might fall off the wagon a few times but they get right back on. They are not doing this to “look hot” or “get buff” but to be healthier and get the benefits of being healthy. It doesn’t start on an arbitrary date. It starts now. Unfortunately, we put such a high price on how you look that January becomes a swarm and makes the gym uncomfortable for the regulars.
Do the regulars own the gym? Of course not. Everyone is in it together. I feel the issue isn’t people going to the gym but why they are going to the gym, and how weak the ice is they stand on when trying to change themselves. Without a strong foundation it’s bound to break.
This isn’t just about the gym. This is about everything. For years I’ve done a retrospective on my year and looked at what I could do to make New Years resolutions and there’s a few I have been failing on for a decade now. A decade! Clearly this sort of “buy a new calendar and become a new you” stuff has been a pretty terrible way to motivate change in my life. There’s many reasons for it but I feel one of the biggest is that “New Years Resolutions” have become a running joke; an empty gesture. Everyone makes it and few stick to it. Rarely do I hear a person talk about the progress they’ve made on their resolutions half way through the year. The talk dies by the time the snow melts.
This year, when it comes time for me to look back at 2014 and decide what couldn’t be changed and what could, I’m not going to do it in order to make resolutions. At first this might just sound like a weak re-branding (It’s not a diet, it’s a live-it!) but I feel it’s time I make promises to myself that hold real consequences. The kind of promise you would make to see your child at their sporting event. The kind of promise you make to a person to be at the hospital when a child is going to be born. The kind of promise you make to see your grandparents more often as their days wind down. The kind of promises you can’t take back.
How does one make themselves accountable? That’s hard to say. I mentioned earlier that I fail at this stuff every year so all I know is what keeps me more in check. I like putting stuff up in my room that I’m always going to see. I have a whiteboard calendar which I utilize sometimes better than other times but by writing stuff up on it that I see EVERY SINGLE DAY it’s tough to run away from. It’s always going to be on my mind. I’ve also tried setting a contract with friends. Get them to read and sign it. If they remember it, they can be good to keep you accountable.
The most important thing I can say is start now. Don’t start January 1. You’re probably hungover on January 1 anyway. Start today. Even if it’s just one thing; start it up. Get organized early. Get the habits going. If you have to miss a little sleep now it’s fine because the holidays are coming up. I personally have Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day off. I might be off doing Christmas things or New Years things but the extra time is there. Maybe you don’t have the same free time but trust me, if you can’t get yourself organized and ready to change yourself in December? You’re never going to stay organized and ready for change in January. Or February. Or March. Or any other month.
The number one thing that turns a resolution into another forgotten list is allowing the stress and anxiety of every day nuance let you turn back on the promises you make to yourself. When you let the little things tear you down. Buying a new calendar isn’t going to make that stress and anxiety leave. It’s always going to be there. How you handle it? How you control it? How you survive through it? How you ensure it doesn’t prevent you from becoming the best you that you can be? That’s how you turn unfulfilled resolutions into a promise. Into an oath. Into a guarantee.
If I can impart any wisdom or “To Do”, it’s this: remember that a calendar has more than just one day. January 1st is just one day. If you want to break your bad habits, stay consistent, stick to the plan and grind through high anxiety and stress? You need to do it every day. Check it twice a day, maybe after you brush your teeth. What can I do now? What can I work on? What did I miss yesterday? The problem with calendars is the first month of the month repeats 12 times. It should really only repeat once.
Go grab a calendar (lots of places give them out for free) and change it up. Take a few minutes. Cross out the date on each day. Turn January 1st into Day 365. The only “1st” on the calendar should be December 31st. Let that be a reminder of the days going down and how much time you have to turn what was once just a forgotten resolution into a set promise. 2016 is a leap year so that would begin Day 366. Trust me, the reverse calendar will change the way you look at the days. No longer will you look at the calendar and say, “Oh it’s only the 15th, I got time”. Instead you’ll see how many days you’ve lost and how many days are left to go. Don’t let a day go by without keeping your promise to yourself.
Photo by Julie Smith.