Simple Pleasures

Resolution beat down

I spend a lot of time in January coaching my clients on New Year’s resolutions, mostly trying to talk people out of pursuing them. There are a whole lot of cockamamie schemes floating around in people’s heads at New Year’s and even more disappointments in the adrenaline nosedive 
that follows.
     Whether high or low, the holidays tend to bring catharsis. All bets are off. Caution is thrown to the wind, and optimism runs high about our ability to make abrupt changes in the wake of that catharsis. We ride up and over New Year’s Eve only to find ourselves crashing back to earth on the other side. Distractions creep in, and resolve withers.
     Momentum is a lovely thing — until it runs out — but as a personal trainer who gravitates toward slackers and misfits (of which I am most definitely one), I love it when the momentum runs out. It makes me sit up and pay attention. It’s a turning point where all the fun begins, the place where we have the most potential to have a lasting impact on our lives and bodies.
     You made a resolution. You tried. It was no fun, so you gave up and found yourself back at square one. Par for the course. At that point, do you sit around waiting for the next big event to spur you on for a week or two, before giving up again? Or do you figure out what you can legitimately do, until the end of your ever-loving days, to make your body feel better? If you can sort that out, your whole trajectory changes.
     Productive habits that can endure the fallow, aimless months of February and March, October and November, are the ones that end up being transformative, but the only way for them to be transformative is for them to stick. And the only way for them to stick is if you’re actually enjoying them, at least a little bit.
     Your resolution didn’t work for one of two reasons: either it was too extreme, or it didn’t have anything to do with your life and the passions that drive you. In other words, it messed with your vibe rather than feeding it. If you don’t like your new routine, rest assured you’re going to quit it. Them’s the facts.
     Any master plan you have to improve your body or mind needs to be steeped in things you love to do that make you feel better in the here and now. If you hate cooking, why would you resolve to cook more often? Make smarter choices at restaurants instead. If you hate getting up in the morning to work out, don’t bother. There are countless moments filled with countless ways every day to have a positive impact on your body. Walks can be taken. Push-ups can be done in your living room. Going to bed an hour earlier instead of snacking mindlessly in front of the TV can happen — if you bother to notice that it reliably makes you feel lighter and more alert.
     Your resolution shouldn’t be about finding tedious hours to exercise or eating like a bird. It should be about filling in the cracks of your life with active, healthy, invigorating things that you happen to love, whenever and wherever you can — no matter how small they might seem. Over the course of a lifetime, those choices make all the difference. If you don’t fill in the cracks with stuff that feeds you, they will fill up with whatever byproducts of living happen to seep in while you’re busy just trying to get by.
     Transformation comes from a million little changes, not one big one. It doesn’t come from boot camp at 5 a.m. on Jan. 1. It comes from doing a few small, simple things that make you feel better and stronger on Jan. 26, 27, and beyond. And when those few things become easy and habitual, it comes from adding a 
few more.
     So when willpower and momentum collapse in on themselves this year, have a look around from your uncomfortable comfort zone. See what you can do easily that will make you feel physically better, and go do it. Sign up for a pottery class. Set up a walking date. Volunteer. Have a piece of fruit. Get some fresh air.
     Nurture your body. Strengthen it. That’s the only resolution worth making.