I’ve been praying away the extra ten pounds I gained through the holidays. But nothing is happening. I do not think God will come through for me on this one, my way, anyway. Right about now you might be in the same predicament I am in. I am having a hard time staying on track with the goals I set for myself in the new year. Maybe it is time to reassess those resolutions.
Ahem, that is, if you remember what they are. You may have “fallen off the wagon,” relapsed, or might be saying to yourself “old habits die hard.” It is also true that new habits are hard to build. For the most part, popular wisdom says that it is a matter of will-power, resolution, and just “being good.” So, if it’s so easy as making up our minds, why are we miserably and consistently stung by failure to succeed? If it is about being good, then that means I’ve been really, really bad. Success/failure, winning/losing, good/bad, this binary way of thinking does little to help us achieve our goals.
If it is about being good, then that means I’ve been really, really bad.
I am a word nerd, so for me it always comes down to definition of concepts. A simple Google search tells us a resolution is “a firm decision to do or not do something.” Merriam-Webster offers that it is also the “action of solving a problem.”
Any goal we set, requires that we act upon a solution to a problem. We can come to solving a problem from different angles. So, it might be helpful that we take note of the possible solutions we have available to us and underline the ones we are willing to commit to.
I want to lose weight. I must sit down and evaluate what habits are contributing to my gaining weight and keeping it on. My problem might be that I eat fast food too often. Then my action is to stop eating fast food on the ride home when no one can see me or judge me. Simple enough. Well not so fast. God is seeing me, and I will judge myself and feel guilty, beating myself up about crossing my own boundary until I trespass again. Vicious cycle: identified.
Here is the challenge…
When we sit down at the drawing board towards the end of the year, we thoroughly enjoy the exercise of dreaming up what the new year would look like if we had the sheer will power to make our goals happen. Who does not like dreaming? Vision board workshops are all the rage and are super fun.
This is a worthy exercise, however, dreaming nice dreams are not resolutions. When we do a visioning exercise, we do so while envisioning the best version of ourselves. We underestimate who we are, for sure, but we also over estimate our preparedness, abilities, time, and effort. We also do not plan LIFE to happen: stress, crisis, and other situations that might shift our focus.
The most common New Year’s Resolutions have to do with self-care: losing weight/getting in shape, quit smoking, spending more time with family and friends, learning something new, and reading more. The items on this list are important. Most of these items, make it to the end-of-life top regrets people have, as well. These are all really worthy goals, so why do we put these things off?
The fact that most of our new year’s resolutions have to do with self-care, tells me that at the core we are really good at neglecting ourselves. Paradoxically, in a time when we tend to believe, we are individualistic egomaniacs, it seems we tend to consistently put others before our own self-improvement and care.
For most of us, time and energy are primarily spent on our jobs and taking care of our family’s needs. We need to tap into that same time and energy well to achieve our goals. If you are anything like the average person, your well is running dry, and fast!
Personally, I’ve been wanting to read more books, especially since I get to see on Facebook what all my theologian friends are reading. No wonder I cannot keep up with their conversation! By the time I get a quiet hour at the end of my day, I have to remember where I left the book the last time I read it. Then I need to go find my glasses. I read for ten minutes and off I go to the land of dreaming. Maybe staying off of FB might be a better goal for me. Or maybe set some goals around improving my organization and preparedness skills might serve me best.
Every unhealthy habit we have is complexly intertwined with the many choices we make on a daily basis. Each choice, in it of itself, carries a just as complex DNA that is informed by our priorities, values, belief system, thought process, routines, character, and relationships.
The point that I’m trying to make here is that dreaming up a goal that is worth pursuing, will require a more thoughtful process that will lead you to come up with many other short-term goals. Goals that might include, in addition to changing your behavior, transforming the way we think, the way we speak, the way we act, and interact with others.
Oh, I remember the days when I heard from pundits on TV “you must make small achievable goals,” and my visceral response was, “Go Big, or Go home!” I don’t want to lose 10 pounds, I want to lose the other person I am carrying! Short-sided me thought that if I set a goal to lose ten pounds that is where the journey would end. I thought it was a call to stay content and satisfied with small thinking. I was so enamored with the big picture, I thought focusing on the small goal was short selling myself. Even more so, at the core I did not trust myself with compromising with the short-term goal. Well guess what, I could not be trusted with the big picture goal either.
“If you’re honest in small things, you’ll be honest in big things;” – Luke 16:10 (The Message)
The short-term SMART Goals are those that will straighten the path so that you can be more successful. Last year, I kept track of how much water I was drinking. I learned that weight-loss and drinking enough water go hand-in-hand. Instead of starting with a stern regimen of diet and exercise, I focused solely on keeping track of my H2O and making sure I hit my daily intake. I did this for 6 weeks. It became a habit, a good one! When I started to re-design my diet, it did not take a lot of energy and thought process to drink water. It was now second nature. Remember, if you are drinking soda, eating fast food, and not exercising, changing all those habits at once, is similar to learning 3 different languages at the same time. I know there are some people out there that have done it and are successful, but if you are not, perhaps, is worth trying to change one at a time. And that is better than to give up on them altogether.
Sit down and reflect on the little obstacles that stand in the way of your goal. Some people want a raise, but have never asked for one, because they do not know how to. Wanting a raise is not enough. Break it down: read and learn, practice and fail, do it again and you have a better chance to succeed the next time. Research and see what SMART goals other people have drawn for themselves for the habit you are trying to kick or learn. No need to invent your own wheel, use the wheels available, and customize them to your needs.
HOP BACK ON THE WAGON
No one voted you off the island. If you fell off the wagon you can get back on whenever you want to. Those people in your head being disappointed at you because you crashed and burned: they are not real. It is just you: you are disappointed. But you can whip yourself back in shape. I love this quote attributed to Michael Jordan that says: “it does not matter if you fall down, it’s whether you get back up.”
One day a man who had problems with his hips, fell face first on a parking lot. People gasped and went to attend to him. He was extremely embarrassed. He knew how to deal with his hips, and because he was afraid that if anyone attempted to pick him up too abruptly they would further hurt him, he asked them to steer clear. He went to his knees and crawled until he got to his car. He propped his hands on the seat, extended his legs, until he was holding his body plank style, and walked himself to downward facing dog type of pose and then propped himself up slowly. He says in laughs it was quite a sight. I do not know what the people around him did, but I know I would have clapped my little heart out. Not because he did not accept help and did it on his own, but because he had the courage to do what he thought was best for himself given the circumstance. He got back up safely and that is all that matters!
You fell off the wagon? Welcome to the club! You have been talking up your lifestyle change nonstop to your friends and family, but you are just now recuperating from a pizza, beer, and Netflix binge. Oh, that is not you; that was me. It’s pathetic. Who cares?! You might risk a little of your reputation admitting you did so, but tomorrow you have more opportunities to make better choices. Let yesterday stay there and embrace the new day. You are doing it because you know what is best for you! Yes, I know it is March, but you still have a whole year ahead of you.
You can chip away a good chunk of the mountain before you.
A BLESSING FOR YOU
May your journey be filled with surprises.
May God reveal areas of your self-worth you’ve never considered before.
May you have the courage to rise when you fall.
May you understand that you are just as beloved now,
as you will be when you achieve your goal.
May you recognize Jesus by your side
Coaching you all the way. Amen.