Q: Once again New Year’s Resolutions are upon me and, like before, I’m feeling overwhelmed by the idea of changing all my bad habits overnight. Why do I always feel this way?
A: Of course, you feel the way you do. You’re already OVER it before you’ve begun! I know this, because overwhelmed and overnight, terribly intimidating words, are in your first sentence. What you’re proposing to do already feels like a completely impossible task. Feeling overwhelmed by the idea of doing something overnight is a pretty common recipe for failure. You want to make good choices, which is admirable, and I like that about you, so I’m going to ask you to take “bad” off the table. In order to take positive steps forward, I’m going to need you to like you, too. Even a little bit, to become your best coach AND cheerleader.
Since I don’t want you to give up before you even begin, I’m going to ask a simple question: How do you eat a field full of corn? While the obvious answer might be “One cob at a time.” The real answer is “One kernel at a time.” (Side Note: I used to say “elephant” instead of “corn” but I’m kind of leaning toward a plant-based diet these days. I’ve also removed barbecue sauce from the answer. Too much sugar.) Now, it’s quite possible that you’re feeling pretty full after all of the holiday food that’s been rolling out for months. So, tiny bite sized pieces of anything should be a welcome idea! If you’re truly unhappy with habits you want to change, then you must-must-must approach it with the same “too full” and ‘fed-up” mindset. Then, it’s one bite at a time. One choice at a time.
Perhaps you’ve decided you want to incorporate more physical activity into your life. You could buy an expensive gym membership or commit to a daily boot camp, but that all-or-nothing prospect to suddenly add daily 5 a.m. workouts to fit into an already busy schedule is overwhelming. It’s quite possible that by week two you’ll find that intense pace difficult to keep. A more manageable expectation might be to add a brief walk after lunch. Bring lunch to work/school and bring walking shoes, too. If you have an hour for lunch, time yourself. You may find that eating typically takes only 15 to 20 minutes. Set another timer and after eating walk for 15 minutes. The next week choose to add 5 to 10 minutes. If you miss a day, that’s not the end of your ability to make good decisions. You’ll get another day’s opportunity to make the next right choice. Honestly, your life should be a string of the next right choices. If it’s dietary habits you wish to change, it’s the same idea. Make each next choice better than the one before. Make lunch healthier than breakfast and dinner better than that. Life is after all a banquet, one bite at a time. Barbecue sauce optional.