I’ve never been great at long-term planning and goal setting. I’m becoming increasingly skilled at short-term organizational goals (sort of a necessity to keep my household from falling into complete disarray) but grand, overarching plans for the future have been something I’ve bucked ever since I was expected to write outlines for essays ahead of time. Seriously, if the essay wasn’t going to flow out of my pen in one shot fully formed, then it wasn’t going to be written. Also, why think about an assignment casually when you have ample time to prepare when instead you could have the sweet flames of a deadline licking at your back as the best possible creativity generator? But, I digress. Recently, now that I’m realizing that I am in fact a fully fledged adult and that perhaps life would be a little easier if I finally accept some of these behaviours, I am working in earnest towards some professional and personal lifestyle goals. My most recent success was in 2015 when I managed to post a new article every day for November. Last year I tried again but as anyone who followed that endeavour will know, it turned out only to be a brief affair.
We are now solidly into the new year and the time for making resolutions for 2017 has passed, but we are still in the prime of resolution breaking season. It is no secret that many goals will not see the ball drop the following New Year’s Eve; most won’t be remembered past mid-January. There are a lot of reasons why goals don’t materialize, poor planning, low motivation, and low self-efficacy being chief among them. Think about the kinds of goals that tend to be set: they are dramatic, long-term, pass-fail, and frequently carry heavy moral judgements on the character of the person setting the goal. Something along the lines of “this year I will accomplish a lot and change myself entirely”. They might sound great as one shares a tipsy dance to Auld Lang Syne under a starry sky, but it’s not the stuff that real, lasting change or accomplishment is made of. As I always had a hard time coming up with goals and knew I was unlikely to keep them anyway, I gave up on this sort of thing years ago.
None of this is to say that change is bad, quite the contrary. Especially in our lifestyle and our health, change towards healthier, more centred living often provides a wealth of benefits, many unexpected. The thing is, sustained change is hard. If the desire for the outcomes of our efforts was enough to make them reality, most of us would certainly have drastically different lives. The draw of our comfortable and safe old habits is, in most cases, strong enough to bring us right back where we started or even stop us from taking that first step. Setting small, realistic, and sustainable goals in conjunction with planning one’s life to facilitate change is essential. So to is avoiding feeling like or calling one’s self a failure – rarely the motivator Hollywood makes this strategy our to be. Goals based on heavy restriction are generally a recipe for disaster.
Whether one made resolutions or not, whether they are still going or have been quietly tucked away for another year, if you are still looking for some change, I have three suggestions. As I’ve said before, my nutrition advice is rarely sexy but it’s probably likely to help get you where you’re going. I promise, no restriction.
- Drink water. Just water. Sometimes with a bit of lemon, sometimes with some herbal tea if you like. Have other beverages too if you like, but reach for water first. No need to guzzle gallons daily, but if you feel tired, hungry, headachy, “off”, or just can’t remember the last time you had some, try it. The worst thing that will happen is that you’ll have to pee. Which you should be doing regularly anyway.
- Eat fibre. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas, lentils, seed, nuts. Eat what you want, just try to incorporate more of these items daily. Start small and add more. High fibre foods certainly have more texture than their processed counterparts, but adding in fibre won’t (shouldn’t) make everything taste like cardboard.
- Get some physical activity. Move your body as much as you can through the day. If structured exercise or classes or crossfit gyms do it for you, wonderful, but there’s no need to be active specifically in those ways, particularly if you’re just starting out. Just find ways to move, and celebrate your success when you do it.
As I slowly adjust to parenting two small kids and the fatigue and hormone induced anxiety they bring in addition to mulling my future paths, I find physical activity the best management technique to keep me somewhat balanced. My new goal is to be on my treadmill most days of the week for 20 minutes. I’m also committed to walking my children to outings and lessons as a default in place of using the car. This may change once I’m back at work, so I’m thinking ahead to be flexible with my goals once my circumstances change. So far, so good. I’ve definitely had some backsliding weeks, but I’m still going and my goals for myself do not weigh on my shoulders.