Sticking to a Realistic Resolution
It’s Day One of your New Year’s Resolution. How are you doing? Are you still succeeding, or did you fail before you even started?
My New Year’s Resolution 2012 was completed on 12/31 and right on time. 52 books were read by 12/31.
I had to rush through all of those books before year end because I wanted to feel like I had accomplished what I set out to do…and that I hadn’t abandoned a goal to the wayside. I needed to start off the New Year knowing that I could make a resolution and keep it.
After I finished book 52, I realized what exactly a New Year’s resolution should be and what it takes to really complete it. Resolutions are about improving yourself. Many people that resolve to diet and exercise on New Year’s Eve rarely get past the month of January. You’re lucky if you make it past 1/5.
But perhaps the reason why you fail before you’ve even started is because you are not setting your goal as an attainable one.
When making resolutions you should: 1) create one that is attainable and realistic, 2) one that can be modified, 3) one that allows for a reward system, and 4) one that you can learn from and improve on over the years.
Let’s take my 2012 goal to read 52 books. This was a challenge that I thought I could attain. I added in my resolution that I wanted 26 of those books to be Classical Literature. The overall goal of 52 books was completed, but the other goal of 26 Classical Literature books had to be changed. I ended up reading only 6 classics in 2012. That’s 20 shy of my original goal. I didn’t get upset or feel like I should just throw my resolution out the window. Instead, I modified my resolution midway through the year to just 5 classics.
The reason why I modified this back in June were due to the results I saw midway through the resolution. I evaluated how far I had come, where I stood at that moment, the books stacking up that I really wanted to read which did not fall under the classical literature list, and being honest with myself on whether I could complete the task of 26 pieces of classical literature by the end of the year.
I had to be 100% honest with myself. There was no way I could read 26 classical literature books when I had so many other things I wanted to read first. So I asked myself what a realistic goal would be for reading classical literature in 2012. I came up with the number ’5′.
At year end, I finished 6 classics. That was one better than the modified goal at the midway point. Truth be known, that extra classic made me feel so much better about myself. It made me confident enough to want to read more classics. It was a positive motivator.
In 2013, I would still love to read 26 classical literature books, but after last year I realized that may not be a realistic goal. I should set my goal lower to 10 books. That’s 4 more than what I was able to accomplish last year. If I somehow make it to 26 classics, then that’s extra positive incentive (and a good year).
It’s January 2nd and I’m already 115 pages into “The Count of Monte Cristo.” I find myself staying up until late into the night to get through this rather massive hardcover book. The book is really that good. It’s a book you have to read slowly because it makes you think, unlike most novels out today that try to grip you with excitement from the first sentence and thus makes it an easy read. Monte Cristo is a ‘smart’ book that places you in a different time period, with a different historical background, as well as within the realm of a different country. You’re trying to understand the history of not only France, but of Italy too as you try to understand why our hero Edmond Dantes is in prison for a crime he did not commit.
While this book is a ‘smart’ (makes you think) book, it is also a gripping book, because the story is just as powerful as any flashing entertainment book like we have on our bookshelves today. This kind of excitement is from an age when things weren’t so sped up, flashing millions of characters before your eyes in just brief seconds. No, this kind of book you read slowly, so that you can be completely immersed in the tale of Edmond Dantes.
Many of the books I read in 2012 found a common theme…they kept mentioning the brilliance and incredible tale of “The Count of Monte Cristo.” In a time when Communism forbade Western literature, this forbidden book brought great inspiration in the minds, hearts and souls for those who were able to feast their eyes on this wonder or hear its forbidden tale.
As you can see, I’m already caught up in the adventure of “The Count of Monte Cristo.” Luckily, I’m starting this year off with a classic…a book that I desperately wanted to read this year. It also helps that I envision Edmond as being Jim Caviezel (who played The Count in the movie years ago), with his sexy, innocent voice. Makes for better reading, ladies. Trust me on that.
Maybe this year would be the year to make 26 classics a reality since I’m starting the year off right. Keeping it at 10 classics for now is the current goal. 52 books at year end is the New Year’s Resolution for this year. By the midway point, I’ll end up re-evaluating my list of books to see if the resolutions I’ve created in conjunction with this resolution are still realistic. I’ll change what needs to be changed about the resolution in order to get to the ultimate goal: 52 books.
That is how you successfully attain a goal. You always leave room for error. You look at your failures, your successes, the reality of the situation and modify what you are doing in order to succeed in your final goal. [This works the same in attaining dreams, too.]
Another thing people also fail to do with their resolutions beyond not creating an evaluation system and modifying it accordingly, they don’t create a reward system for completing each task. They think the size 4 goal is the reward. No…it’s not.
Each time I workout, finish a book, or succeed in accomplishing a rule I’ve set up, I reward myself monetarily to buy myself something that I want very badly but can’t afford to buy out of my own pocket without regretting it.
When I workout, I add $10 to my Fantasy Wardrobe jar. When I finish a book, I put money into the jar (based on certain rules, for instance, if I bought the book, I have to either take the cost of the book out of the jar, or read the book and add 3x the amount into the jar; if I complete a classic, I add $50 into the jar). Any ‘small’ resolution I complete, I add money to the jar. The goal is to raise enough money to buy a coveted item that I’ve been wanting, but I can’t really afford. This year, I’m saving $3,000 for a Chanel handbag.
If I find a Chanel handbag for less than $3,000, well, that’s just a little extra shopping money for my fantasy wardrobe. [Last year, my goal was a Yves Saint Laurent bag. I saved $1600 for it. By the time I got to $1600 and pulled the money out to buy a YSL bag, I ended up finding a bag for a little less than $200, which meant I had $1400 to spend on different fantasy couture wardrobe items too.]
The point is to create a reward system where you can work your way up to rewarding yourself with something you really want. With each act you positively do towards your resolution, you’re able to see the reward for the hard work that you do. With failures, you can also see how it can work against what you’re working for.
Since I’m saving for a house (not a New Year’s resolution), I have created certain cuts to my budget (the pork). For each month I successfully trim the pork, I add a reward to the fantasy wardrobe jar.
For instance, I am not allowed to buy purses anymore. I have to use what I already have in my purse wardrobe. For each month that I don’t buy a purse, I add $50 to the jar. For some people, that would be a lot of purses. To me, that’s a savings of $200-$300 a month because I can’t buy just one designer bag. I tend to buy several. You should see my Rebecca Minkoff collection. She’s a bit of a weakness.
If I do buy a bag, it comes out of my Fantasy Wardrobe jar. In other words, you can visually see the gains and the positive reinforcements by watching the jar grow…and then you can see the setbacks when you have to take the money out of the jar. Remember, my ultimate goal is the Chanel handbag.
Everyone has different budgets. I recommend deciding on a coveted item that can be attainable in 2013 if you buckled down and saved. Take an empty jar (where you can see the money), and put a sticker or piece of tape on it and label the jar. I call mine “Fantasy Wardrobe” because each year I usually pick some couture item from a designer.
Maybe your goal is a new iPad or big screen TV. If you could realistically save the money in one year, then use that item as your goal.
Next, when creating the ‘amount for each individual reward,’ make sure it’s something that you can put into the jar and you’re not going to miss it. You shouldn’t have to struggle to put the money in the jar. It needs to be a reward you can afford to pay into the jar. If you won’t miss $1, but will miss $5, then create $1 rewards for the jar. Just budget the rewards according to what you can afford.
Keep track of what you’re putting into the jar and taking out of the jar by recording everything in a notebook. In my notebook, I put in all of the rules to the rewards program at the front of the notebook. Then on a sheet of paper I’ll write down the amount of the goal ($3,000), the ultimate reward (Chanel handbag), and then I’ll list each deposit like this:
1. Count of Monte Cristo. – $50.
I’ll then subtract that amount from the $3,000 (like a checkbook), and come up with $2,950 on the next line.
This is a great way to visually keep track of what you’re putting in and taking out. It also helps when you need to go back and review your progress.
There’s always that temptation to take the money out before you’ve reached the goal. I slap a nice $100 ATM fee on myself if I do that. Trust me, you stop doing it after the fourth try.
Since this is my second year with the 52 books resolution, this year is my first true working out/diet resolution. My goal is to work out 4 days a week this year. Changing the way that I eat is also another part of my resolution. The only difference here with this is that I set realistic goals for myself. I don’t aim to be a certain size or weight by X date. That’s not a realistic goal, because you don’t know what could happen to you that could throw that resolution completely out of the water. I’ve had since 2008 to come up with this modified resolution based on 4 years with the Lap-Band (which does not work for me).
Change in this category starts off small. It could be throwing out all of the stuff that’s bad for you. I looked at my cupboards filled with Xmas cookies and was honest with myself…am I EVER going to eat these cookies? The answer was “NO.” I threw out 3 gallon sized Ziploc bags filled with Xmas cookies. The ‘sweets’ jar got minimized down to dark chocolate (which is healthy for you) and a candy cane. Since I don’t eat candy a lot, the jar was filled up with candy that was way past its expiration, so it’s not like any harm was truly being done.
When I made out my grocery list, I decided to keep my resolution to try new foods all year long by modifying this resolution to buy healthy ingredients and try new healthy foods all year long.
I started to really take a look at my portion sizes. I looked at ways to change how I eat…because obviously, my habits were hurting me more than they were helping me. It was stepping out of the box and looking at how I did things so that I could create a resolution I could stick with this year.
Many people start the latest fad diet or join the gym. They never stick to it. A resolution should be about looking at your life and deciding what you need to change and taking small steps to make that change realistic.
In all of my years of pursuing my dreams, I’ve always found that the dream does not always turn out the way you dreamed it would, but the journey turned out even more amazing than the end result. That’s why they say it’s about the journey, not the end result.
I found a little exercise tip from Martha Stewart that I realized was perfect for me. My exercise plan I’ve adopted is to do cardio on Mondays, yoga (or other similar form of flexibility exercise) on Wednesdays, core/strength training on Fridays and a fun exercise on Saturdays (like dancing, hiking, biking, etc.).
For beginners, don’t sign up for a 30 minute class or run 30 minutes. Start off small. If you run for 2 minutes the first time out…that’s 2 minutes of exercise you didn’t have the day before. Just keep going each day until you can work yourself up to 30 minutes. Start small and work your way up. This video is what inspired me to understand this concept.
People can get bored with routine. That’s why when I took Martha Stewart’s exercise suggestion, it set up a routine, but left plenty of room for imagination. Who wants to wake up at 5AM and go for a run when there’s a lightning storm outside? If you stuck to just running, you’d find an excuse to stay in bed. If you stuck to the word ‘cardio’ you could still get up at 5AM and put on a workout cardio video (DVD, TV and Youtube all have workout videos).
My favorite motto these days comes from Oprah. “If you want to eat, you have to workout.”
Being realistic about food and exercise means you should never set an unrealistic goal like, “I want to be a size 8 by X date.” Or I want to lose 100 pounds this year. Your only goal is to enjoy life by living a healthy one. My body has never been a size 4. It will never be a size 4. No one in my family has ever been a size 4. Size 8 is more realistic, because I’ve been a size 6/7 before…but I also remember what I had to do to be that size. At this point in my life, I would be happy with just being healthy and active.
What I’ve learned in the struggle to lose weight is that you never know what will happen to you or your body. You could be sidelined in the weight loss battle because you get sick…like have a cancer relapse (like I did). Your focus then changes to getting better than it does wanting to lose weight. You could be sidelined with an injury that prevents you from working out. Your focus then changes to healing and resting your body.
You never know what could happen in this quest, that’s why my resolution has changed over the years to just being healthy and active…a more realistic goal. Even when you think you can’t workout…just use that video as inspiration that you should never give up, no matter what your limitations are. There is always something.
Also, another matter I would like to touch on when it comes to people that are overweight…always ask yourself why and how you got to where you are. When a psychiatrist told me that the reason why I could not lose weight was because of PTSD and my brain was psychologically preventing me from losing the weight…I really spent the last four years asking why that was.
Going through Bob Greene’s questions asking these very same questions I realized why I gained the weight I gained in a 3 month time frame and was never able to get rid of it. After I was sexually assaulted in college, all I wanted to be was ugly. I blamed my looks, my figure, and everything that made me look attractive as the reason why this happened to me. When I was diagnosed with PTSD a few months after the incidents happened, it never occurred to me that it would also be the reason why I would never be able to lose the weight. My body held steadfast to it. Even with a Lap-Band…it held onto it. You want to know where my weight settled with the Lap-Band? Exactly where my weight had been since I gained it in 1994.
So now that I have reached my own definition of ‘ugly’ it’s hard to get rid of it when I’ve never really talked about what happened. I think part of me still wants to remain ugly and unattractive. It’s that desire to be ‘unpretty’ that explains many of the decisions I make today. It’s funny how someone can equate being pretty and attractive to also being victim material. This explains that part of PTSD where a person suffering from it can gain weight as a ‘layer of protection’ so that they can feel safe (very rare that this happens, but it does exist for some women that have been sexually assaulted in the past).
This is why I gave up on losing weight and modified my resolution to be about getting healthy and being active. I’m doing this for my health, not for ‘beauty’ reasons. There are many people that make this resolution to lose weight so that they can appear more attractive to others. At first, that was the reason why I wanted to lose the weight, but I kept hitting that brick wall. It was asking myself how I got to the weight I have had since 1994 that made me realize what the psychiatrist meant in 2008 when he became the second psychiatrist to diagnose me with PTSD…he told me that I would end up in his chair again because if I lost the weight, I would freak out, want to gain the weight back because I would not be able to handle the attention from men because inside I’m still that same girl who couldn’t save herself when she woke up to find someone attacking her and thinking…this never would have happened if I was fat, ugly and undesirable.
This leads me to this saying…
It’s understanding this that there are some things you can never change about yourself no matter how hard you try…but you can try to improve on how you want to live your life. That’s how you should make your resolutions.
Rock bottom for me was realizing why I can’t lose the weight. The desire to try to change? Because those new Red Valentino rain boots I got for Christmas would feel so much better on if I was a little healthier. My leg and heels would feel a whole heck of a lot better if I was able to stretch out more and drop at least the little bit of weight I’ve gained from the holidays. The vomiting in my sleep would go away…if I set new food boundaries.
You see…this is more for health reasons than fitting into a pair of rain boots that cut off the circulation in my legs. The boots are just the silver lining. The goal is just to feel better healthwise. If it takes a Chanel bag to encourage me to do so, then so be it.
When I first tried to incorporate rewards into my goals, I never created the “each step of the way” reward. I just created the end result. That’s where changes and resolutions go wrong. You create the end result and never go on the journey or reward yourself for each step you take on that journey. It’s when you embark on the journey…that’s when you change your life for the better.
There are always going to be setbacks on the journeys. Take the time to evaluate yourself during those setbacks. Look to see what worked, what didn’t work, and what you can change to make it work in order to succeed. Take small steps, take big steps…just take whatever step you need to take in order to make your resolution a success.