At your service: January 4, 2012

At a gathering over the weekend, someone asked everyone in the crowd to raise their hand if they made New Year’s resolutions and then keep them keep them up if they had kept last year’s resolutions. I was mildly embarrassed as all eyes turned to me, the only one in the room to keep their hand up. The speaker quipped that “we” (everyone but me), just needed to lower our expectations.

The simple fact is that that is how I was able to keep my hand up and resolutions kept. I long ago lowered my expectations for what I could promise myself. After I realized that the odds were against my losing the 10 pounds that I was only mildly annoyed that I gained some 10 years ago, I stopped “resolving” to lose it. The same is true of all the other “being a better ___________.” You can fill in the blank for me.

It is said that most people would rather have an eye poked out than change their habitual behaviors. I never understood that rationale, because being blind seems like a fairly hefty change to me. But the point remains, people tend to avoid change. What is equally true though is that people embrace change when they truly believe that the personal gain from the change is something they want or need. At least, something they want more than they want what would have to change.

Just like in business, we do a cost/benefit analysis and determine whether the benefit outweighs the cost. When it does, we make the change – or, at least we begin to make the change. Is my heart more important to me than that piece of cheesecake? Of course it is. But is it more important than the homemade chocolate chip cookie? The cheesecake is laden with fats, must be cut with a knife and eaten with a fork; guilt easily moves in to stop our eating it. The cookie, on the other hand, can be held in this hand without interfering with any other actions – down it goes.
Resolutions can only be kept when we are willing to break them down into the small pieces that facilitate all achievement. If we want to make something happen, we need more than a magic wand. We need the goal and specific action to make it happen. When we decide to lose a few pounds, we first move things around in the kitchen: away go the bad guys and fruit gets placed in all the treat-handy locations.

When we really want to make something happen for ourselves, we tell a few friends. The embarrassment alone keeps us from eating high-calorie foods in public, which is an important step toward dropping some weight. It also makes it easier to hold to any change in behavior when we have a supportive partner, even better when the change partner is working on a similar goal.

Change becomes a catalyst to relationship building, which adds to the tally on the benefit side.
Resolutions made in this context can be kept. You are probably wondering what the resolution was that I found so easy to keep last year. It was this: not to make any more resolutions that I was not 100 percent committed to keeping as a permanent life change. As a side benefit of that resolution, I lost five pounds over the course of the year.