Deborah Rankin

Ways to improve your New Year’s resolutions

Are you tired of the noise around New Year’s Resolutions? I am. Lists on Facebook, links on Twitter, earnest articles everywhere make me say Enough. Already. Most resolutions fail, most people give them up within six days, many people pick the same resolutions over and over for about ten years. Yada yada yada.

I like what I’m reading in Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. Even though she gets a little complex and down in the weeds with categories of people—are you an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel? Do you respond best to external or internal accountability? How do you feel about scheduling?

Astute readers may see that I am a questioner. 😌 Yet I value the basic tenet of Gretchen’s book: if we make desired behavior a habit, life is easier because we don’t spend mental energy deciding whether or not to do it. Since diet and exercise are common New Year’s resolutions, let’s consider the difference between a resolution and a habit.

RESOLUTION: I will stop eating white sugar and bread and lose ten pounds.
HABIT: I cook dinner four nights a week from menus I plan ahead using groceries I buy on Sundays.

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RESOLUTION: I am going to exercise more and lose ten pounds.
HABIT: I keep yoga, biking, and gym gear in my car and use it on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

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I am fine with internal accountability, and the broad habit of working out three times a week plus keeping gear packed and ready to go works for me. Last year I exercised three times a week about 2/3s of the time, including weeks I was out of town, housebound during two long ice storms, managing a big relocation, and recovering from vertigo. You may prefer external accountability, such as a paid trainer who guides your workout, or an eager Iron Tribe raring to sweat to exhaustion with you. Choose what works for you.

My father, who passed away two years ago when he was nearly 88, lived a habitual life. He went to the gym Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. He had the same thing for breakfast every morning. He ate one square of dark chocolate and drank a cup of black coffee every night around nine o’clock. He walked the dog at two in the afternoon. He went to church on Sunday and changed the oil in his car at 2500 miles. Yet he was fun, entertaining, and ready for adventure. In his last year, he lived near his brother-in-law Bill, a man on the go. Bill would call Dad to ask “Hey, do you want to go with me?” Dad’s usual response: “Pick me up! I’ll be waiting for you at the end of the driveway.”

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Habits helped him manage his health, his finances, and his friendships. He didn’t need to put out a lot of fires in his personal life, so he had time and energy to live well. I’m only one hundred pages into Gretchen’s book but I think she’s on target about the power of habits. I like what she says inside the front cover:

“Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life.”

                                                               –Gretchen Rubin

To help you out, The Booktalk Lady suggests Ten Habits for Better Living. Put your email here to get the ten habits.



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