Going the Distance

So here we are: Day One for all your New Year’s Resolutions. How’re they going so far?

It may seem odd hearing the next line from a personal trainer, but trust me when I tell you:

Don’t try to do so much. Not all at once, anyway.

Look, here’s the thing. Nobody is perfect. I could list my faults, but I’m trying to keep this short, so let’s talk about you.

You aren’t getting enough exercise. Or sleep. You’re eating too much too often and you know it’s all the wrong stuff. You’re spending too much time at the office and not enough with your family. And you still haven’t quit smoking.

Are you really going to fix all that in one day with a promise? Come on. Be realistic.

You are setting yourself up to fail for a number of reasons. The first and most obvious is that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. You are trying to make a life-changing commitment what would be difficult enough to maintain even locked away in the confines of a Biggest Loser-style compound. But you’re not locked away. You’re still in the real world where you have the boss’s deadline to meet and you were late out the door so you haven’t had breakfast and lunch is looking sketchy unless you take someone grabs you a panini on the Starbucks run. And man, a cigarette would be good right now…

Take one habit. Change it. Commit to the change and see it through until the change becomes the new habit. Then, when a healthy breakfast is the norm, add in a packed lunch of good fuel. Bit by bit, what would otherwise be a stressful list of broken resolutions gradually becomes the new way you live.

There’s another terrific reason to do this: scientific principles.

When experimenting in science (and that is exactly what you are doing, after all…) you change one variable at a time. That way, you get the chance to connect the effect to the cause. This is more important than you might think.

Say you go all out – all HAM, as my daughter would say – and you change everything. Fasting, portion control, exercise…everything. First, you’re probably not actually able to experience the full benefit of the improvement because your also dealing with the hard stress of withdrawal. So when you’re in a bind, it’s easy to quit. In your mind, the experiment didn’t work. Being healthy would be nice, you say, but it’s just not practical with your life.

Change one thing at a time, however, and it’s a different story. You recognise the benefit of that one thing because you are not distracted by the stress of having changed everything else. So while the change may be difficult, you are aware of its effect on the way you feel and so have a reason to hang in there. You can connect a stage of your improving wellness to a specific change in your life which makes you value it. And so keep it.

Hang in there. One decision at a time.

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