The science of resolutions: what will you do with 2016?

 

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Hello 2016!

I am lucky enough to have been blessed with the gift of seeing another year go by. Like many people, at this time of year I think about what I want to achieve and what I hope to change in the year ahead.

I just looked back to what I wrote a year ago on January 3, 2015:

Every year it’s the same. I think about several things I don’t like about myself and resolve to change them. I think about all the things I want for my life and resolve to get them. But then, before you know it, another year has rolled by, and I am exactly the same. Same rolls of fat around my middle, same bad habits, same character flaws.

I think maybe I should just save myself the time and grief and not make any resolutions. Because if I don’t make any in the first place, that’s one less thing to fail at, right?

But isn’t the definition of success simply picking yourself up one more time than you fall?… So here I am, 2015, picking myself up, again. This year is the year I really need to make these changes, because it’s amazing how quickly one year turns into five… especially as you get older.

My resolutions involve the three ‘Fs’. No, not ‘Fun’, ‘Funk’ or any other ‘F’ word. It’s the three sensible ‘F’ words: ‘Fitness’, ‘Finance’ and my favourite, ‘Furniture’.

Here’s what I plan to do with these F-words.

Fitness – I’m gonna get me some!

Finance – I’m taking control!

Furniture – I’m moving it to a new location!

As 2016 dawns I’ve almost achieved two out of the three things:

Furniture – Will be moved to a new location in a week’s time.

Finances – I’m starting a new job in a couple of weeks.

It only took me a year!

As for the third ‘F’, Fitness – Got none of that. Tried (sort of, a bit). Failed. Never mind.

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Image: Care2.com

But if I were resolving to improve my fitness (oh let’s face it, I’m talking about fat loss), how would I stick to my resolution?

On New Year’s Eve, right before the midnight fireworks, I happened upon a video on the blog Be Like Water about the science of New Year’s resolutions (I know, such a party animal).

The video post How to commit to your new year goals (from The Science of Success) outlines practical steps for making and sticking to resolutions. I’ll recap them below.

First, some facts:

  • People who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to change their behaviour than those who don’t make them.
  • 54% of people give up on their resolutions within 6 months of making them.
  • 8% of people ultimately succeed by the end of the year.

The video explains that there are two types of resolutions that will always fail:

  1. “Pie in the sky” resolutions. My “resolution” from last year of “Fitness – I’m gonna get me some” is a classic example of that. Now that was just silly. There was no actual plan.

Keeping a resolution is not easy. You can’t just say that this year I will lose 20kg, without a strategy for making it happen. And that lack of strategy has always been my problem. As the saying goes, “Hope is not a plan.”

  2. “All over the place” resolutions. When we take on too much at once, our brain chemistry works against us. Resolutions require self-control. This is an exhaustible resource.

So having too many new year’s resolutions is a recipe for not keeping any of them.

So how do we resolve this resolution issue? 

  1. Work on one thing at a time. When it comes to goals, less is more.

Instead of picking several resolutions that you’ll abandon, pick one that will give you the biggest pay off. It doesn’t mean you can’t work on more than one resolution per year, it just means you should only focus on one at a time.

2. Translate your resolution to specific behaviours.

People who change their behaviour achieve what is known as “habitual automaticity.” This is when you perform your new behaviour without even thinking about it.

The idea is to break down your resolution into particular behaviours and put them on a timetable. For example, instead of just saying, “Move more”, actually write in your diary, each week, what movement you’re going to do (e.g. walk to work?) and the day and time you’re going to do it, until it becomes as habitual as brushing your teeth.

3. Practice everyday. This one gives me hope (which is a good thing to have, despite it not being a plan). Daily practice allows people with average talent to achieve extraordinary things. By practicing everyday, you can achieve long-term traction with your new behaviours.

Clearly, I need to decide on realistic and specific actions to take, and work on that “habitual automaticity” thing for my fat loss strategy. And I need to practice those new behaviours. I need to practice a lot.

Then I may just have a chance at living the Vincent van Gogh quote I had stuck to my wall on a Post-it for most of 2014 (it must have fluttered away sometime in 2015):

Great things are not done by impulse but by a series of small things brought together.

At the moment, I’m just trying to get myself organised for the big changes coming up. 2016 marks the beginning of a whole new chapter of The Alexcellent Life. I’m really looking forward to seeing what it brings.

I will post about my plans in the next day or two.

As I said last January, it’s exciting just thinking about how things could be this time next year… change can be a bit scary, but it also is what’s exciting about life. Even change arising from hardship can mark a turn-around or bring a new opportunity.

What are your plans for 2016? Anything exciting coming up for you?

Image Bridget Jones: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

 

Edited Highlights: Sugar, blossoms, cake and colouring-in

Time to catch up on the past month with a series of snapshots that seem to be mostly food and floral.

I snuck away from my desk last Friday (working from home means I’m just sneaking away from myself) and went to local whole foods store, About Life. I ate a raspberry and coconut muffin that was delicious even though it probably didn’t have refined white sugar in it. Oh well.

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But refined white sugar is kind of my thing… so when I saw this 50’s-style sugar canister (which disappointingly only contained air) at Spider Boy’s school art show, I had to steal a photo. Maybe sugar itself will be a relic from the past one day, just like this canister. Sigh.

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Spring jonquils at my dad’s place…

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I love the way my cousin’s wife styled her kid’s birthday party table… they turned 3 and 1, two weeks apart so a combined party was the order of the day.

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I made some apple pies…

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I needed the whipped cream to mask the heavy pastry texture. Not quite enough carbs, fat or sugar in these little morsels I’m afraid.

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On a lighter and brighter note, the blossoms have blessed our street!

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And obviously I’ve drunk lots of coffee (and muffins) this month… but Spider Boy just gets water. Oh alright, sometimes he gets a hot chocolate. And chips.

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Now I’m going to let you in on a little secret… colouring-in is really big right now. You know when you see a “Zen” colouring book as free gift with That’s Life magazine, that colouring-in is a thing. And the local Dymock’s has a wall of colouring books, as does the National Gallery gift shop in Canberra. But I’ve been colouring-in (as an adult) since 1997. But back then, Barbie colouring-in books were all I could find. Now there is so much choice! It is VERY relaxing.

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Speaking of the National Gallery gift shop, if I had the money I would buy all of the books…

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Since I know I’ll never really be Parisian, or Danish, and will never find the time for handmade projects for a cute Tokyo-inspired lifestyle, I could just go for the Mammoth Book of Losers to make me feel better about my epic failure and underachievement in NOT being Parisian or Danish, or achieving that cute Tokyo-inspired lifestyle. Sigh.

This post is coming to an end but there’s time for dessert before I go…

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This cake I made last Sunday was meant to be a lime syrup cake. I had all the ingredients, except limes. I had a bottle of lemon juice in the fridge, so I used a bit of that. But then after making the cake, I RAN OUT OF SUGAR. So had no sugar to make the lemon syrup.  So it wasn’t going to be a syrup cake at all, was it? So I defrosted some left-over cream-cheese icing from the Father’s Day carrot cake I’d made, and dolloped that on. Plus some hundreds and thousands just for fun and fancy.

It all worked out in the end.

What are you enjoying this week?