Resolutions versus Goals

Yes, 2013 has arrived, the ball in Times Square with a crystal remembrance of Dick Clark has dropped, and now what?  Did something change?  Have we arrived in a new time and place?  Not from what I’ve been reading in the press, and yes, I am one of those who still reads a newspaper.  I admit to reading a lot of it online, but still get the old fashioned paper delivered to my house.  Today, that feels like such an anachronism.  So, perhaps that is something that has changed.  From what I have read and listened to on TV, and also read in blogs, the latest message for the new year is that “I don’t make resolutions, I make goals”.  TV personalities have stated this as if they made up the phrase, although it has been everywhere of late.  What is the difference, and can one, or should one, have both?

From reading about the history of resolutions, it appears the first record of this practice was from the Babylonians, who celebrated the start of the new year around the time of the vernal equinox.  They had an eleven day celebration, and promised to return borrowed goods and repay debts.  The Romans moved the celebration of the new year to January 1, which was to honor the god Janus, whose two faces looked backwards and forwards and symbolized remembering the past but looking forward to the future.  Over time, resolutions have taken on religious and personal health themes, betterment of mankind and other noble features, but generally are intended to make things better in the new year, an erasing of the errors of the past.  A resolution starts at the time it is made.  We all know the most common resolutions.  Lose weight, go to the gym regularly, stop smoking, cut back on drinking, have better study habits, be more attentive to others, learn a new language, laugh more, stress less, attend church regularly, and one which is almost always successful, stop making resolutions.

It is well known that resolutions frequently are not kept.  This is  where goals come in to play.  Goals go hand in hand with resolutions.  If your resolution is to lose weight, set simple, attainable goals which can be kept.  For example: ” I resolve to lose weight, and I will lose one pound in two weeks”.  There!  Not too hard, but not insignificant.  Then you can build on your successes as they come.  Didn’t make your goal?  Not to fear, reset it and keep going.  If you made your goal, picture it going forward for twelve more weeks.  At a pound every two weeks, that amounts to six pounds.

But keeping resolutions is so difficult because we like the ruts we fall into.  The comfort of an extra helping of mac and cheese.  The calming effect of the draw on the cigarette.  The buzz from the second beer.  It takes, yes, resolve, to keep a resolution.

While the recidivism rate for new year’s resolutions is spectacularly high, it is definitely worth trying.  Otherwise, we wind up living exactly the same life year after year.  The calendar may as well have only months, no years listed.  How do we increase the chance that we will keep our resolutions?  One way is to inform your family or close friends of your resolution.  Then, you know they will be watching to see if you meant what you said.  This can backfire, though, if you didn’t really mean what you said, it just sounded good, and now your family is harping on you to put down the Xbox controller and go out for a jog.  Another method is to share a resolution with a group.  The group dynamic can work very well since everyone is working towards the same goals.  For something like learning a new language, this might mean joining a group lesson.  Even if you are the worst student in the group, you are going to learn something.

This leads nicely into running, and why it is good to join a running club.  It certainly is easy to go out and run by yourself.  It takes little in the way of equipment, you can set your time to run whenever you wish, and you are not beholden to someone else’s pace, schedule, or tendency to argue politics while running.  But a running club gives much more than it takes.  First, you are able to meet like-minded people with very similar goals in mind.  You will be introduced to activities you may not have thought you could do, such as running a half marathon, or doing a trail run.  Runners in my club are generally quite upbeat individuals with lots of personal goals in mind.  Once you feel part of the group, which really only takes being willing to show up, you will get a lot of encouragement from the other runners who will smile on your successes and share their own stories of setbacks.  You will have access to meetings where training plans are shared and speakers come to talk about coaching, stretching, yoga, racing experiences, avoiding injuries, and other topics.  You may find yourself taking on more challenging goals as you meet the first few easier ones, which will lead to other resolutions being met, such as weight loss, getting fit, and lessening the stress in your life.  You are not likely to learn a foreign language or attend church more regularly, if those are your resolutions, so those will need to be addressed in another forum.

I feel making resolutions is a good thing, and setting goals makes resolutions happen.  If one is not successful at keeping a resolution, here’s a tip:  many cultures around the world celebrate the new year at different times than January 1.  So, there are plenty of opportunities to re-declare resolutions throughout the year.  My personal resolutions I am willing to share with my close friends reading this blog.  I would like to eat more nutritiously, primarily by making meals from scratch rather than buying anything pre-processed, with the exception of Greek yogurt, which I think is pretty healthy.  I already started, by making pasta from scratch with my daughter the week after Christmas.  It was fun, was a bit of hard work, but tasted great.  I also resolve to read the books piling up on my bedside table, most of which I’ve started but not gotten very far into.  And finally, in the tradition of the Babylonians, I’m going to return books I borrowed from a friend about a year ago and are still on my shelf.


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