I adore making New Year’s resolutions. There’s something so energizing to me about starting all over and having a clean slate. I love buying a fancy new journal to write it all down, making a detailed plan for every new thing I’m going to do to become the most perfect version of me.
The only problem is that I have the same resolutions year after year. Don’t you?
My number one resolution for years was — you guessed it — lose weight. So I would get out my journal and write down all the things I was going to do to finally lose 10 pounds. Sample list:
- No sweets
- No alcohol
- 60-min run 3x/week
- 1,000 calories or less/day
- No breakfast
It actually felt fun when I was writing down all these changes, because I just knew that if I did all those things for one week, I would probably lose 5 pounds. Then in just two short weeks, I would be at goal weight!
Of course, two days into it I had already cheated. My kids were screaming and they were going to be late for school, so I stress ate a half a plate of scrambled eggs they left on the counter. And they weren’t even really that good, and I can’t believe I didn’t have enough willpower to even do just that one thing. So then I only stayed on the treadmill for 20 minutes, and the rest of my day was downhill from there. So I was in a terrible mood when my kids got off the bus, and they started fighting and I just Could. Not. Even. So I had a glass of wine. And so I started all over on Monday.
If my resolution had been “construct the perfect plan that will set you up for failure in the very first week of the year” I would have succeeded.
The “next week” approach to weight loss is a recipe for failure, and this story illustrates why. Even starting over “tomorrow” is problematic. In fact, your approach should be minute by minute.
Here’s why “I’ll start Monday” doesn’t work:
- You tend to blow it out for the rest of the week. You give yourself a pass to do whatever you want for the next several days, so then you have more to compensate for. Plus, you waste time that you could have spent getting back on track.
- You keep yourself in the all-or-nothing mindset. If you start next week, you give yourself a feeling of gearing up for something big, which means that you’re going to try and make too many changes all at once.
- You take on the “I’ve been good”/“I’ve been bad” mindset. I’ve been good, so I can cheat. I’ve been bad, so I have to go full military. Thinking this way prevents you from making distinctions about your habits that allow you to change them, because you’re so busy feeling bad about yourself.
Of course, diets fit right in with this approach. Here’s how looking at it minute by minute is much more effective:
- You get more fresh starts. Allowing yourself to take things minute by minute gives you infinite chances to dust yourself off, get back up, and try again.
- You get to be nice to yourself. When you go easy on yourself and give yourself space to make mistakes, you are more likely to ask yourself the questions that lead to breakthroughs.
- You don’t have to use willpower. Having to make a ton of changes all at once requires willpower, which isn’t sustainable. So you will inevitably cheat, fail, and have to start all over again. Next Monday. And binge until then.
- You decrease the periods where you say fu*k it and binge (see number 3).
The first mindset puts you in a resistant state. The second helps you relax and be kind to yourself. And this difference is the difference between failure and success.
If you go one layer deeper, time really is a man-made construct. Our lives are built around routines that give us a sense of time. We have 9 to 5 jobs, we run errands on Saturday, we sleep 8 hours (hopefully). We even eat because it’s “lunchtime.” But there really is no such thing as tomorrow, and there’s no such thing as Monday.
You have no choice but to take it one moment at a time, so you might as well get started in the next moment rather than waste thousands of them until you start again.
Start right this second making your life exactly the way you want it to be. You don’t have to start all over next week, slashing the number of calories you eat, so you can lose 10 pounds, so you can have a bathing-suit-ready body by June. You can start right now — to try and learn why you eat the way you do, so you can make positive changes that lead to feeling good, so you can live a long, healthy life.
What’s one thing that usually makes you give up and start all over? What change could you make that would help you pick yourself up and keep right on going? Leave a comment below and let me know.
When you catch yourself thinking day to day, don’t wait until Monday. Keep going. Because a year from now, you’ll wish you started today.