They say that somewhere between 80-99% of New Year’s resolutions result in failure. This happens for many reasons ranging from unrealistic goals to the actual physiological inability of the prefrontal cortex to process new goals while managing the status quo. Our family has been quite successful in accomplishing our resolutions over the last few years and after some thought on the matter I now believe that I know why.
The first reason our family has been successful with our resolutions is that we utilize a very powerful gift that many people in our culture possess: procrastination! I mean come on! Who in their right mind is going to shackle themselves to new diet and exercise routines on the heals of 30+ days of holiday binging? It’s just poor form. We never start our new year’s resolutions on New Year’s Day. EVER. Like last year, my wife (Julia) and I are once again doing the paleo-based Whole30, which is a sort of cleanse for us in order to re-awaken our nutritional goals and refocus our view on what we are putting into our bodies and why. The premise of the Whole30 is quite simple:
Eat meat, seafood, eggs, tons of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats from fruits, oils, nuts and seeds. Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re totally natural and unprocessed…do not consume added sugar of any kind, real or artificial…do not consume alcohol in any form, not even for cooking… no tobacco products of any sort… do not eat grains…do not eat legumes…do not eat dairy… do not eat white potatoes…do not eat carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites…and no paleo-fying baked goods, desserts, or junk food (whole30.com).
Just eat real, whole foods. For us to achieve this resolution we prepare ourselves all through the month of January. We “eat down” the sweets and treats and forbidden foods that we don’t want in the house during our cleanse, we plan out every meal of the 30 days, and we start shopping for the many healthful foods we do want around, so we are empowered and prepared for success.
The other main justification for our having done so well with our resolutions is our knowledge of what I call the Rule of the Fortnight. Many studies have revealed that it takes approximately 3-6 weeks for most people to establish a new routine within their lives. I believe, from many years of personal experience, that once one reaches the 2 week marker of practicing a new habit, there is a particular level of mastery that is absorbed into one’s psyche. The “muscle memory” becomes quite strong at this point and what would have been a great temptation a week earlier seems paltry in passing from the plateau of the fortnight. Knowing that the excruciating torture of change will be heavily mitigated in just two weeks is a very empowering concept.
Furthermore, Julia and I are not doing the Whole365–we’re doing the Whole30! So many people have already reneged on their resolutions by mid-January due to the daunting thought of maintaining new habits for an entire year. I cannot blame them. Our family’s New Year’s resolutions are bite sized. We enter into our 30 days knowing full well that at the end we will be stronger for it, and as a result, more likely to continue on with that fortitude into the next 30 days. Lao Tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Who could disagree? So too, the journey can only continue with a 34th step, and a 238th step, and so on. Preparing one’s self for each step along the way is the way.
So, my friend: if you’ve already given up, already fallen short of your resolve, have no fear–it’s still January! Dig your heels in (or just get comfy on the couch), grab a notebook, and write yourself a plan of action. Whether you’re trying to drop a vice, or you’re attempting to incorporate new, healthful habits in your life, try seeing the trees for the forest this time. Take it one moment at a time. Breathe. And be present in each moment. Humans are habitual beings, and making change is monumental. Summon your strength and your patience, for February is on it’s way. But worry not, my friend. We must only make it through a fortnight. I’ll see you on the other side.