January 28, 2020
America has a fixation on New Year's resolutions. It seems as if January 1st has some magical significance in one’s ability to change behavior whether it be saving money, restarting a relationship, losing weight or living healthy.
It’s an artificial milestone tied to the start of the calendar year, which may or may not be your best time to embark on change. Of the 130 million people who made New Year’s resolutions, 92% will give up by the second week of February.
Beyond the timing, there are the endless recommendations for the resolutions to improve our lives. The financial experts tell us to save more money, the psychologists want us to meditate and others suggest that we just need to put down our smartphone and all will be good. The truth is that we are in the best position to determine for ourselves when change is needed and what those changes should be.
Finally, there is the need to connect whatever we aspire to change to some larger, personal motivation or social aspiration; our purpose, our “why.” In my work on healthy behavior in men over 50, the men who were most successful at maintaining a healthy lifestyle were those who had a strong motivational platform anchored in their social relationships and often triggered by their individual circumstances.
I don’t recall any references to a New Year's resolution in any of the interviews I conducted. Rather, the focus was always on the men’s desire to be healthy enough to enjoy the personal relationships they held in such high regard. When they came to this realization, they embarked on their new behavior, no matter what time of year.
So, if you’re like the majority of Americans who have either abandoned or are on the cusp of quitting your pursuit of a New Year's resolution, take heed and know no boundaries when it comes to embarking on a new routine, particularly if they lead to a healthy lifestyle. Any time is a good time to start new behaviors.
Begin when your motivation is high and you’ll be able to see the link between diet and exercise and your social aspirations. Here’s what I’ve learned from the healthy-behaving men I’ve studied. The applications are adaptable to women as well.
Don’t fall into the trap of jumping directly into a series of behavioral changes without establishing your motivational framework for sustaining the lifestyle you seek. Conduct a personal inventory of where you are in life. Each stage brings new opportunities for fulfillment and happiness. Spend some time, maybe with your wife or significant other, and consider what social, family, professional, civic or other opportunities lie ahead in the next three to five years. This inventory will serve as your motivational menu.
If there’s one thing that’s clear from the research on men’s health, it’s that happiness and healthiness are mutually supportive. If you focus on the endgame of your social aspirations and pull the best of the best from your menu, you’ll have a vision for the next few years. Tie your habits to a freshly considered “why” and you’ll increase your chances for success.
Yes, planning is a necessity and an excellent exercise. The experts also will tell you to break down your annual goals into smaller, maybe weekly or monthly installments. This makes them easier to envision and accomplish. You also want to make your goals as specific as possible so they are measurable, attainable and relevant or what is referred to as “SMART” goals.
If you’ve included the people you love in the development of your goals, then take the final step and make a commitment to them to accomplishment your goals. Syed Balkhi and WPBeginner of the Young Entrepreneur Council recommend someone with whom you can share your journey, a person they consider an accountability partner.
Habits, routines and rituals should anchor your plan. Use what I call “micro motivators,” the smallest of tactics that get you through your workout and healthy meals. For me, it’s the coffee and solace of the house at 5:00 am before my workout, a focus on the day ahead while I’m on the treadmill and the good feeling I have post-workout. My micros represent the engineering behind my lifestyle architecture.
Following these steps will get you down the road of sustainability. Whenever you choose to depart.
Louis Bezich, senior vice president of strategic alliances at Cooper University Health Care, is author of "Crack The Code: 10 Proven Secrets that Motivate Healthy Behavior and Inspire Fulfillment in Men Over 50."