Thursday Thoughts: New Year's Resolutions

It's Thursday, so you know what that means...

Thursday Thoughts

If you are new to my blog, or haven't been reading on Thursdays, this is a segment where I post my thoughts about various nutrition and health related topics, or maybe even something else if it is really an intriguing topic.  Most of my current views and opinions come from experience working as a dietitian and as college instructor in nutrition courses.  Most of that learning is science based or observational from the clinical setting.  In general, I hate over-generalizations, so for many of the things I post, I expect there is one or two exceptions because broad sweeping generalizations are always bound to miss out on something. 

I hope everyone had a great holiday and is still taking some time to rest, relax and recharge for 2011.

I know I made the title New Year's Resolutions, but I actually hate the term.  I used it, of course, because that is the most widely used phrase for this time of year.  Don't forget that my thoughts are formed from my own opinions and observations with my own clients and people I know.  This may not be how you feel or what works best for you.

Here are my thoughts on this topic:

1)  As I said, I don't like the term resolution.  It makes it seem like you were wrong to being with and you needed to fix something permanently in a fashion that is negative.  When I think resolutions I think of a business in serious trouble and they need to make resolutions in a brainstorming session to save the company before it goes under.  I don't like to think of it that way.  I would never let someone think that negatively about themselves.  When I look resolution up in the online dictionary, here is what I found:

1. The state or quality of being resolute; firm determination.
2. A resolving to do something.
3. A course of action determined or decided on.

It just sounds so final and so rigid, like signing a binding contract.  While that is great and I have done contract signing with clients, I don't think that there should be one day of the year where everyone feels pressure to "sign up" to give up the vice of the year or jump on the bandwagon of giving something up.  To me it seems so calculated and like people are forced in to this because everyone is doing it.  I hope that more people give a lot of thought to changes they wish to make in the coming year.  I know many of you reading this do because you are very conscious of your decisions year round and enjoying reading healthy living blogs, but that is not the norm in mainstream society.

2) Instead, I like the term New Year's goals.  What goals do you want to accomplish in the new year?  It doesn't seem as negative to me.  Goals can be many things and it does not just have to apply to health, diet or exercise. It makes it seem broader to me and can help people get on the right track.  When you have large goals you can then set small goals along the way.  I generally set goals and then at midway through the year I re-eval.  Also, with goals, you can implement changes, versus resolutions, which to mean seem like absolutes.  Goals and changes can be kept year to year, but with resolutions I find that people are making the same ones year after year, meaning they never actually achieved a goal or did what they set out to do a year before.  It seems to me like setting yourself up for failure, again because I feel that resolutions deal with absolutes.  Goals are more open ended and something that is continuously worked towards.

3) I mentioned in the previous thought about setting yourself up for failure.  I feel that making an absolute resolution on day one of the new year puts a lot of pressure on someone.  There is so much still going on and everyone is rushing to be on top of the New Year's resolution success.  Have you ever noticed the increase in gym members week one of the new year, but after 2-3 weeks this dies down and it is back to business as usual.  If all those people made a resolution to work out more, then bought a membership, but never thought through the small goals or planning of the resolution, they are not doing well as you can see when the gym thins out again.  In fact, it might not mean much to those people, they might even do it every year as a resolution, but in reality, that is a failed resolution.  I almost feel like this is a robot type behavior.  We are programmed to do this year in and year out.  But, with goals in place, people might be less likely to go overboard, and can work on small goals along the way.  Instead of the resolution of work out more, it could be an initial goal of go to the gym once a week for the first month, with another short term goal of 3 times a week by 3 months into the year.  It is much more clear and easy to follow than a big, sweeping resolution.

4)  Going along with the potential for failure there is also that big rush.  I am not so sure what the rush really is all about.  You have a whole year to improve and/or reach your goal.  I feel like people make this into a competition or race to get better as fast as possible.  People seem to feel great for the first week or so, but the enthusiasm dies down once they realize how much of a commitment it really is to exercise, or lose weight, or make less trash, or whatever it might be.  It takes thought and planning.  There is no real rush.  In fact, I don't even start on my New Year's goals until a week into the new year.  By then the pressure from everyone else has died down and I can quietly go about by business.  I can spend my first week of the new year relaxed, without the crazy pressure, without running around trying to force something new into my routine.  I can enjoy the new year and contemplate how I am going to implement my new goals.

5) Lastly, your goals should be your own.  Don't let comments from friends and family over the holidays dictate what you want to work on in the new year.  You, and only you, will know which direction you want to take.  Heck, you don't even have to change anything if you are happy with how things have been going.  However, if you aren't going to change anything, you should still have some goals in place to help you stay on the right track.  I think goal setting is always important.  Humans tend to be competitive by nature, so having personal goals is a healthy way to express that trait without putting pressure on others and we can work on these things within ourselves and not need to drag others into what should be a personal journey.  So, with that being said, be true to yourself and work on what you need to work on, not what others think is best for you.

Well, there you have my thoughts on that oh so important topic for this time of year.  Don't feel pressured, don't feel a rush, and set small goals that are a reach but still achievable.  There is no need to set yourself up for failure.  There is only room to improve.

QUESTIONS:  What are you thoughts on New Year's resolutions?  Any other tips to share?  What will you work on in the coming year?  I'll share mine in a future post.


Gina; The Candid RD said...

I couldn't agree more with number 5. Some people make resolutions (goals) just to make them, which is dumb. Or they make them because other people think they need to make a change of some sort. Nothing will happen unless you want it yourself. The motivation needs to come from within.

I make resolutions, and I call them resolutions, but I consider resolutions and goals one in the same. I am posting about mine on Sunday :) They stem from last year's, so I haven't necessarily made many new ones, I'm still working on old ones, and I'm ok with that!

Simply Life said...

my husband and I always start with first making a list of things in the past year we are proud of and hope to continue - it's nice to reflect and realize what we have been doing! Then we pick just 1 or 2 goals (usually very small) that we would like to work on! I like it in small steps!

Andrea@WellnessNotes said...

I set goals at the beginning of the year. They are never anything drastic but really things I'm always working on (work out consistently, eat well, make family my #1 priority, stress/worry less, etc.). I like making the list of goals and assessing how I'm doing from time to time (probably could do that a bit more regularly...).

Enjoy the rest of 2010! Wishing you a happy & healthy 2011!

Lori said...

I really like to use the term goals as well. I know some people don't like the topic all together, but I really enjoy the New Year. It is a time to reflect and move forward for me and I welcome it. This year I plan to run two half marathons, deepen my yoga practice, master (or improve) Indian and Thai cooking, learn to knit and take the first steps to learning French or German. I haven't decided which one I want to start with yet. :)

Emily said...

I agree...I like the term goals, and I like the idea that you can accomplish them at your own pace. While I think it's important to set goals regularly, the time period of "new year's resolutions" does seem rigid.

Smita Srivastava said...

A very Happy new year to you n ur family , loved going thru ur wonderful blog !!!

- Smita
(fun foods for little eaters

sophia said...

I usually call them New Year prayer topics to myself, but just say resolutions because other people will give me strange looks when I call it that. To me, these "resolutions" are just part of a lifelong progress of learning and experiencing in life. So hm, I think "goal" is a great term for that, too! :-)

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