Happy New Year

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I don’t know why we say that. I guess it is better than saying “hope next year doesn’t suck”. Problem is that a year is a long period of time and you are going to have good and bad times during the year. Pretty much a guarantee. I think this year more people are going to say it just because of the major downer 2020 was. Problem is we get no promises that 2021 is going to be any better. There is no magic power that transforms the world when a clock strikes midnight on a certain day.

Gee, I’m kind of being a downer aren’t I? Sometimes the truth isn’t pretty. We can’t control a lot of what happens in life but we can try to control our reactions and attitudes. It is often hard to look for the silver lining in the middle of torrential downpour but I think life it just better if you can find ways to appreciate the good things – no matter how small or insignificant they may be.

As you probably know, I’m not a fan of resolutions. Never made one and have no plans to start now. So I may be the last person who should be offering advise but I’m going to anyway. In my previous corporate life, we used to talk about SMART goals. If I remember right, it stood for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and something that started with T.

Making a life change is not easy but it can be done. I think attempting to incorporate some of the ideas above is going to help. For example, most people would write a resolution like “Exercise More” or “Get Back in Shape”. The second is too vague to be meaningful and the first doesn’t really give you a lot of direction.

This is why scribbling a list on New Year’s Eve is unlikely to be of any real benefit. And it makes it all the easier to just go back to your old life and old habits and then you spend time hating yourself for not achieving the resolution. Bad cycle.

Life changes require work and some type of plan and will more often than not require you to get out of your comfort zone. The first time I worked with a personal trainer, it was all kinds of stress as I just assumed they were secretly laughing at my weakness. But I knew I needed to rely on someone who knew what they were doing in order to make sure I was exercising the right way.

So if you want to be specific, then it would be to write something like “Exercise 30 minutes a day three times a week”. That’s also measurable because you can track it and keep yourself on track. Attainable is also important. If you’ve been a couch potato for a long time, then trying to run for 10 miles the first day is not realistic and likely not attainable (see I got two in there).

But then it also about looking at what you want to do and what your goals are. Getting back in shape? Does that mean you want to build muscle? Or do you want to lose weight? Are you winded by walking a short distance and want to improve stamina? Then you can start to look at the different options and figure out what works best for the goal you want to achieve. And you have to be realistic about your body and your age and your limitations and figure out ways to work with them.

And starting is the easy part. Sticking to it is the hard part. If I could find it, I could quote you how long it takes to actually build something into a habit. Let’s just say a week or two isn’t enough. It is that first morning when you are tired and you decide to hit the snooze telling yourself that you’ll exercise tomorrow. Or the day you get home and just don’t feel it because you had a long day. Sorry but those are the days when you need to stick to it.

Look, if you want to make a life change, then I’m all for that. I just don’t see that taking a few minutes on New Year’s Eve to jot down a short list of vague statements is really going to work.

One last little thing. Suppose you do give in and fall back into old habits and the new exercise equipment you got for Christmas starts to gather dust in the basement. Here’s the thing. There is no rule that says January 1 is the only day you can start to try and change your life. Every day you get to make that choice.

I do hope for all of us that 2021 is a brighter year than 2020 and that this next year is not dominated by the virus that does not deserve to be named. And with that, I’ll sign off and see you next year!

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