I resolve to stop making resolutions

By Alec C. Tefertiller

It’s that time of year again. We’ll get a month of Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig commercials, and then it’s back to business as usual. Let’s face it, New Year’s Resolutions are a joke. It’s a nice exercise we undertake to help us not be overwhelmed by a combination of post-holiday family departures, reflection on the disappointments of the past year, and the winter blues. I’ve been very hesitant to make resolutions in years past because of this.

Why do resolutions fail? Because the cliche is very true: old habits die hard. Very, very hard. 90% of patients who have had a life-threatening heart issue will not make simple changes to their lifestyle that could save their life, even though they have full knowledge that they are in mortal danger (Change or Die, fastcompany.com). If 9 out of 10 people staring down the barrel of a cocked gun won’t change, then how can I expect I’ll “watch less tv”?

However, it’s not impossible, and I think this year could be different. I think the key to any real lifestyle change is to get away from bad habits while adopting new, good habits. But old habits die hard. Why is that? I believe it’s because most people employ a “cold turkey” approach to quitting old and adopting new, and it just doesn’t work. 9 out of 10 heart patients can tell you that. When you are focused totally on the result – lose weight, stop cussing, write a book, blog more, etc – you have no way of gauging success outside of your lofty goals. When your old habits don’t die cold turkey, you quickly fall short of the lofty goal. Disappointment reigns, the lofty goal dies, and you cancel your gym membership February 1st.

So, stop chasing results, and embrace the process. What do I mean by process?

On January 9th, Nick Saban will lead the Alabama Crimson Tide as they play for the BCS National Championship. Saban already has a championship with Alabama, as well as a championship with LSU. He has two BCS National Championships from two different schools, and is about to play for a third. This is unprecedented. Really, really amazing. How does he do it? It’s all about the process.

I’m not result-oriented. I’m more process-oriented. So every day, I’m thinking about what we have to do to continue to get better. Once you accomplish one thing, you’ve got to get to the next one. Was (beating) Florida the end or the beginning? Was the U.S. hockey team beating Russia (in the 1980 Winter Olympics) the end or the beginning? It was the beginning for those guys; they had to beat Finland to go on and win the gold medal. It keeps growing, and you’ve got to stay focused on the process and not necessarily the outcome. — Nick Saban, The Process of Winning, leadershipsimplified.com

Where a results-oriented approach is focused on outcomes, a process-oriented is focused on the steps need to reach an outcome. Without the right process, you won’t get the right results. Without good habits, you won’t reach lofty goals.

So your lofty goal is to lose weight. First things first, forget that your goal is to lose weight. Now, focus on the process. How do you do that?

  1. Identify the bad habits. Do you visit the candy machine during the day? Do you lie on the couch and watch TV all evening, instead of doing something more active? Do you not go to the gym because you stay up too late, making it harder to get up in the morning? Do you have too many second helpings at supper?
  2. Identify good habits that could replace the bad habits. Take an apple to work with you for those afternoon cravings, replace TV time with a walk around the neighborhood, go to bed earlier, eat your full plate then stop, etc.
  3. Create the process. Bad habits die hard, so it’s best to ease into the good ones. Don’t eliminate sugar. Start by simply replacing one snack a day with a healthy alternative. Maybe even one snack a week. Once that’s happening consistently, up the ante. It’s the same with going to the gym — maybe even more so. If you haven’t been going to the gym, you can’t expect you’re going to make it five days a week. But you could make it twice a week. After a month of that, up that ante.

The process is all about small victories. When you establish a groove, it’s easier to increase the tempo. Again, the focus is on the simple steps, not the lofty goal.

So, what’s your process?


Photo Credit: By Armand Galard (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


3 thoughts on “I resolve to stop making resolutions

  1. I shared this on my “timeline”…I truly believe in this mindset. David and I went to premarital counseling with the Dean of Students from SAGU 13 years ago this spring. We made a joke out of how many times he said “process” in each of our sessions, even to the point of making tick marks on our notebooks as he spoke. Thirteen years later, I am more convinced than ever, that it is the daily process of being married, of spending your life together, that is the key to success. It is fitting that this concept carries over to life in general. It is the day to day process of living that makes a life, or a resolution, successful.

    • Sounds like your premarital counselor really understood the process if it was like second nature to him. I’ve found it makes a lot of sense. Our culture is so “I want it now” that we are hesitant to embrace something that is “little by little”. But the results that come with a good process are worth the slow effort.

  2. The cool thing about this concept is that it validates people at WHATEVER part of the process they are in. I might be at the bottom of the mountain right now, but as long as I’m climbing, I’m doing the right thing. Eventually I’ll get there.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

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