New Year resolutions

There are many ways to get to the tree top: One is to let go and fall from the Sky

There are many ways to get to the tree top: One is to let go and fall into the Sky

This is a kaizen proposal about New Year resolutions.

Obviously, when I mention NY resolutions as an English teacher, I do so in the context of saying:

Okay, let’s practice the Future Tense:

I will do something or

I will have done something by [a given time in the future] (if you have a specific deadline).

Now, when you explain what a “resolution” (Decide-the-Mind-Thought 決心 or 決意) means in the English speaking world, you also have to discuss what people actually want to do and how (un)successful they are, even if they don’t happen to have this specific custom of declaring to the world that:

Next year I will drink less vodka. (just an example)

The problem we face when we cannot achieve our goals (stated in this resolution) is usually related to the means or the method.

Usually people don’t blame so much the method, as they blame themselves (or they blame the method and they try another method).

  • If the method is well-tried and tested,
  • If the method seems to work fine for many people,
  • If the method appears to be quite straightforward, quite rational, yet doesn’t yield the desired results in your case,

then people feel guilty (right?).

Imagine you set yourself this goal:

This year I will lose weight (everybody loves dieting these days). This year I will exercise more.

The problem is that, even when we set specific goals, we seem to quickly hit the concrete wall of reality. Why?

This year I will lose weight:

  • How much weight? Let’s say 10 kilograms. Alright.
  • How am I going to do this? I’m going to exercise every day.
  • How much exercise every day? Let’s say, every day I will exercise for 30 minutes. Great.
  • What kind of exercise? Let’s say for 30 minutes I’m going to be running, I will go running or jogging in the park. Great!

Then, the New Year passes and it’s the 1st or 2nd of January and you start implementing your resolution. Remember you’ve decided you were going to run every day and you try to live up to your own expectations.

Now, for one percent of all people (=the successful people), this actually works out.

Maybe you happen to be somebody who is “a man/woman of his/her word”:

  • Somebody who says “I will do this” and they actually do it.
  • Somebody with an “iron will”
  • Somebody who actually manages to run 30 minutes every day, who actually loses 10kg (or even more, if you keep this pace) in a couple of months.

I suppose you will also feel much better psychologically (more exercise = less depression).

Unfortunately, for 99% of all people, for the average Joe, this is not what happens.

The experience of 99% of all people is this:

  • Maybe you manage to run the first day, you probably come back all tired.
  • Next day, you can’t get up and you tell yourself: “Okay, I’ll skip it today”.
  • Next day, you go out, you run for 10 minutes, then you don’t have time anymore because you got up too late, so you have to cut yourself short.
  • Then the next day again, you can’t get up and you skip it…

This continues for some time (which depends from person to person), but after a bit you look back at the last 2-3 weeks of that New Year, during which you said you’d be running every day, and it turns out you did it 5 times, or 3 times, or 2 times, and sometimes it wasn’t even the full 30 minutes you set as a target.

When you set the target days (let’s say 30 days) against the actual record (3 days), you can’t help feeling bad because nearly each day you have to mark as “Failed to do it”: 27 black balls versus 3 white ones.

There goes your motivation out the window. You didn’t do it.

Why did it not work? You decided. In your head it was all clear. You had the time. You could blame the weather, or the busy work schedule, but usually you end up blaming yourself:

I cannot even do what I specifically set out to do. I’m weak.

You are NOT weak. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you need to use a lot of energy to change your approach.

Here’s the kaizen proposal (it starts from another angle):

Do you have any bad habit you’re not happy with? (Let’s leave aside for now the issues you have that triggered the New Year resolution.) Do you have any bad habits you’d like to get rid of?

  • Maybe you can’t help chewing your fingernails.
  • Do you watch too much TV?
  • Do you spend too much time Internet-browsing (4-5-6 hours every day)?
  • Do you play too much on your computer?

What is it that you do in your daily life which you think is not healthy, which is not good and which you’d like to change? Pick one of these habits which you’d like to slowly phase out of your life.

Let’s stay with Internet-browsing because that’s what you’re probably doing right now. So you’re browsing the Internet for information. Some of it may be useful, but most of the time this is a complete waste of time:

You’re reading news about I-don’t-know-what terrorist attack which happened in I-don’t-know-what country.

Why?

Why not?

Right?

This is who we are, the moderns. But you’re not happy about this. How can you change it?

Let’s say you’re doing this now for 5 hours every day and you want to reduce it to maximum 2 hours every day. Great!

That’s the target: Less than 2 hours. (2 hours is okay).

If you meet this target, you don’t have to do anything else.

Mission accomplished.

What if you don’t meet this target? Let’s go back to the New Year resolution of losing weight by exercising (running 30 minutes) every day. Now, every time you exceed by 30 minutes that target of 2 hours of internet browsing, you have to go running for (say) 10 minutes.

So, for each extra 30 minutes of browsing (beyond 2 hours), you need to go running for 10 minutes.

If you meet your target of net-browsing for only 2 hours (or less) each day, then you’ll have more free time to use as you please and you don’t have to do anything. If you can go jogging, that’d be great. If you can’t, that’s OK, spend your time in as useful a manner as possible.

However, if (as I assume from my own experience of struggling with bad habits) you won’t be able to meet the target and you browse the internet for (say) 4 hours, then on that day you’ll have to go running for 40 minutes.

  1. Even if you keep your bad habit, at least now you’ll have the jogging to make you feel (slightly) better.
  2. If you don’t need to go jogging (having kept your browsing to less than 2 hours) at least you’ll have more time.

It’s a win-win situation no matter what.

The key is to start anew every day. Start with a clean slate every day.

  1. In terms of “things I have to do today” you should have a big ZERO at the start of the day.
  2. In terms of “things I have to do less today” you should have a specific target (=less than the usual) to reduce the time you waste by engaging in some undesirable activity (something you want to change).

You decide the numbers. You don’t have to use the numbers I set here. Also, it doesn’t have to be jogging: You can do push-ups, or you could spend more time doing yoga at home. I’m just giving you a rough sketch.

The point is to keep each day free of BAD (=stress and anxiety that you’re somehow failing yourself) and to have something GOOD happening each day, whether

  • you meet your target of jogging or
  • you meet your target of reducing the time you spend engaged in some bad habit.

Try it. Let me know if this improves (changes-into-better) your life. Good luck!

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