With the first month of 2018 already in the rearview mirror, how are those New Year’s resolutions going?
Today, I want to talk about some methods that, regardless of whether your goals are physical, financial, or spiritual can help establish permanent as opposed to temporary change.
I’ve blogged in the past about my battle with diet & fitness. From losing a significant amount of weight at the start of this decade, to becoming a runner, to attempting to maintain the strength and stamina needed to keep up with my two daughters, I’ve become more comfortable with the idea that this path doesn’t really have a finish line. It’s more of a constant balancing act between enjoying today and keeping an eye on tomorrow.
It’s no wonder we often talk about fiscal and physical wellness in the same breath. Whether it’s your money or your waistline, keeping yourself content today while making sure your future self has some say in your actions, is a difficult balance for most.
I’ll hit a milestone birthday later this year and decided to set some pretty ambitious goals in late 2017 as a result. I work hard to follow pretty set morning & bedtime routines. I intend on keeping up my running habit and will complete my second (and final) full marathon in the fall. I’ve started working out three mornings a week with a group to balance out the running. All in all, things are going well so far.
Of course, I left the most difficult part of the battle for last. My relationship with food. In the past, weight loss for me has come as a result of one restrictive diet or another. Whether carbs, calories or some other target, temporary success has come when I’ve adhered to some strict regimen, only to see it gradually decline as I become human again and want to revisit “forbidden” foods.
The new path* I’m following has not been without struggle, mostly in the form of my own skepticism. It’s painfully slow. I’m used to attacking these things head on and using rapid results as encouragement. However, I’ve had to admit these past patterns ultimately haven’t made the changes I seek permanent. So, maybe following a plan that advocates for slower change isn’t such a bad idea. The program, in fact, takes a year and assigns a new, basic goal habit just every two weeks or so.
I’m still in the very early stages, but I’m starting to embrace the foundational principles of the program and thought I’d share some of those today.
When the program began, one of the first suggestions was resetting expectations and shooting for 1% improvement. I rolled my eyes. How do I measure eating or being 1% more active? Does 1% make a difference?
The way they frame, it does.
Often when we set a goal, we start a new plan hoping to be close to 100% perfect. This can work, typically for a few days, a week, maybe two? Then we regress or fall off the wagon completely.
Instead, what if we start from 0 and move 1% each day in the right direction?
As they put it… 1% x 365 days is greater than 100% x 2, 7 or 10 days + 0% (or worse) x the rest of the year.
Whether eating, spending or any other habit in life, it’s amazing what slowing down can do for our awareness. Understanding what we’re doing in any given moment and, more importantly, why, helps us determine whether what we’re doing is really bringing us joy or moving us toward our goals.
We’re all busy. We live in a fast paced, fast food, fast news world. We eat on the run. We make financial decisions in the margins. We act (or fail to act), move on and don’t necessarily recognize the consequences until it’s too late.
Instead, one of the early habits in this program is to, quite simply, eat slow. We’ve made it into somewhat of a game in our house. Even when not home, I try to, at a minimum, sit my utensil down between each bite. It increases awareness, allows your belly and brain to catch up with your eyes and mouth and seems like one of the more effective habits I’ve worked on nutritionally. It could easily apply to making purchasing decisions, getting into or out of investments, etc. When we slow down, within reason, our ability to reason and make the best choice for us improves.
In the past, I’ve tried to create all or nothing, no way-out kind of environments around achieving my goals. This new program, however, is big on outs. Should anyone want to walk away, they can at any time.
But, there’s a catch. Quit tomorrow, not today.
Regardless of the goal, there will invariably be times of frustration. These moments can lead us back to old behavior or worse, intensify the old behaviors as we beat ourselves up for getting off track.
Instead, recognize these moments of frustration or weakness as just that, moments. If it’s egregious enough to really make you want to quit, focus on something else or find a new goal altogether, go ahead. But, do it tomorrow.
Most of the time, these moments are fleeting. We can take a deep breath and recommit to our goal. How often can this happen? Well, I’ve been at this formally for about 4 weeks and it happens a LOT more than you might think, at least for me.
As I’ve reflected on these principles in the early going, I’ve realized how closely they match our views on investing and planning here at TAAG. Investing and planning for our financial present and future is all about incremental change, slowing down and analyzing things before we’re rushed to make decisions and, in the face of abandoning a plan or investment idea, it’s always better to sleep on it to allow the powerful forces of fear and greed to mellow out a bit.
To be honest, it’s made me wonder why it took me so long to apply them to another area in my life.
*Note: The program I’m using is called Precision Nutrition which was co-founded by John Berardi, PhD. I should caution that I am in the early stages of this program, it has its critics as do all programs, and I’m participating in it under the watch of a trainer that works with the training group referenced in today’s blog. In other words, different things work for different people. The jury is still out on this program for me as a whole, but I do espouse the foundational ideas shared today.