The Real Problem with Resolutions

Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans - John Lennon

The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft agley - Robert Burns

It's early January and when I go to the gym in the morning, I see a few new faces.  We all know the routine.  A new year is a fresh start, and so we take that fresh start to set new goals.

I don't think there is anything wrong with New Year's resolutions.  A new year is as good a time as any for goal setting.  If you want to make a resolution now, go for it.   There is nothing wrong with realistic self-improvement and goal setting as long as you set your goals for the right reasons.  Set goals that will contribute to your happiness and well-being.  Don't set goals because you think you should or because you are convinced others will accept you more.

Over the years I have come to realize goal setting needs to come with a caveat.  We can set goals, but we have to manage expectations.  We have to understand that the goals we set today may not have a place in our lives next week or next month.

Let's take a trip in the Wayback Machine to this time last year.  In the beginning of 2019 I had several lofty goals.  I was going to lose 40 pounds.  I was going to save up enough money for a new car and plan a trip to Scotland this spring to celebrate my upcoming landmark birthday.  I was going to crush it at the gym and take aerial arts classes.  I was going to donate to charity every month.  My riding skills were going to improve. 

These goals weren't unrealistic.  I had a plan for them.  I joined Precision Nutrition Coaching program again (with the idea I could win the grand prize and have even more money for a car and for travel).  I kept a spreadsheet with a detailed budget that always made allowances to sock away money every month.  I was mentally prepared to meet my goals.

Then life happened.  I started having hip pain again and that meant my workouts had to be scaled back.  My goal of beating my PR in squats wasn't going to happen.  I was in no condition to take aerial arts classes.  My riding skills didn't improve either since I was in too much pain to ride.

I had various expenses that kept me from saving as much as I wanted.  (Having an old car means expensive repairs sometimes that keep one from saving for that new one.) There were some months where I saved nothing at all and some months where I had to dip into my savings.  Even if I were healthy enough for those aerial classes, I couldn't afford them.

That trip to Scotland won't happen.  We had some family members ask us to join them on another vacation in the spring of 2020 (when I was planning to go to Scotland).  It would have been a great trip and we were happy to go, but then there was some scary illness in the family that will have long-lasting effects, so we had to cancel that vacation.  There is still time for me to book my dream trip this spring, but now I have no savings for it and no time to save for it. Our only vacation this year is going to be to Chincoteague.

It turned out to be a fortunate coincidence we aren't traveling much this year since we didn't expect Kevin to be laid off his job last summer.

As for Precision Nutrition, it turned out to be a waste of money.  I did the program for six months.  I checked the boxes for the habits every day.  In that timeI lost no significant weight or inches and made no significant fitness gains.  The program wasn't working for me this time around.  Maybe I wasn't honest with how much I adhered to the habits.  Maybe my weight is settled where it wants to be.  I don't know.  After six months I asked to quit the program because I was throwing money out the window.  I was surprised the program admins were cool about it, but they were and I left.

I was successful in dealing with my new job responsibilities and structure.  It didn't get me any more money or a new job.

Did I achieve some of the goals on the list?  Sure I did.  I met my performing goals.  I was in two musicals and a dance recital.  The Addams Family was one of the best roles I had in years.  I also made a contribution to every charity I intended to give money to.  2019 was not a total bust.  I achieved something.

So what does this mean for the year?  Do I give up on goal setting altogether?

I don't know if this is the solution for everyone else, but I need to step back from the big picture.  It's nice to envision myself thinner and fitter and wealthier.  It's also devastating to have life constantly doing what it can do to spoil the vision.

If I am going to make a resolution for 2020, it will be to take it one day at a time.  I won't make a resolution for 2020.  I will make a resolution for January 5, 2020 and a resolution for January 6, 2020, and every day to the end of the year.

What can I resolve to do each day?

I can resolve to do mobility and therapeutic exercise that will keep me flexible and pain-free and might enable me to kill my daily workouts.

I can resolve to have a meal plan each day and make the best possible choices when I can't or don't have a plan.

I can resolve to eat everything mindfully and slowly whether it's planned or not.

I can resolve to slow down, pay attention, and stop rushing through things.  I can be more thorough and less sloppy.

I can resolve to examine my budget each day and decide how I want to spend any discretionary cash.  If I want to purchase something not budgeted for, I will need to consider if whatever I want is more important than putting that money in savings.  How far away will this purchase take me from that new car or that dream vacation?

I can resolve to put away anything I don't spend so that I can not only save for that car, but also save for that trip to Scotland next year as a belated gift to myself, and also save for that dream trip to France (including a few extra days in Paris before or after the cruise) for Kevin's and my 20th anniversary (but I also have to remember 2021 is a long way off and I can't count on anything).

I can resolve to practice gratitude so I can feel happier even if life doesn't go my way. 

I have few plans and few expectations for 2020.  I can only take it one day at a time and see what happens.  I want no expectations.  I only want to be content with what I have today.


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