It’s that time of year again. That moment when we pull our collective head out of the eggnog and gingerbread and resolve to be better people in the New Year. We’ll lose weight. We’ll reinvent ourselves. We’ll yell less and dance more.
The problem with resolving to lose weight or learn a language or stop yelling at your kids is that you’ve set yourself up for failure. The reason we drink eggnog, or sleep in instead of going to the gym, is because we like to do these things. Or, in the case of yelling at your kids, it’s more pleasurable to yell at them, than it is to let them drive you crazy for one minute more. It’s human nature to do more of the pleasurable things and less of the not so pleasurable things.
And the first time you don’t get up and go to the gym, or you break out the Oreos after a stressful day at work, you’ve failed. And that little failure makes it easier to keep on failing. As any regular gym goer knows, you only have to put up with all of those get in shape resolutions for the month of January before you get your gym back.
There is another way.
The best New Year’s resolution I ever had was ‘eat better cheese.’ At the time I had two children under two, a full time job, and a family member suffering from depression. It was a chaotic, stressful, sleep deprived time, and I had nothing left for self-improvement. I like cheese. I figured that this was one resolution I could nail.
The thing is, something happened after I ate that first triple cream brie. Hint: it wasn’t weight gain. I had a goal and I hit it. I didn’t just taste great cheese, I tasted success. My goal wasn’t supposed to be serious, but my subconscious reacted to hitting my goal the exact same way it reacted to getting in a great workout at the gym, sans sweat and spandex.
Turns out success was more addicting than the cheese. Everyone needs a win once in a while, and I finally had it. I tried one new cheese every other week. And if it wasn’t a “better” cheese, I didn’t eat it. It wasn’t worth my time. This actually helped me lose a few pounds, which bred more feelings of success. I rode the success wave and hired a personal trainer to help me get in touch with my abs again.
I’m not going to try and convince you to eat great cheese so you can lose weight. That isn’t the point. If you’re going to resolve anything at all, pick something that gives you a shot of success. Resolve to learn how to swear in a foreign language. Resolve to sleep in late more often. Every time you nail your resolution, that success acts like gas in the engine of your motivation. Who knows where it will lead you? Today it may be cheese, tomorrow, the world!
Happy 2016. If you need me, I’ll be drinking more ice wine.