Changing your life doesn’t have to be so hard
Twice a year, we dream of a new life. As adults on our birthdays, we sometimes look back wistfully to what might have been, then look forward to the coming year bound and determined to take that trip, find that job, or lose that weight. We do the same on New Year’s, but either way the number of resolutions we keep is shockingly small. Oftentimes, the more extreme the resolution, the more likely it is to be kept. The woman who resolves to run a marathon is more likely to actually do it than the guy who resolves to lose 10 pounds. Why? Her goal is a positive purpose requiring ongoing new behavior. There are no bad habits to unlearn, and to get to the finish line she’ll have to literally walk before she can run. Losing 10 pounds, however, is less a positive goal than an admission of failure, of eating badly too often in front of the television watching sports rather than playing sports.
The right way to lose 10 pounds is to make a permanent lifestyle change, either in diet or exercise. The wrong way, the way most people try to lose 10 pounds, is with a main course of denial, with sweet rationalization for desert. No second helpings for me! Well, just this once.Virtually no one who tries to lose 10 pounds should fail to lose 10 pounds. No, the scale doesn’t weigh heavy and the spouse didn’t shrink all of your pants and no, no, no, the (insert latest craze here) diet didn’t fail. You failed, at least you failed to change the habits of youth, the habits of a lifetime, the habits ingrained by the need to conform. Think not? Then consider beer. Remember your first sip, from Dad or the kid who’d snuck one from the fridge. Tasted awful, didn’t it? You couldn’t imagine why anyone would choose to drink the stuff, yet you kept on. You kept on drinking beer into college, and after making another offering at the porcelain altar you resolved to give up that religion.
Sometimes you did and sometimes you still do drive home blind drunk, and only by the grace of God that protects drunks, fools, and little children did you make it home. And still you drink. Of all New Year’s resolutions, only the resolute trying to quit smoking can understandably try and fail. The prospect of a painful and lingering death, from heart disease or emphysema or cancer should be enough to make any thinking person quit. But nicotine is a drug, as addictive if not more addictive than most of the drugs banned or regulated by the government, and certainly as lethal. Kicking the habit is in a small way akin to losing that 10 pounds because a lifestyle change is required, no skills to master and nothing to buy. But the stakes are much, much higher, and the handicap much greater, so if you have a friend who’s taking the plunge, give them your support today. I made two resolutions last Monday – happily, I don’t smoke. The first was to delve into the activities of the state assembly and our members of Congress. I was truly startled to find out that members of the state legislature could legally take bribes. And in Washington, our Congressman Mr. Udall, projects an amber aura fueled by holistic medicine and an all-organic diet that drive his mountain climbing. But this Boulder liberal also sports the lowest golf handicap in all of Congress, a very Republican 1.5, and I want to resolve that dichotomy.
And even though I need to lose 10 pounds, my other resolution was a simple one. Back in college, an Evangelical friend of mine impressed me by finding time every day to read his Bible and reflect, no easy task in a fraternity house. Quiet time was a habit I picked up, and somewhere along the way misplaced, and I’d like to find it again. Ten, 20 minutes a day to think about what’s important, and what’s not, a few minutes with no interruptions. It may not seem like much of a resolution, and a selfish one at that, but I can’t decide today to run a marathon tomorrow or decide today to become a scratch golfer and become one tomorrow. A journey of a thousand miles, goes the Chinese proverb, begins with a single step. A single step, that’s a resolution I can keep. Marc Carlisle writes a Thursday column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Marc Carlisle writes a Thursday column. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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