Your Resolution Survival Guide
I love this time of year. It’s the dead of winter in the Midwest, yet there’s always a sense of renewal. Of a slate being wiped clean. The turning of the calendar is the opportunity to make the New Year the one of positive, lasting change. I sat down to write this as a “here’s where everyone gets New Years Resolutions wrong” piece, but my resolution this year is to lift up and affirm the positive. That being the case, here are some easy concepts and perspectives to chip away at your 2015:
1. Build a historic landmark
Take a minute to think about the human-built landmarks that we hold up as great works of art and building. Macchu Picchu, Easter Island, towering gothic cathedrals of Europe, the Great Pyramids. If you were an alien visiting Earth without historic context, you’d look at Easter Island next to Capital Gate and find no comparison or wonder in the simplicity of the former.
However, we all know that the great wonders of the world were built without cranes, trucks, or modern technology. They were chipped away at for decades, sometimes for a century! Go into 2015 building a pyramid, brick by brick, with the widest base possible, knowing that construction will always be underway.
2. Simple behavior modification
Most people hit the ground at 100 miles per hour this time of year (see #1). My suggestion: hit the ground at 10mph and accelerate to 100 by the end of 2015. Here are a few ways to ensure your resolution is simple and successful.
Exercise: Go to classes. For 95% of Americans, going to a gym is 180 degree turn from their normal schedule. Now, not only do you have to show up, but you have to do your own programming; wandering aimlessly amongst machines & treadmills, hoping to not be seen. Ultimately, you do the same routine you do every year, get bored, and stop going back. Get a coach or go to a class. Now, all you have to do is step through the door and you’re forced to move. Someone’s done the programming and has the motivation covered.
Diet: You’re busy. I get it. So, keep it really stupid simple. Personally, winter is the easiest time to lose weight and get lean because of the simply elegant appliance known as a crock pot: the holy grail of healthy meal planning. Seriously: throw 8 chicken breasts, some chicken stock in a crock pot, fill it to the brim with veggies, set it on low for 6 hours and you have a delicious, healthy lunch for everyday this week. I know you’ll be tempted to go out and get a bunch of Swiss chard and kale to make fancy green salads with homemade dressing. That’s all good. For now, let’s keep it simple, tasty, and repeatable; we’ll get to the chard in April.
3. You have to feel it
There’s no way around this one. Let me be clear: if you do not feel a sacrifice in time, money, and instant gratification YOU WILL NOT MAKE IT TO MARCH. Anything that seems like a shortcut will derail you. Any super-special supplement (protein shake, green coffee extract, diet pills) is a BS way to get you to part with money unnecessarily. Anyone claiming that you can achieve a healthy diet by any means other than less crap, more broccoli is misled at best, dishonest at worst.
Also, you’ll see a bunch of specials for gym memberships; some as low as $10/mo. Quick business lesson: let’s say a gym costs $20,000/month to stay open. How many $10/month memberships must you sell to cover your expenses? Yes! 2,000 (keep in mind you’re not making money yet, just covering overhead). But your gym only has a maximum occupancy rating of 150 people. Won’t you get shut down when all your members come in to get great results?
I think you see where I’m going. Traditional gyms set their price points based on the statistical likelihood that people will continue to pay, but never use it. In fact: 50% of gym-goers never step foot in the facility to which they’re a member. ONLY 5% OF MEMBERS ACTUALLY USE THE FACILITY. That’s the business model. So, if a gym that 5% of members use costs $10, it would stand to reason that a gym that 100% of its members use can be up to 20x that amount. Usually it’s not though and, when seen in this light, is typically a great value.
So, how much should you invest in fitness? My suggestion is 3.5% of your gross annual income. Coming from a background in long-term healthcare planning, I’ve found that spending 3.5% annually on fitness and preventative health will yield nearly a 50% return over the course of your lifetime (Long-term care for lifestyle diseases averages $10,000/month). So, what does that mean? Make a budget, join a gym that people actually use, get a personal trainer, get a massage, meet with a nutritionist. 3.5% won’t break the bank, but you’ll be more inclined to stick to something if you feel it.
4. Change is relational
With advances in functional MRI’s, research scientists are beginning to develop hard evidence to support what social psychologists have claimed for years: the self is realized through an interpersonal context. Meaning, I develop as a person only as much as I develop relationships with others.
Unfortunately, the last part of the self that people expose to each other is health, diet, and fitness. That, somehow, I’ll white-knuckle this one on my own. That doesn’t work. Here’s my last and most important suggestion: Workout with friends. Have healthy movie nights with friends. Share recipes, benchmarks, frustration, and failure with others. It’s only through this interpersonal context that you’ll come to realize your potential.