24 January 2024

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I Think Resolutions Are Dumb

At the beginning of January I decided to hell with resolutions. Many people will look at that statement and think something along the lines of “What? Why?”, so here is what I am thinking.

Many people hit January 1st and decide that they are going to change everything about their lives. And most of those many people will fail. There’s a couple reasons that I can think of to explain that.

The first is that it simply isn’t sustainable in the long term. You’ll start of doing everything right, but after a few days you’re going to burn out. There’s a lot of reasons as to why this is. If you’re anything like me, it probably has to do with your will power. It will wax and wane over time.

I read Atomic Habits1 years ago, and the one thing that has really stuck with me is the concept of habit stacking.

If you’re like me, and routines are something you struggle with, habit stacking is the one thing I have been able to successfully implement in my life. Because my will power can be so limited, I can focus what little of it I have on one thing I’d like to become a habit. Once that becomes a habit, I can then “piggy-back” my next one off of it.

In one of my depressive phases, this is actually how I trained myself to start physically taking care of myself again, in spite of having the lowest of low energy. As disgusting as it is, brushing my teeth was one of the first things to go (the term “depression teeth” exists for a reason).

When I started to build the habit back in my life, I would tell myself that I only have to brush for 30 seconds. This was enough to get my foot in the door, and more often than not, if I started brushing for 30 seconds then I would follow through with the full two minutes. Once that became a habit, I would tell myself to rinse my face with water. This bloomed into washing my face, and later on into a full-on night time hygiene routine.

There’s some sort of statistic that it takes on average 66 days to form a habit. That is not a short period of time, and honestly, that is why I think resolutions are ridiculous.

Life is fluid. Goals are fluid. Massive lifestyle changes are generally not something that can be accomplished within the span of a year, and to be quite real with you, I find having massive lifestyle changes as goals to be completely overwhelming.

I benefit from small and actionable goals that build up into changes over time. I may identify my physical fitness as an area of changes, but I am not going to make my goal to be an avid gym go-er, because that’s a habit that takes loads of time and really isn’t specific enough to be actionable.

What is avid in this instance? Do I want to go once a week? Five days? Am I trying to lose weight? Make a PR?

If I say building fitness is my main area of change, then I am making smaller goals. Likely, on a weekly basis that help me move towards that. For example, go to the gym three days this week, or track my food today. If you overwhelm yourself, you’re just creating more friction between you and the end change.

Footnotes
  1. https://jamesclear.com/atomic-habits

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Published

Jan 24 2024

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thoughts