Greetings, friends! How goes it, halfway through January of the New Year? How are you doing with those resolutions? I always feel conflicted about announcing such commitments, preferring to call them ‘intentions’ (see here, here, here, and here!). I’ve read too many articles dismissing resolutions as mindless, unhelpful, and ultimately a waste of energy. And yet, the start of a new year naturally prompts reflection and renewed motivation for self-improvement, which are good things.
Once again, taking a more nuanced view helps here. It’s not that resolutions are bad. It’s that we need to be thoughtful and realistic about them, as the linked article above suggests. Whatever we call them, commitments to behavior change can lead us to transformation. But it’s anything but simple or easy!
My post on experimental questions got a boost in views this past week. I wonder what prompted that? I wish I knew who was reading it and why, what they think, and what it means to them? Since that post was published, I have continued to ask my 4 newest questions, of both patients and myself. The recent traffic on that post parallels the evolution in my own reflections and answers:
In the coming year, what do you see as the biggest threat to your health?
My hedonist impulses, no question: Ice cream and office sweets, mostly, but also online washi tape sales and paper, clothing, and shoe stores.
What is the biggest asset?
My friends, also no question, my pit crew. They encourage me, keep me honest, and lend perspective. They teach me and inspire me. They hold me up.
One year from now, what do you want to look back and be able to say about what’s important to you?
In January 2021, I want to look back and say that I got fit again, that I regained the exercise discipline I lost in 2019. I got control of my eating, decreased my sugar intake by at least half. I put my phone down and was more present with my kids. I was more intentional and executed better on how I spend my time and energy overall. I exercised agency over my life better than ever before.
What support (external to yourself) do you already have and/or may still need to recruit, in order to make that vision a reality?
On November 10 when I posted these questions, I honestly had not answered this one yet. It was harder than I had anticipated. Since then, as I continue to ask patients, I see that I’m not the only one stymied. My first response resembled my patients’, something akin to, “Well, I just have to do it.” We type-A, independent peeps often rely first and foremost on ourselves. We don’t ask for help. And even though I have written and spoken ad nauseum about the importance of support, I found it difficult to identify my own need for it. This is why I have added the ‘external to yourself’ clarification to the question. Support comes from somewhere or someone else. And we all do better when we have it.
The whole time, the answer was right there in front of me. The biggest asset to my health is my friends. We know that social support (sometimes in the form of peer pressure) can be the key to success in behavior change. Why else would people attend Weight Watchers meetings, or to go AA? I need a workout buddy and a healthy eating buddy, I realized—I can tap my assets! Eureka!
Easier said than done, however. Who should I ask? What should it look like? Over a month or so, I worked out my specifications:
- I need support from friends, not strangers (thus fitness classes will probably not be my jam)
- I don’t want to be constrained by schedules with my buddies—flexibility is key
- I need a two-way arrangement—someone who also has a goal that I can support them in
- The arrangement must be concrete and accountable, but not feel oppressive
On our sunrise walks in Loveland last weekend, two friends from LOH and I agreed to be one another’s buddies. It was perfect—we all wanted the same things; we just needed an easy way to connect. One of us, the youngest, most tech-savvy one, found the Habit Share app. It’s free and perfect. We each define our own goals, and simply share them with each other online. We receive notifications when our friends check in, and we send messages of encouragement and solidarity. It’s perfect! I have already shared the app with patients and other friends, and am now connected to two more friends. Our habits range from exercise to reading, to flossing.
Holy COW, what a difference! Just knowing that I’m tracking my goals, and that my friends are seeing and supporting me, it’s been exponentially easier to motivate and execute these seven days than the entire past year. It’s easy, aesthetically pleasing, costs no money, and connects me with people I love. It is–wait for it–PERFECT!
I know, I know, it’s only been a week. Who knows what all of our app screens will look like in another week, a month, or three months from now? Will we all still be connected and holding each other up in a year? Who can say? But what’s the utility of thinking that far ahead? Yesterday I set the new goal of getting up early once a week to write. Today I can check it off. I still have a chance to say no to ice cream, work out, turn off my phone apps by 10pm, and floss! My friends will know when I do it, and they won’t judge me if I don’t. It’s all good, and we can all take it one day at a time.
So, what support (external to yourself) do you have, or may still need to recruit, to make your best-self vision a reality?
*I have no financial or other interests in this business. In fact, I want to contact them to give them feedback about how to make it better, but I cannot find a ‘contact’ page on their website…