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  • Chris Howe

Throw away New Years Resolutions. Replace with "Purpose and a Plan."


I must admit, I have always hated the thought of New Year's resolutions. I mean, why wait when you can start improvements right now? However, I do understand that "New Year, New Me" thinking is on many minds right now, but I'd like to replace your "resolution" with a New Year "purpose and plan." You might be asking, how does any of this apply to the professional world? I believe to be the best professional, it starts and ends with your happiness in your personal life. The two worlds are not separate; they are intertwined. So I welcome your attention to read my perspective on implementing daily activities/disciplines/habits that lead you to the "resolutions" that you desire.


It's probably safe to assume that many people focus their resolutions on fitness and/or weight loss, so I will use this example for context. It is not enough to simply want to look good naked. It is misleading to set goals with an ideal "weight" in mind. I struggled for years with body image, using the mirror and scale as my feedback mechanism for success.


Since I am very open, I really should replace the word "struggled" with "obsessed." Two years ago, I never liked what I saw in the mirror and the scale would fluctuate within a 20 lbs range based on my motivation levels in a given time frame. I did this for 41 years. It was a successful approach in my 20's, but as I got older and my metabolism started slowing, my acceptable maximum and minimum weight range kept widening. As a side note, so did my pants and shirt sizes. Working out was mind-numbingly boring, and I continued to find more and more excuses to take days off. Not to mention the soreness and injuries that increased as I got older and refused to take time to properly stretch. (Okay, really it was because I was secretly trying to keep up with the young guys in the gym.) I found myself slipping into a comfort zone of excuses and accepting that I am just getting older... this is what happens in life. I mentioned previously not to use the scale to judge yourself. I will quickly contradict myself by pointing out that I was 60 lbs heavier than when I left college.


Purpose


Let's fast forward from two years ago to today. I am now 43 years old, a father of two children, and I recently measured in at 9% body fat and 50 lbs lighter than my heaviest weight two years ago. I only know those metrics because my gym was offering free body fat scans recently. 😁 I say that because I rarely jump on the scale now, and I love who I see in the mirror regardless of my body image. What really changed within me was I created a PURPOSE that required me to be physically fit.


My purpose was I started practicing the martial art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I am not saying you need to do this, but I am saying that I found a purpose I enjoyed based on my personal interests. My challenge to anyone still reading is to find your own physical endeavor that aligns with the skills and experiences you specifically desire. For me, it's jiu-jitsu. I find it very challenging, and I've often heard it defined as a "chess game with body parts." Jiu-jitsu does not care about your size or strength, rather the discipline that you succumb to while practicing technique will build your capabilities on the mat. However, when you are a white belt, being strong and fit does help bail you out (at times) of challenging situations. I liken strength and fitness in the jiu-jitsu world to a savings account. Using appropriate technique is like drafting from your checking, but you can dip into savings if those abilities deplete.


Plan


I share all this with you to highlight the newly-found motivation to be fit and strong. This new excitement elevated my training, which in turn increased my strength and cardiovascular conditioning. The gym no longer became boring as my PURPOSE feeds into my goals and aspirations as a martial artist. I put a plan together to workout 5 days in the gym each week, train 10-12 hours in jiu-jitsu, and run 10+ miles on trails at a local state park. Due to my age and the amount of training, I had to add 20-30 minutes of yoga/stretching each day, which has helped prevent injury and increase my body's ability to recover. All of this work awarded me the opportunity to win a gold medal at an international jiu-jitsu tournament! (Yes, it was in the white belt division, which means I was the best of people that don't know how to do jiu-jitsu... but I'll take it! 😆)


My recommendation for you is to find an activity, skill, or experience that you desire, which aligns with a personal goal you want to set for 2021. Once you identify that PURPOSE, write down a plan that is easy to follow and fits into your current lifestyle. Start small and slow to mainly to get that dopamine reward from your brain, but also to to show yourself that you are making progress.


Using the workout then as an example, don't do what everyone does and get to the overcrowded gym in January and work out like an Olympian the first day back in the gym. You most likely will get very sore, annoyed with the other patrons, and consequently, your mind will tell you that you will get started next week! Don't fall into this trap. START SLOW. The book, Atomic Habits recommends that you simply sit out your workout clothes each night before bed for two straight weeks. After you have established that habit, put the workout clothes on in the morning and then stretch for five minutes. Once you are stretching every morning for two weeks, you might as well then walk outside for ten minutes... and so on and so on. It's called habit stacking. It allows you to hack the systematic and rewards systems in your brain to establish new daily routines.

Examples of Actions and Rewards

  • Want more sleep? Make a chart and mark a green check each time you go to bed by your daily goal time.

  • Want to manage finances better? Start a month-to-month annual budget. List your monthly savings goals and highlight a total amount that you will save/invest/pay down debt by the end of the year.

  • Want to be a better parent, spouse, family member, or friend? Write down specific actions each day/week that allow you to give more of your mindful time and energy to those you care about.

  • Want to read more? Start a weekly zoom book club with a friend(s) where you all read a chapter or so each week and then discuss. It's great accountability and allows you to dig deeper into the content of the book.

These are just a few examples I thought of off the top of my head, but I assume you understand the rationale by now. To summarize, set goals this year with a PURPOSE that aligns with your personal skills, experiences, and/or relationships that you want during YOUR lifetime. Put together a specific action plan using a crawl-walk-run approach that allows you to chart progress so that your brain gets rewarded much like it would if you sat down to watch TV and crush a pint of ice cream. (Oh, just me?)


So be selfish this year! Make time for yourself and your non-work-specific goals. Write them down and include their purpose, along with a specific action plan that you will follow and track each day. Remember, "New Year, New You." 😆😆💪