Struggling with New Year’s Resolutions? Are you too focused on the WRONG thing?

So I am sure many of you are 1 week into your New Year resolutions. New Year, New You! Some of you may be doing well, but a majority of you have likely ‘fallen off the wagon’. You might have done well for a few days but, with getting back on your normal sleep cycle and back into the swing of things you are likely a little more tired this week. As a result, you decided to put off that gym session. You might have forgotten to pack your lunch and mid-afternoon hunger hit and you indulged in some leftover Christmas goodies, etc. You said, ‘Oh well’ and likely have some ambitions and I will say admirable plans to get back on the wagon – on Monday. 

‘This time I will get it. This time we can do it.’ 

Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against you, and by the end of next week, you will likely be in the same place. So what gives? Why the hell is it so damn hard to make changes? 

What if I told you it might be because you are too focused on the wrong thing? 

Now I am in no way going to take credit for the below. As with most things in my life, I have ideas and thoughts but sometimes (well most of the time) struggle to string them together in a sensical way. Then I come across a book, paper, lecture, etc., where someone has done exactly that, for which I am so grateful for as it provides me so much insight and allows me to apply it to my practice, patients, and my own life. So what I will talk about today and in the next few blogs comes from James Clear, the author of the book called Atomic Habits, which if you are looking for a new book to read this one is absolutely fantastic! 

But I digress. So you might be too focused on the wrong thing? Too often my patients are focused on their outcomes. After working with 100s of patients the first statement I hear at the beginning of each initial consult is, ‘I want to lose X pounds.’ Which is then followed by, ‘My friend did Y diet so I am going to go on Y diet too, and exercise Z amount as well.’ 

People focus on the finish or goal FIRST. Then they create or adapt a process that may or not work for them to reach that goal. 

I want to read 30 books this year. 

I want to run a marathon this year. 

I want to get promoted this year. 

I want to X….

I think back to my university days, especially undergrad. Everyone wanted to get the highest mark in the class (an A+) so they could get into the professional program of their choice, BUT only a few actually achieved an A+, the rest received As, Bs, Cs, etc. So we all had the same end goal but only a few actually achieved it. Now in my school, every class was curved which I would like to say hurt me more than it helped but I may not have been the most studious of students. Anyways, if we all had the same goal why did only some of us actually achieve that goal? 

Well it came down to our process. What were our study habits like? Did we have to balance a part-time job in between? Did we have access to certain illegal substances that made all night cram sessions possible? Did we get 8 hours of sleep the night before the exam? There are a plethora of factors that were different between each of our processes. Some students had the process that lead to an A+, and others didn’t. Now I know the backbenchers are probably grumbling about what about level of intelligence, genetics, etc. To them I have to say I am a believer that each and everyone has the potential for achieving greatness and the goals they want, but again they have to find the PROCESS that allows them to do that. The behaviours and habits that engage in on a daily basis. 

To agree with James Clear when you figure out the right PROCESS, your goals will take care of themselves. 

Let me be clear here – the RIGHT PROCESS is one that works for YOU!

So do we chuck goals altogether? Well no, goals still have a place and they can be great for helping us set a direction, I will also discuss the problem with next week. However, we need to focus on the HOW or the PROCESS instead of the OUTCOME! 

‘I want to lose 30 pounds.’

Fantastic, wonderful. HOW are you going to do that? 

‘I am going to reduce my portions at dinner and try to go for a walk after lunch everyday at work.’ 

Awesome, that is a start. Let’s build from there.  

Until next week…!

– Dr. Dan 

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