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Pick one thing

It’s a new year and I’m sure there are lots of New Year resolutions out there. Everything from losing weight or getting in shape to cutting down on drinking or resolving to eat healthy.

But why do people tend to fail so badly at keeping the New Year resolutions they make?

I believe one reason so many of us fail to keep to the plan is because the plan we make is not really a plan at all. Losing weight or getting in shape is not a plan. It’s a goal, and it is too vague.

Interestingly, this pandemic may have taught us a thing or two about setting goals and achieving them by forcing us to slow down, deal with adversity, and focus on the most important things in our lives.

For example, one of the things I learned in 2020 was simply to breathe. For 10 minutes every day, sometimes twice a day, I do nothing else except breathe. I sit quietly, in a comfortable position (and no, it doesn’t need to be a cross-legged Yoga pose!) and focus only on my breathing. When I tell people about this, they say things like “I could never do that, I have too many thoughts that interrupt me”. That was me at first too. But I learned it’s ok to have a thought – let it come in – identify it for what it is – a thought – and then just put it aside. It works, and it is amazing the clarity that comes as a result!

What does breathing have to do with New Year resolutions?

I think we can agree there is nothing more simple, basic, or essential than breathing right? Let’s apply this same thinking to the goals that we set.

For example, if the goal is to lose weight – I pick this because it is probably one of the most common goals people set – then start with identifying your behaviours that cause weight gain. There are lots right? Eating poorly and too much, sweets and desserts, alcohol consumption, not enough exercise, to name a few. It’s overwhelming, and one is doomed to fail in an attempt to tackle all these things, so:

Pick one thing!

Break it down and pick the one thing that you can do now. Be very specific! And why not pick a relatively easy one to begin with? Success breeds more success, so give yourself a shot at succeeding. For fun, let’s choose to get more exercise. Easy right? – Wrong! – Too broad and non-specific.

Start with the question “how much exercise am I getting now?” Be honest! Then, make a plan to do more and stick with it. It will be different for everybody, but maybe it’s “I will go for a walk on weeknights after supper for 30 minutes”. I don’t know what it looks like for you, but the point is to keep it simple – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely – a SMART goal.

Break that big goal down:

  • Pick one thing
  • Do the one thing until it is habit
  • Then pick the next thing and do that!

You will be surprised at how much more you’ll achieve when you reduce tough goals into smaller, more realistic stepping stones.

And most importantly – have fun,

Doug Dougherty


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