In a way, January 1st is just another day. But people like milestones, and New Year’s Day is a big one. When this particular milestone comes along, we like to look back and see where we’ve come from. Then often we try to plan for the coming year. We make lists of all the things we’re going to do, the things that we’re going to change, and we make New Years resolutions that we’re hoping we’ll keep.
I don’t like resolutions. They set us up for failure. If I resolve to stop using the “F word”, then don’t, I’ve failed. If I resolve to get going on the latest weight-loss program and it doesn’t go well, then I’ve failed. Get the idea? Resolutions are like laws. They’re black or white. We break them or we don’t. We addicts don’t need to set ourselves up for failure. What we need to do is look at how we’re living our lives, and try to make improvements in the things that are already going on. It’s easier and healthier to make small changes that move us in the direction of what we need to accomplish than to decide to make huge changes at which we have a good chance of failing.
What I can do is skip the super weight-loss program, which is basically designed to make someone money, and decide to improve my diet instead. That beats the heck out of nothing but carrots for six weeks, and it’s something I can do and keep doing. Maybe I can overcome my inertia and do some walking too, instead of riding everywhere, if my physical condition is up to it. I can decide that when I catch myself dropping the F bomb I will apologize, out loud, to whomever I said it in front of. After a while, I’ll start remembering not to say it to begin with, and I’m on my way. If I’m having trouble sleeping, instead of giving up coffee I can decide to limit myself and not use caffeine products after about 3:00 PM. (Caffeine has a 6 hour half-life in the body, so by nine or ten I should be winding down.)
As the therapist John Bradshaw used to say, “180 degrees from wrong is still wrong.” We’re still in the same rut. We need to get out of the rut and onto a new path. If we exercise moderation in the things we are doing, we’ll find these small changes begin to add up. We’ll feel better about ourselves, we’ll see success that is much less likely to turn into failure, and since we haven’t stressed ourselves out, we’ll feel better physically, too.
We need to think, not in terms of “I won’t,” but rather of “I don’t.” Think about the difference: “I don’t drink coffee after 4 in the afternoon,” versus “I won’t drink coffee.” Which is easier to swallow? Which gives us permission to be human, and make mistakes?
More importantly, which is easier to keep? Just think about it.