January marks the start of a new year. Between today and 365 days ago, earth has made one full lap around the sun. A Revolution.
That’s all January is really. A signal that we are back where we started. We are in fact going in circles, both literally and sometimes metaphorically. It can look a lot like ground hog day if we’re not careful.
An alternative perspective however, is that every 365 days we get a chance to do it better. If we are really lucky, we’ll have decades of chances to start again, decades of chances to reach our full potential.
For me, I need that opportunity to start again. I’ve never been a person that gets it right on the first try. I have to fall, get up and repeat. I’m a late bloomer. A few examples you ask? Here are some: I finally graduated college at 25 after years of taking classes here and there, taking breaks, taking more classes, and idling around on no particular course at all. It didn’t really click until I started business school at 23. My first job out of college was a corporate gig at a big financial firm. I was very proud at the time to have landed that job because it took a lot of balls and phony confidence to put myself in a position to be considered. I could have made a lifelong career there but when I was honest, deeply honest, with myself, it wasn't a life I wanted. I learned, potentially the hardest way possible, that I was attempting to fit a square peg into a round hole, as the saying goes. I was fired from that job. Another brilliant example, my first fiancé. We were engaged and scheduled to get married in Greece over the summer. He was sweet and good, but in being completely honest with myself, the hard kind of honest, he wasn't right for me. I called off the wedding weeks before we were meant to marry. I’ve made countless mistakes. I’ve started off in the wrong direction more times than I can easily recall. Through it all though, I never stopped taking the chance to do it again.
I was recently listening to a memoir of someone I now respect tremendously and it struck me how some people can have so much conviction, direction and clarity at a very young age. I imagine it’s a strong combination of nature and nurture, genetics and upbringing, role models, guardians and parents that help pave a path on which to set course. I seem to be surrounded by these people, the ones who are or once were, young hustlers and go-getters, from my favorite authors, young athletes, co-workers, friends and even my husband. It’s impressive really. It’s admirable. I know that because while some of these aforementioned movers and shakers were moving and shaking, I was wondering. I spent my days in endless starts and stops, lots of parties, some travel, and generally just living for and in that moment. I can look back and easily ask the “what if” questions, easily critique myself and my choices. Of that, I do plenty. However I can also now easily see what it taught me and recognize how it’s shaped me. I’m tremendously grateful for it all. For the fun, for the mistakes, for the opportunities to learn. I’m also eternally grateful for second chances, for do overs and for more revolutions. And I think that’s ultimately what we are doing. We are simply starting again. We’ve been given another chance.
It’s refreshing to be at the start of a new year, where a sea of potential lies in front of us. For most of us, we want to use that chance as an opportunity to do some things differently, better perhaps. We call these endeavors reSolutions. To get statistical for a bit, a google search revealed that 2022s top resolutions are to #1 lose weight, #2 eat healthier, #3 get more fit, #4 spend more time with family and #5 focus on mental health. I’m sure it comes as no surprise that year after year, the most popular resolutions were to eat healthier, lose weight and get fit. Year after year! Another quick google search (thank you Google) tells that only 9% of people are successful at continuing to work on those resolutions. That means that most of us are are literally on a hamster wheel. We are doing and saying the same things, going in the same circles and ending up right where we started. Resolutions obviously don’t work. Of course there are reasons that they don’t work. The most common reason cited was that the resolution was unrealistic. To big of a change. Attempting to go from 0 to 100 without the right gas. A complete overhaul. The next most common reason was not keeping track of the resolution. Not measuring progress from the start. Not taking the small wins. The last most common reason was that the resolution was simply forgotten. Poof. Into thin air. Gone.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it's pretty astonishingly clear that resolutions don't work. Do you know what has a much better chance of working? Habits. Let’s instead make habits. Here's the fact: we are habitual humans. That fact is both good and really hard at once. It can work for us or against us depending on the habit. If we choose to make a change, however big or small, and the work in achieving it doesn’t present itself in our daily habits, we can rest assured that we most certainly will not achieve it, and as I now know (thank you Google), even forget it altogether. Gasp. We spend our days on autopilot going from task to task, doing the same things in the same ways, over and over again. So much so, that we can simply forget a promise we made to ourselves. Therefore, it is essential and crucial that the actualization of our goals be rooted in our daily habits.
It is really that simple. It’s not easy, but it is boringly simple.
Let’s take 2022s top ranked resolution for example. Actually we can take the top 3 and combine them because they are, in essence, the same thing and are, most certainly, achieved from the same habits. To recall they were to lose weight, eat healthier and get more fit. So lets take eating healthier for example. Instead of resolving to eat healthier, commit to make a daily habit of eating enough fruits and vegetables. That's it. Its's that simple. The truth is that the vast majority of us don't eat enough fruits and vegetables. Its not entirely our fault either. There is a lot of misguided information on what eating enough fruits and vegetables really means. In the simplest terms, "enough" really means "a lot". A lot more than most are assuredly eating. One of my favorite dietitians and nutritionists, EC Synkowski, has made great strides in helping to determine when enough is really enough. EC says 6 cups of fruits and vegetables a day. 800 grams. Half of the plate at breakfast, lunch and dinner and for snacks. So at the risk of sounding coy, in the year 2022 let's all make a habit of eating our veggies.
While we are on the subject, why is it that our top resolutions are, and have been for years, to lose weight and to be healthier? How has this become our main concern year after year? I think it basically comes down to this: there is so much misinformation regarding sound eating habits out there. There are so many options for diet choices, most if not all, being restrictive as the means for achieving the goal. It takes years of exposure to health, fitness and nutrition and an unwavering curiosity to find what really works. So much of what we are taught is really just so wrong. Let’s take the food pyramid for example. This timeless diagram is meant to help adults make informed and healthier decisions about their food.
The foundation of the food pyramid, the part meant for the largest consumption, is grains, wheats and barley. I understand that grains are a staple food in many countries. They are eaten by humans and livestock alike and play an important and valuable role in the world. They also have a place in most balanced diets. They shouldn't, however, be the foundation. I found one food pyramid with grains as the base, vegetables next, then meats and dairy with the top tear being McDonalds. WOW. Just wow. No matter the diet of choice, paleo, macros, keto, Mediterranean, etc., vegetables should always be the foundation. My guess is that the food pyramid was made at the start of the agricultural revolution, when it was discovered that this type of food source could be easily produced, distributed and consumed. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I do believe there are many things that we thought we knew because that's what we were told was best. And perhaps it was. Perhaps in this example it was better for society as a whole. Individually however, I think not. Vegetables are and should always be the main component, the foundation, of any sound and nutritious diet. So how do we find what really works?
I think clues can be found in one main factor: is it sustainable.
No matter the diet of choice, the only thing that really leads to lasting results and better health is the ability to do it for a long time. I believe just as most don't eat "enough" fruits and vegetables, most don't realize how long it really takes to achieve significant results. My guess is that it’s much longer than most people think. We tend, mostly, to look ahead one year, thanks to our ever revolving earth. It is a good amount of time, don't get me wrong. However, real results, the ones that lead to what we really want, takes years. Multiple years. A decade and sometimes more. No one ever talks about that. We hear talk of endless 8 week challenges, 10 weeks to get fit, and 6 month programs. When is the last time someone said let’s do the challenge of a decade? Our perspectives and expectations would shift dramatically. It takes a lifetime of making healthy choices, day in and day out. A lifetime of eating our vegetables, eating “enough” vegetables every day. That’s when we achieve the real results. Make the real change. At some point, January will come around and we will look back and be overwhelmed with pride, achievement and confidence. We will also for once, just once, not have the same resolution of getting healthy. We will already be healthy. Perhaps we will resolve to make more friends, spread more joy, make more companies or reduce carbon emissions. The sky is the limit.
I have a quote in my bedroom that’s been there for years by Eleanor Roosevelt. She said “do one thing every day that scares you”. That quote is easily understandable when preparing to walk into something new, something important, something scary. I however think the key to what she was saying is that we have to find ways every day to step outside of our comfort zones, to be courageous, do the hard things, and follow through with the promises we’ve made to ourselves. Although I think it’s hard to recognize, fear is wrapped into so much of why we sell ourselves short. Let’s not do that anymore. Let’s decide to create the habits that will serve us. I think we’ll be amazed at what we’ll see in one more revolution.
It comes down to this: It’s our responsibility to create what we want. It’s our responsibility to bring what we want into fruition. And although we have a lifetime, it passes in a blink. The time to do what we want, to become who we are meant to become, is now. We cannot afford another revolution around the sun sitting on the sidelines.
There is so much to be done. So much to see. So much love to give. So many choices. So many directions to go. The key is just to go. To take a step. Choose a direction. And go. Do the things that will give us fulfillment, joy and profound gratitude. Do the things that scare us.
Waiting, hoping, those are not for me. Doing, failing and then doing again. That’s for me.
Note to self: eat your veggies