Making Attainable New Year's Resolutions that Focus on Continuous Improvement
It’s a New Year! And just like the ones before, we make promises to be a newer, better person. We vow to make big-time changes in what promises to be the best year of our lives. But just like all the other ones, we fall short of reaching our goals because we raise the bar so high trying to giving up lifestyle habits that are several years in the making.
When it comes to improving our health, New Year’s Resolutions are the biggest obstacles we set, and the heartbreak is profound when we come crashing down on the way to the summit, or worse yet, never get off the ground. And maybe it’s because the goals we set are next to impossible to achieve in such a short period of time that is only one year, like losing 100 pounds or completely giving up carbohydrates or “bad fat” foods we’ve enjoyed for several years.
Fortunately, this year CAN be different. We can make a fresh start that focuses on the start, on the process, and not on the ultimate goal that is staring back at us from a mirror image that is so disappointing. The journey of a thousand miles really does begin with a single step. Therefore, our resolutions should focus on 1) the first step, and 2) continuous improvement with each ensuing step on the journey.
Some of you work in corporate settings where a Continuous Improvement or “CI” program is in place. For those of you who aren’t aware, Continuous Improvement (CI) is a method for identifying opportunities for streamlining production and reducing waste. Companies invest millions of dollars – including staff that work full-time on helping employees practice CI. For the purposes of setting and keeping New Year’s resolutions, it’s an ideal model to work from when the end game is a healthier you.
Using the basic tenets of CI, here are some steps for helping you stick with your New Year’s Resolutions:
Step 1: Set improvement resolutions based on small changes, not major paradigm shifts.
Instead of working out at the health club every day, commit to a half hour walk every other day, or 150 minutes of weekly aerobic exercise as advocated by leading health organizations. Instead of major cuts to your diet, commit to adding 1 new healthy dish or snack to your weekly routine. Better yet, try cooking one new healthy recipe each week. You would be surprised by the tasty options you have, and the physical activity of working in your kitchen can be included in your weekly exercise strategy.
For people living with diabetes, look for small changes in improving your diabetes monitoring regimen. If you are supposed to check your glucose once daily, for instance, and you are only conducting four checks per week, try to improve that increment to once per day.
Step 2: Try to improve incrementally on your resolutions.After two weeks or one month of your "new program," figure out how to add more small changes to your regimen.
- Increase your exercise routine by 5-10 more minutes each week. It can be a longer walk, or a new activity like running your stairs at home. Check with your physician for limitations or recommendations. For more ideas, especially for those with mobility challenges, check out our Exercise page on our website.
- Add 1-2 more healthy options to your meal plan in place of the “not-so-healthy” choices. Instead of a rich pastry dessert, try a fruit plate or a small smoothie. Instead of ice cream, try yogurt and add nuts. Check out the Nutritional Tools on our website for more ideas and direction.
Step 3: Increase "value-added" efforts.
In a CI workplace, employees are trained to identify “non-value-added” efforts and eliminate them in order to streamline productivity and cut waste. As part of your personal CI Resolutions, replace non-value-added activities at home with meaningful or “value-added” activities. For example, if you spend too much time on the couch watching TV, try stretching, cleaning or light exercises while you watch your favorite show. If you find yourself being idle during most of your leisure time, start a new hobby that you always wanted to try. In short, the more active you are in your personal time, the less inclined you are to make poor health choices or fall back into old ruts.
Step 4: Develop your healthy living education!
The best model for healthy living is the one that best suits your individual tastes and desires. When you do your own homework on nutritional and exercise options, you will find opportunities to improve your health while still enjoying your life. There are so many great sources to choose from in guiding your fresh start for the year, including our own Living Healthy page on our website. For people with type 2 diabetes, improving your nutritional education can be an epiphany when discovering the palatable, even delicious options available to you.
Again, keep it simple and focus on step-by-step changes. Don’t go out and buy books on how to lose 100 pounds in 60 days, but focus on one area of your health and look for articles and resources for tips on continuous improvement in that area. For example, if you love pasta, there are some great healthy recipes to look for, like breakfast lasagna rolls!
A New Year’s Resolution plan that focuses on continuous improvement eliminates the stress (and potential health risks) of trying to make major paradigm shifts to your lifestyle. Indeed, the small incremental improvements you make with your CI Resolutions could help you avoid dangerous health situations that would require more radical living changes. And before you know it, the ideal weight loss or cholesterol reading could be your reality because you set short term goals that were attainable during each step of your journey.
Concentrate on each step of the journey, and not the big picture (or the ideal image you dream of seeing in the mirror) that can’t be achieved in one day, or perhaps even a year. Feel good about the small positive steps you are making, knowing that you can make more improvements to the plan at any stage. Remember that each step is a fresh start... so enjoy the journey and have a Happy New Year with good health that’s continuously improving.