Half Past 2014, Returning to Resolutions
I really enjoy the New Year. The parties, dropping of the ball, popping of champagne corks, and hoping to find that special someone to ring in the New Year with are all great. What I really enjoy about the New Year, however, is making New Year’s resolutions. I’m always trying to improve myself in one aspect or another and this mass cultural goal setting crusade that is revived each calendar year is a perfect opportunity for me to map out a few yearlong goals.
So far this year, I’ve made some really good progress that I’m proud of and excited to share, but I’ll talk about that later.
In making New Year’s resolutions, I’d assume that many people likely feel the same excitement and eagerness that I do, for at least the first month. Yet, as the New Year ticks along, a lot of resolutions go by the wayside.
What were good and meaningful intentions may have not been built on solid foundations. The habits of the past year inevitably creep back into our lives and if we’re not vigilant we found ourselves in a veritable groundhog’s day, trapped on a merry-go-round of repeating resolutions that keeping coming back around each year.
How do you fight against New Year’s resolution failure? I don’t have an all-comprehensive program (sorry, maybe one day I’ll unlock all the secrets) but I do have one technique that I can offer.
When setting my New Year’s resolutions, I set SMART goals. You have possibly come across this term as it is used widely in the business world. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
Sure, is this could be called a dorky approach but if dorky works, embrace your inner dork.
Saying at the start of the year that “you’re going to lose weight” is not a SMART goal. A SMART goal would be, “By December 31st, I am going to lose ten pounds of weight by cutting out refined sugars and biking to work one day each week.”
With a goal like that, you have a tangible plan of attack and a defined roadmap forward.
SMART goals, however, are exactly that: roadmaps. Can you still get lost with a map? Hell yes you can.
I’m notorious for getting lost in the woods, all the while carrying a map. I hike along, taking in wonders of the natural world around me, and then end up taking a secondary trail off in the wrong direction, only to realize my error hours later.
Then, what do I do? Give up all hope and resign myself to living in the woods alone as a hermit, befriending squirrels for company? No, I have yet to go down that path.
When I’ve realized I strayed from the trail, I sit myself down, pull out my map and a bag of trail mix, and begin the task of figuring out where I ended up. This is a skill I’ve gotten fairly good at.
Once I figured out my current location, I plot a path back towards my original destination. This is also what I try to do with any resolution or goal. If you stray from you goal then you design a new route to get yourself back on track. A self-correcting resolution GPS.
My Goals for 2014
So, thus far I’ve talked about making resolutions with a certain degree of authority. Do I know what I’m talking about? I tend to think so. I, however, in no way, shape, or form consider myself to be perfect or a resolution Jedi master. I’m a normal guy, just trying to improve myself like any one else.
How did I set out to improve myself in 2014? I set the following four resolutions:
- By December 31st, I will have launched my idea for an environmentally focused men’s lifestyle blog, created 40 pieces of original content for the site, and gained at least $1 in monthly income from the site.
- I will earn a 4.0 GPA for my Fall 2014 semester in graduate school.
- By December 31st, I will learn how to swim well, by taking classes and independent practice, and will be able to swim 10 laps without pause in an Olympic size pool.
- I will become more physically fit though a combination of a Paleo/Primal diet, weight lifting, and high intensity interval training. By October 31st of 2014, I will have added ten pounds of muscle and have 10% body fat.
My Progress Thus Far
I don’t yet have my website up and running. I did, however, buy a domain name at the start of the year and I’ve been slowly working on the layout. Given that I’m currently living in a West African village, with limited internet access, I have a good excuse for my delay in launching.
I have spent a lot of time learning about how to run a blog though. I’ve been educating myself on writing, editing, website design, and marketing via numerous podcasts and books.
Furthermore, I’ve been writing a lot, many times forcing myself to write. If I’m going to start running a blog, I need to hone my writing skills and be able to sit down and compose on command.
I’m glad that I’ve taken the time to really think through my future blog endeavor and I’ve set a new resolution to launch the site by October 1st, if not sooner.
What about my 4.0 semester? Well, I get to use another excuse, although it is pretty valid. I’m still in the Peace Corps and haven’t returned back to my grad program. This goal will have to wait a little longer. I am, however, excited to get back into a classroom. I embrace my inner dork.
Have I learned to swim well? Negative encore. Once again, I live in Burkina Faso, a landlocked country, in a rural village. I could have been practicing in the river that borders my village, but the reward of improved swimming ability is outweighed by the risk of being eaten by a hippo or crocodile. Another resolution delayed until I return home.
“Wait, Tyler. You just wrote a whole bunch of stuff about setting SMART goals but all you’ve done is make excuses rather than take action!”
Hold on! Give me a chance. I beg you. Those are only three of my four goals. Yes, I’ve had some excuses, but I have had no valid excuses for my fourth goal. If you’re going to judge me, please direct your scrutiny to the goal I’ve been able to attempted in earnest.
My Fourth Resolution: Operation Get Big
My fourth resolution was that I would become more physically fit through a Paleo/Primal diet, weight lifting, and high intensity interval training. My deadline was October 31st of 2014, by when I would have added ten pounds of muscle and achieved 10% body fat.
Why did I pick October 31st? I did this for two reasons. The first reason was to look good for Halloween and be able to show off my accomplishment. The second reason was in order to have the deadline fall before the diet destroying holiday season.
I titled this resolution “Operation Get Big”.
Preparing For “Operation Get Big”
While back home this past Christmas and New Year’s, I stocked up on some dietary support for my fourth resolution. Living in a Burkinabe village presented some unique constraints, mainly protein. In order to insure I was eating enough to gain muscle, I returned with a suitcase of food.
As you could imagine, my village was devoid of a YMCA. I was going to have to build my own weights and become inventive with my workouts. Using sand, water, and cement I filled several sizes of used cooking oil containers and extra large tins of tomato paste to build a weight set that spanned 10 to 115 lbs. These weights, combined with a pull-up, were my gym.
For cardio, which has been largely neglected until as of late, I’ve made use of my Peace Corps mountain bike. Add in teaching karate, where I primarily instruct rather than exercise, and yoga to take care of my body and improve my piss poor flexibility and you have, in short, what has been my workout program.
Six Months and Six Pounds of Muscle Later
Six months later, I’ve managed to pack on six pounds of muscle and lower my body fat 3%.
I’ve added an inch to my neck, an inch to my chest, 1.5 inches to my biceps, and dropped 2 inches in my waist.
I still haven’t hit my goal though. I have another four pounds of muscle to add and just over 3% body fat to lose. How do I know all these numbers? Like a successful dork, I’ve been tracking my progress in an excel spreadsheet along the way.
The Next Six Months
With half the year gone, it’s now time to renew my resolutions. I’m going to have a lot change in the next few months as I return home for the Peace Corps, but I can’t loose sight of my goals.
In making progress thus far, did I falter along the way? You bet’cha.
I only just recovered from a very damning month-long derailment that involved a lot of unforeseen stress and heavy stress eating. During that month, I gained back nearly all my previous fat loss. Luckily, my new muscle was able to help me burn the goo back off after a few weeks, but I ended up with almost two months of no progress.
I lost my course but after I paused and regained my bearings, I managed to get myself back on track.
What About Your Resolutions?
Did you set any New Year’s resolutions this year?
Were they SMART goals?
Have you managed to continue to work towards your goals?
If you didn’t make any resolutions, made unwise resolutions, or have fallen off your path, you don’t have to wait until the next New Year rolls around to start again.
You can think of the start of July as New Year’s And A Half and use it as an opportunity to set personal goals that will help you to improve yourself.
And remember, if you get lost along the way: take pause, recollect, then pick yourself off the ground and get going again.
Squirrels don’t make the best company.