Put the Resolve Back in Your Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions.  Everybody has them.  Even the cynical “anti-resolutionists” can’t help pondering the usual questions.  “What can I change this year about myself?”  “What goals did I not reach this past year that I want another shot at?”  And for most people, one of those “non-resolution” resolutions has something to do with physical health.  Maybe it’s to eat less, or possibly to exercise more.  Unfortunately, I think most of our physical health resolutions are plagiarized from last year’s list.  Sure we have the best of intentions.  And we often start strong only to burn out well short of December.  I’m sure there are many reasons for this.  Regardless of these excuses, I would like to offer you 5 simple tips for successful health-related resolutions for the coming year:

1: Set multiple short term goals.  Split your year up into segments (quarters, months, weeks) and set goals for each segment.  This is helpful both for when you are knocking it out of the park or haven’t even gotten off the bench.  For those doing well, it is great motivation to keep it up.  For those failing miserably, it is a great time to refocus without feeling like “what’s the point?”.

2: Keep the goals attainable.  Be reasonable here.  No need to correct 30 years of bad habits in 3 months.  I’m by no means against optimism; but even more important to me is success.  I would rather see you set a goal for yourself that is too easy than to fail at one that only a chosen few could possible reach.  Feeling like you are successful breeds a desire to do more, and feeling like you are never going to reach the mark makes you just want to stop trying.

3: Simplify.  Don’t make your goals overly complicated.  Resist the tendency to try to change too many things at once.  Pick one or two things that are easy to assess.  You may need a complete overhaul in your diet, but start with the easiest changes that will make the biggest impact.  Maybe it’s “no more sodas”, or “less fast food”, or “start an “online personal training program“.  Even one minor change over time can make a major difference.

4: Keep track of your progress.  At regular intervals, reassess your progress.  Maybe that’s weighing yourself once a week or keeping a food journal.  Make it specific to the goal, easy to measure, and WRITE IT DOWN.  That way you can see trends as the year progresses.

5: Share the burden.  Find an accountability partner.  A friend, mentor, personal trainer.  Someone you trust who will be honest, yet encouraging.  Not someone who will enable you and make excuses with you, but someone who will be understanding and will gladly share the journey.   Even better would be someone who has a similar goal they are striving towards.  Then you could meet each other’s needs and lift each other up!

While these tips can work for any area of life improvement, they work especially well for health-related goals because those are usually pretty easy to measure.  And while these are by no means a guarantee for success, they will put you on the best path.  But remember, it is still up to you to take the steps.  Happy Travels!

J

When the Going Gets Tough…

I used to think that if I tried something and I received resistance, or a push-back against accomplishing what I set out to do, that it was somehow a “sign” that it wasn’t the right thing to do.  I think that many of us feel the same way, especially if we set out to on a path that we are not sure is the right one.  The road starts to get bumpy and we immediately start to question whether we made the right choice.  But one important lesson I’ve learned, especially from my adoption experiences, is that the “rightness” of a decision has little or nothing to do with how difficult the result might be.  In fact, I believe that the more difficult the road, the more “right” it really is.  In battle, the closer you get to the enemy the more the bullets start whizzing over your head.  Head in the wrong direction and you’ll probably find the road pretty easy going.  Please be careful when someone tells you “this is an easy way to lose weight”.  Chances are the road is not taking where you really want to go.  Or, “what you’re doing is really hard, and I think God is telling you that you should stop and try something else.”  Standing tall in the face of adversity is a true sign of courage.  Don’t give up.   When the going gets tough, the tough keep going.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.

J

Tootsie Pops and Sand Dunes- Setting Short-Term Goals

The marketing strategy for Tootsie Pops, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?”, reminded me of a truth as it relates to our physical and spiritual lives.  We have already established that life is a journey.  A succession of smaller steps leading to a destination.  But to maintain direction, it is essential that we have milestones.  Markers to show the progress that we are making.  Especially when the destination is very far away.  A couple of months ago I was hiking with the family in the sand dunes of coastal Oregon.  We parked at the trailhead and began the journey along a well-marked path.  But it wasn’t long before the trail opened up to a sea of sand as far as I could see.  I stood for a moment, surveying the landscape wondering which way the trail went.  The constant wind had blown away all traces of footprints that would have marked the path.  Having a general idea of which direction to go, I climbed the first dune to the top and examined the surroundings.  Off in the distance, breaking up the smooth, blonde landscape was the dark, sharp image of a wooden pole stuck in the sand with a blue stripe at the top.  This was our only marker to show us the trail.  So down the dune we headed towards the pole.  Once we reached it, we again made our survey and were able to spot the next pole in the distance.  It was in this pole-to-pole fashion that we were able to reach our final destination, a beautiful, secluded beach.  Without these markers , we would have been walking blind, never quite sure if we were heading in the right direction or if we were making progress towards our destination.

In order to reach a goal in your journey towards optimal physical and spiritual health, it is essential to have these markers.  Smaller, more achievable goals that when combined together, lead the way to your destination.  Instead of looking at the 30 pounds that you need to lose, break it into more manageable 5-pound segments.  If you are wanting to read the Bible cover-to-cover for the first time, set a goal of 1 book a month or one chapter a day.  If you are starting from a position of not exercising at all, then instead of focusing on a weight loss goal it might be beneficial to just set a goal of exercising once, twice or three times a week for the first 2 weeks.  Achieve that goal first before moving on to the more difficult ones.  Same with the Bible goal.  Start with committing to read the Bible 3 times a week, two times a week, or even one time a week.  Then, reward yourself when you reach a goal.  It is an accomplishment!  When you stand on top of the dunes and see the ocean way off in the distance, it is sometimes easy to get discouraged because it looks so far away and you can see the many dunes that need to be climbed before you get to the end.  However, if you can set your sights on the one marker in front of you, once you reach it you will realize that the next marker doesn’t look that far away, and you will find the strength to make it to that next marker.  Like the Tootsie Pop, no one knows how many licks it will take.  Just take it one lick at a time.

J

The Power of Small Changes

Think of the last time you decided to make a complete overhaul of something you wanted to change in your life.  How did that turn out for you?  What about the time you were going to wake up 1 hour earlier every morning to read your Bible and pray?  How long did that last?  Did you make it a week?  What about the time you cut out all extra activities in your life to spend more time at home with your family?  How long did it take for “important” things to start creeping back in?  I applaud those of you that recognize that it is time to make some changes in your life.  That is the first, and possibly the most important step in the process of change.  But where you go from there is key to whether or not your pursuit will end in success or failure.

In the area of health and fitness, I have found that more often people approach change with an “all-or-nothing” mentality.  It’s time to start exercising, so they get an expensive gym membership and commit to 6 days a week working out.  Or it’s time to start eating right, so they decide to eat a diet of 1000 calories consisting of nothing but rice cakes and water.  How long do these changes last?  A week?  Two weeks?  A month if you’re lucky.  Most people set out desiring permanent changes, but approach it with the mentality of an actor or actress prepping for a temporary movie role.  And the results are nearly always the same.  All progress, if any was even made to begin with, is lost as soon as the individual “burns out” and is no longer able to keep up the pace.

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF SMALL CHANGES OVER TIME! 

Small adjustments that are readily achievable create habits that last.  Did you know that by removing one soda a day from your diet, you could lose over 15 lbs in a year?  Did you know that by cutting the average dinner portion in half you could lose nearly 30 lbs in a year?  Forget the wholesale overhaul that you and I both know won’t last.  Find something small in your diet that you can change.  Something that doesn’t need to be there, and that you know you can live without and start there.  Be patient and you will start to see real changes.  Lasting changes.

J

Come Out of Physical Retirement

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. “  Ephesians 2:10

The term “walk” implies movement.  Not a single action, but a series of actions carried out over time.   We are to be continually engaged in the work that the Lord has for us here on Earth.  He created us to be actively engaged in the world around us, bringing the hope and love of Christ to the hopeless and unloved.  There is no indication that this journey has an end.  No quota to fill.  No years of service to receive our pension.  No retirement age.  Many believe that once they reach a certain age, they are entitled to stop working.  They’ve put in their time.  But the Kingdom of God not only needs, but requires those that are mature in the faith to be actively engaged with the younger workers in mentoring and service.

In the same way, many believe that exercise is for the young.  I hear things like “I used to be able to do that”, or “I wish I could exercise but I just can’t anymore”.  “It’s harder than it used to be.”  As an aging individual, there are two reasons to fight this mentality.  One is what was stated above.  There is still work to be done.  The aging population plays a pivotal role in shaping the generations to come, and they need to remain sharp and focused.  Their physical health plays a significant role in this task.  As we stated before, service is active, and requires work.  Whether it is being able to stand for long periods of time without pain, carry out physically demanding tasks, or have the energy to display vigor and passion in your work, they healthier and stronger you are physically, the better you will be able to carry out the work that God has for you to do.

The second reason is stated right in the excuse, “it’s harder than it used to be”.  When you are young, the muscles, tendons, and bones are naturally stronger, more flexible, and can handle the stresses put on them much easier.  As you age, the muscles get weaker, the tendons and ligaments get drier and less pliable, and the bones get more brittle.  Regular exercise combats all of these degradations of aging.  You might have been able to get away with not exercising when you were younger, just relying on youth to protect you.  But as an older adult it becomes not only recommended, but an absolute essential that you stay healthy and physically active.  It is the only way that you will be able to stay strong, energetic, and pain-free, all characteristics of a vibrant life of service.  Don’t throw in the towel.  God still has much for you to do.  Come out of physical “retirement” and get this journey moving again!

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.   Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Matthew 9:35-38.

J