Crowding Out in 2018
We’ve all made those grandiose New Year’s promises, even knowing their fateful doom from the outset. Notwithstanding, most of us start the year off with genuine sincerity and an intent for better bodies, minds, and careers in the year ahead. How then do we so quickly lose motivation to maintain our “resolutions” and then settle back into old routines?
We know the pattern well: gym crowds surge in January, only to start waning thin again mid-February. Whatever the resolution be, either the sense of urgency goes away or its magnitude overwhelms, and the behavioral change we once sought gets shelved either indefinitely, or until next January. The Winter Season is especially tough, when many of us struggle most to maintain any resolve, no less get out of bed.
Our strides for personal progress succeed when we make ourselves the priority, period. Even still, no real success is gained on sheer optimism alone. A common pitfall is that we have too restrictive a focus on what we can’t have, can no longer do, or want to exclude, rather than what we can have more of, want to do and want to attract more of into our lives.
Let’s examine one of the most-common New Year’s resolutions – to lose weight. In this effort, most everyone has a long list of foods in their heads of what they are not allowed to eat. What if instead, we focused on just a list of beneficial foods to incorporate into our diets? ‘Crowding out,’ a term coined by the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, refers to the natural process that happens when you add more of the good stuff in first: the more healthy foods you add to your existing diet, the less room you’ll have for junk. Literally, we can crowd out the bad by just focusing on what we want more of, until we reach a balanced diet that is sustainable. This strategy need not only apply to what we eat.
Take this one step further and examine the life-giving foods that are not on our plates, such as healthy relationships, regular physical activity, a fulfilling career and a spiritual practice. Ask whether these ‘foods’ are in enough abundance to fill your soul and satisfy your hunger for life. Again, when we feel satiated and in balance, we supplement less, and what no longer serves us will lose ground.
It’s not too late to revise our 2018 ‘resolutions’ into personal goals to ‘crowd out’ the unwanted with more of the wanted. Rather than lofty resolutions, set goals that are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely. Most importantly, as you progress towards your goals, continuallyR re-evaluate them for relevance, make adjustments when necessary, and recognize and reward the smaller successes along the way.
Ultimately, the question we need ask ourselves is whether our personal goals truly inspire us, or whether they are items best kept for a ‘to-do’ list. Long-term success of any goal depends on the formation of positive and sustainable habits that bring enjoyment and enrichment into our lives. Another key determinant of our success is how do we react when we slip up? Whatever the misstep, what matters most is how we handle it. Don’t let your own humanity derail you – accept the hiccup and get right back on track.