I guess I’m weird.
I love the New Years resolution thing.
It takes courage to say, even privately, “I’m not happy with myself. I need to do better.”
It shows humility and self-awareness. Qualities I respect and admire, especially when much of the world measures worth in followers and Facebook likes.
For that reason, I get a kick out of the newbies getting after it in the gym every January.
They share the same look; one of gritty determination mixed with absolute fear. Like Bambi skidding across the frozen pond, except in trendy runners and wireless headphones.
And they have my respect. I don’t care if they “get in my way” or fail to practice impeccable gym etiquette. I might be bigger and stronger but I sure as hell don’t own the joint.
They’re here, trying to not be another health care statistic. God bless every last one of them, even the guy parked on the leg extension reading the newspaper.
Still, I don’t get too cozy. No “hi, how are ya’s?” from me, and not because I’m a meathead.
It’s because soon, they’re going to be gone. Cause New Years resolutions are useless.
Yes, useless. As are goals.
Most goals (not just the ones made in a drunken haze December 31st) end in failure and disillusionment. At least the way most people approach it.
Here’s the scenario: You’re not happy with something, or at least see room for improvement. So you decide to make it a Goal. (The caps show how important it is.)
You even attach a firm deadline to the Goal, as all the self-help gurus tell you to do.
I know, so far this is white belt shit. So to step up your game, you come up with a list of behaviors or habits that, when performed consistently, should culminate in you reaching your goal.
Smart, but just as ineffective. Because first, you have to get the hell out of your own way.
In my world, the training world, we have an expression: you can’t just keep adding.
Smart coaches know that for every new exercise or technique you include, you need to take away something to keep volume in check. Otherwise, it becomes too big, too complicated, too unwieldy. Since I’m not that smart, I had to learn that the hard way.
It’s the same outside of the gym.
You can’t keep adding new “stuff” to your life, even good stuff – travel, hobbies, people to call, books to read – without first taking something(s) away.
However, what you choose to drop is important. It should be something that either directly opposes what you’re trying to achieve, or sucks productivity like a Hoover, like that Candy Crush game some of you keep inviting me to.
Existential philosopher Kierkegaard referred to it as “unfucking yourself.” Okay, he didn’t say that, but here’s how it works.
Let’s say you’ve come up with a few goals that when achieved will make your life a bit better, perhaps more meaningful.
Now for every goal, you need an actionable behavior “to do” to help make it happen, and more importantly, at least one tangible thing to send packing — an Unfuck Myself Act (UFA).
Here’s a two examples from this past New Years, which I made right before a few dozen watered down drinks.
One goal (or resolution) is mental, the other physical.
I made others too but my blogs are long enough. Plus I was drinking so, you know.
Goal #1: Re-grow my artsy side.
Actionable Behavior: Read 30 minutes a night, before bed. Preferably nothing with the words “bigger arms” in the subheading. (This will be hard.)
I spent a lot of years immersed in literature. I even have the degree to prove it. It’s back home, hanging on the bathroom wall precariously above the toilet, my curious attempt at either symbolism or irony (it’s been a while since graduation).
Since then I’ve invested more time in growing my body and understanding how it works. While I don’t know everything, I do know enough that I can afford to crack open something not written by a PhD or MS (or worse, a CSCS).
UFA: Limit Facebook to 15 minutes a day or less. As useful as it can be, I think somewhere in California a group of billionaire geeks in Gap wardrobes is gathered around a massive computer, giggling. “Look, they’re all arguing again, and no one is getting laid. We have our revenge!”
Goal #2: Get in the best shape of my life.
Actionable Behavior: Be a robot for 12 weeks.
A robot is trainer-speak for a client that will do anything asked of them, without question. They’re the tragicomedy of fitness, dedicated souls that willingly swap their sanity for perseverance and suffering. And hopefully a plastic trophy.
Tell a robot to eat only chicken and broccoli for 16 weeks and he’ll ask, “Can I still use Mrs. Dash?”
As a result, robots often endure the worst of bodybuilding’s n=1 experiments, of which I’m too embarrassed to type much less admit having participated in.
Robot behavior can lead to truly spectacular rebounds too, as anyone who’s been in a Krispy Kreme immediately following a bodybuilding contest can attest to.
But here’s the thing: Robots often get the best results from their training and nutrition programs.
The number one saboteur of diet adherence isn’t a lack of willpower or knowledge – it’s anxiety.
Too many choices, too many gurus, and too much (often conflicting) information.
This isn’t an issue for robots – they don’t ask for detailed explanations or a litany of choices. They just trust implicitly and execute. So they’re far less anxious, and as a result, more successful.
I can personally vouch for this. The times I’ve been happiest with my physique have been when I’ve let someone else take the wheel and just focused on the doing part.
It didn’t even matter if the plan I was following was “ideal” – as long as “the big rocks” were there and I executed to the best of my abilities, I did well. Better than I could on my own, strangely enough.
UFA: Spend only 5 minutes a day thinking about my own training and diet.
Left unchecked, I can invest a LOT of energy into my own plan — way more than necessary. This year, especially as I find my own coaching business growing, I’m going to let someone else take the wheel.
Whomever I choose just better remember to include arm days.
So quit goal setting. Stop adding and start reducing.