Where did my New Year resolutions go?

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New Year Resolutions

The short answer to the question is that much like the New Year resolutions of so many others it’s in the trashcan. This short answer is, of course,  a copout because it is a conclusion empty of any reason. The question is, in essence, not really about the ‘where’ but the ‘why’, and why demands reason.

A New Year resolution is a goal, and as we all know only too well, it’s a goal that is seldom achieved. What the worldwide oversupply of unfulfilled New Year resolutions tells us is that while we are attuned to setting goals, we are also accustomed to not achieving goals, especially those that ‘lack some of our DNA.’ By this I mean goals that we are not really invested in.

I know what to do but don’t do it

Towards the end of November 2016, I wrote a blog entitled ‘I know what to do but don’t do it.’ I suggested then that almost all of us can lay claim to this statement despite having access to libraries full of knowledge relating to whatever problem or issue we were wrestling with at the time. When it comes to health-related issues nowhere is this perhaps more true than when it comes to the subject of weightloss.

We arrive at knowing what to do in order to modify some health-related behaviour by reason and by believing that what we have reasoned is true. It is belief that holds our reasoned knowledge in place – supposedly ‘safe and sound’.  Of course, the minute I don’t do what I know I ought to do then my knowledge has been overcome. At this point my reasoned belief in what I once held to be true, and safe and sound, is no longer reflected in my thoughts, attitudes and actions. Why does this happen?

How and Why

Behavioural science tells us that we are most successful at modifying health-related behaviour by setting SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based.

Most of us tend to focus on the how when it comes to changing behaviour. Consider, for example, the many hundreds of thousands of books and articles written on weightloss; recipe books, diets, meal plans, exercise programmes – and the list goes on. Most of these resources are about the how of losing weight. Few discuss the key issue of  why. The same can be said of most so-called self-help books and programmes. Again the vast majority of the literature is focused on the how. The overemphasis on the how may be one of the reasons why so many weightloss programmes fail.  There are all sorts of tools available to help people achieve their health goals, with most telling us how or what to do.    People are told how to lose weight without ever being encouraged to explore the why question in any depth. 

How has to do with action while why is all about purpose and intent. ‘Intent informs our actions’, said RC Sproul.  If Sproul is correct, then it makes sense that we should first come to grips with the why questions before taking action – implementing the how. The behavioural cornerstones of intent (why) and action (how) are Importance and Confidence.

In crossing the self-care behavioural problem  solution continuum, we need to ask ourselves the key questions contained in the conceptual framework below.

The UpForIt Self-Care Problem Solving Conceptual Framework

Problem Solving

Supporting reasoned knowledge and beliefs

I end up doing what I know I should not do, and not doing what I know I should do, primarily (but not solely) because I’ve allowed my emotions – that most changeable and variable part of whom I am – to undermine and eventually overcome my reasoned beliefs. The question then is, can such a ‘dysfunction’ be remedied and if so how? 

Dr Tim Keller said that ‘We don’t need more books telling us how to live; we need the power to do so’. The power that holds our reasoned knowledge and beliefs in place in the face of emotional turbulence is faith. Faith reinforces belief. CS Lewis had this to say on the subject: ‘Faith…is the art of holding on to things your reason once accepted, in spite of your changing moods…This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why faith is such a necessary virtue…Consequently one must train the habit of faith.’  Lewis is saying that our antidote to preventing failure from becoming final is faith.

Holding on to what we know to be true regarding our condition and understanding why we need to change behaviours that may impact negatively on our health are crucial stages that should precede the how-to stage of any health improvement programme we choose to follow.

At UpForIt, we believe that self-care is the key to improving the health outcomes of people who are at risk for any of the chronic diseases of lifestyle, including being overweight, having high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, etc. If this is where you find yourself, then we would like to help you help yourself by putting you in touch with one of our trained UpForIt health coaches. If you are interested to know more then please email coaching@upforit.co.za        

I’m Dr Peter Hill for UpForIt

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