‘Tis the season of New Year’s Resolutions so what better time to cut out all the b.s. about what I tell myself about how easy or how hard something is going to be. 

The statistics are staggering about the failure rate of New Year’s Resolutions (NYR). Check out any of the personal development people and they’re likely to tell you that somewhere around 80% of them go out the window in the first two weeks or so of January. After that I think the attrition rate is around 85% of the remainder over the next 11 months. What this means is that the success rate of NYR’s is somewhere in the single digits as a percentage. Not good, and I’m as guilty as the next person of making them and breaking them.

They’ve taken various forms over the years but almost always involved one or all of three general areas: career, health or relationships. Not surprisingly this very blog or some other form of writing aspiration was an NYR more than once. I’ve resolved to lose weight, work out, eat healthy and finally get fully prepared for the weeklong bicycle tour I take each summer across Nebraska. None of my NYRs have really “stuck”. Sure, I’ve learned some things in the process and I’ve had some small, fleeting successes but ultimately I go back to my old habits. And you know what? I think the root cause can be traced back at least partially to the subject of this week’s quitting: Lying to myself about how hard or how easy something is going to be.

Let me start off by saying I don’t count myself as particularly unique in this matter. I think all of us lie to ourselves about the ease or difficulty of something we want to achieve. Think about it for a second. If I tell myself that something is really easy I can procrastinate or put it off because there’s nothing to it. Anytime I want I can turn my attention and focus on that thing and just knock it out, no sweat. Ever said this to yourself? “Cutting back on food that’s bad for me is really no big deal; it’s just a matter of making better choices. I can do that anytime. Later on this (pick a season or timeframe) I’ll totally start eating more salads, more veggies and drinking more water.” Now you may be saying to yourself, “How did he just read my mind? Is he part of some alien life force sent here from the planet Imblarto?” No, I am not an alien. The truth is (and we’re talking about truth here) that came right out of my knucklehead brain. But the lying goes the other way also.

I know this because I’ve looked at something, maybe even the same thing and gone the other liar route. Have you ever said this or a variation of it to yourself: “Eating healthy is a complex thing and I need to make sure I do it right. I should read a book or buy a scale to weigh my food or install an app on my phone to track calories or consult a Tibetan monk before I get started. I will figure that out and do that/those thing(s) and then get right at it.” Once again I am not stealing your thoughts. Those are all me, baby! So why all the lying?

Well, if you’re reading closely or just still reading (and I have to assume you are or you wouldn’t be down this far in the text) you might have noticed one thing that these two forms of lying have in common. Yeah, you got it; it’s procrastination! Sounds kind of like a 70’s board game, doesn’t it? It’s the overconfidence or insecurity that keeps us mired where we are or allows us to make the thing we want to accomplish dependent on doing something else we’re almost certain to never do. I know it’s not too encouraging but I also know it’s human nature not just Doug-nature. Little note to self, you can totally hyphenate anything and spell check will accept it. Hyphenation, the silver bullet, who knew?! But I digress.

At this point you may be saying, “So what’s the point?” and you’d be completely justified. Because if this is our nature, then how do we change human nature? The truth (see how I worked that in there again) is we can’t change our nature any more than we can sustain some 750 calorie diet or working out every morning at 3:30. It’s going to be a struggle so we may as well just own it. Call a spade a spade and resolve to just do it. (Nike really had something there, huh?) We’re going to have to keep trying but before we even start trying we/I have to recognize that just getting started, taking the first step is the key. It won’t be as easy as I might like to tell myself but it probably won’t be as hard. The key is to concentrate on one thing at a time and take the next step and a big part of that is looking at whatever it is honestly.

So, that’s this Thursday’s thing to quit. I’ll quit telling myself things are going to be really hard and I need to overanalyze or over prepare to start and I’ll quit telling myself things are going to be a breeze so I can blow them off until “someday”. Wish me luck.

Now I know I’m not the only one to ever do this sort of mental gymnastics event in my head. Heck, I’ve scored perfect “tens” so many times even the Russian judge has had to give me credit. If you’ve done one of these things and learned from it later and you’re willing to share, please comment below.


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