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New Year’s resolutions are doomed to fail. Now, I know that isn’t my usual glass-half-full attitude, but it’s a dose of reality. A day on our calendar is not the motivation we need to change our behavior. Gyms love getting all of the new members each January. You pay for a year of membership, or your dues every month, and their clubs are packed with hopeful resolution makers. Then, by March, they’re back to their regulars who come daily or on a regular basis. My wife used to work at a Gold’s Gym, so I know this first-hand.

It’s not just about the gym

New Year’s resolutions come in all flavors, it’s not just about getting into shape or losing weight. Maybe you want to travel more or read more books, or a book. Maybe you want to volunteer more or learn a new skill or language. Whatever it is, January 1st is an arbitrary day to start. You’ve probably heard the old adage: “There’s no time like the present.”

Excuses, Excuses!

It’s not that all of those new gym members don’t have good intentions. They do. Whether it was eating too much over the holidays, seeing a friend or relative who lost weight or got into shape, their intentions are sincere. It’s not that learning the new skill wasn’t a true desire. It was. Where the disconnect comes is in the follow-through. Or, rather, the excuses. You didn’t get any more time when you signed up for that gym membership, or committed to volunteering more, or registered for a class. That time has to come from somewhere.

It’s not about time, it’s about priorities

Time isn’t the problem. We all know we have a finite amount of it. The challenge is aligning your priorities with your limited time. I’ve written and spoken about have we have all the time we need, for the things that we prioritize, and this is a perfect time to revisit that. We live in a world of instant gratification. We don’t just want something; we want it NOW! Two-day shipping isn’t fast enough, we want it tomorrow, or even today (cue the drone delivering packages video). That’s fine for some things, but many of our bigger wants and desires will take more time and more discipline.

Starting is the easy part

Getting started is not usually too hard. Sticking with it is hard. Passing up dessert at this meal is easier than passing it up at every meal. I think most of us adhere too closely to the see-food diet – you see it, so you eat it, whether you were hungry or not. Taking the stairs this time is easy. Taking it every time is hard. Maybe you’re a little pressed for time, or you hear the ding of the elevator arriving as you touch the door handle to the stairwell. Going to the gym in January is easy. You just signed up, the gym is buzzing with activity with all of those new members, like you, brimming with anticipation of the new-you.

What’s your motivation?

Many people have failed to quit smoking or lose weight because it was someone else’s idea. It’s not that they didn’t know that not smoking would be better for them, or that losing weight would make them feel better. It’s that it has to be their idea to do it. Their motivation has to come from inside because those outside forces won’t be there every time they smell a freshly lit cigarette or the Cinnabon shop in the mall. Old habits are hard to break.

Born with a sweet tooth

I love desserts. My mother was an amazing baker and I used to help her make cookies when I was a kid. She made cakes and pies, as did her mom, so there was always something sweet in the house. I suffered from the see-food diet at conferences and meetings. During the breaks, there would often be cookies, brownies and other goodies. It’s funny how we aren’t sitting in the meeting thinking “Hey, I could use a brownie right about now.” – that is until we see the tray of brownies.

It’s not a resolution, it’s an order!

Earlier this year my doctor prescribed a gluten-free, less added-sugar diet, to help lower my cholesterol. I’m one of those people that can’t tolerate the cholesterol-lowering drugs, and over the years I’ve tried them all, and homeopathic options as well. One of our sons has been on a gluten-free diet for years, so it wasn’t a huge stretch, at least at home. As many of you know, I travel extensively, which means I eat out, a lot. While it’s a lot easier now than it was 5 years ago, it’s often challenging to find good options. Some restaurants and servers are very aware and accommodating, and others aren’t really sure what gluten-sensitive means (as in the time the waiter brought my salad with croutons after our extensive conversation about gluten-free options).

I shouldn’t, or I can’t?

The turning point for me was the difference between “I shouldn’t have that wonderful, fresh, warm, right out of the oven bread” and “I can’t have that bread.” There had been many times when I told myself not to have the bread, only to decide to have “just one piece.” But now, I can pass on the bread and desserts (which is still difficult at times) because I can’t have it. Fortunately for me I don’t have celiac disease, so cross-contamination in a kitchen isn’t an issue for me, as it is for many of my friends and relatives. It amazes me how I’ve been able to avoid the see-food diet at meetings and conferences. No matter how good the bread smells, or desserts look, I can pass them by. Occasionally they’ll have gluten-free options, and while I appreciate them accommodating me, and others, I find myself falling for the see-gluten-free-food diet and eating things at times when I wasn’t really hungry.

Where is your motivation?

To stick with your resolution, whether on January 1 or any day of the year, you’ll need motivation. It’s one thing to lose 10 pounds before yours or your friend’s wedding, or maybe your high school reunion. What about after that event is over? Is it a lifestyle change, or short-term focus? Is it a marathon, or a sprint? In my book “Your Attitude for Success” I related a story my father had told me, about a man in his cardiac support group (after my Dad had a heart attack at age 45). The man had been out running the morning of the meeting, on a cold, rainy November day. My Dad asked him why he went running that day, when the weather was so nasty. The man said: “If I find an excuse not to run today, I’ll find an excuse not to run when it’s warm and sunny. So, I run every day.”

Are you doing what you know you should be doing?

Have you ever found yourself doing something, maybe clicking through YouTube videos, or scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, and told yourself that you really should be doing something else (whether personally or for work)? Just one more video. Just one more post. And then, another hour has passed. You know what you should be doing, but for some reason, you just can’t get to it. And then other times you drop what you’re doing to get to something more urgent. It’s all about priorities, or excuses.

What’s the worst that can happen?

Negative motivations are stronger than positive ones. In sales and in life fear and guilt are much stronger motivators than love or greed. If I forget my wife’s birthday, fear and guilt will help determine how much I spend to redeem myself (which thankfully I’ve never had to do, at least not for that reason). Most of the time you control your priorities. Other times they get changed for you – if your house was on fire, binge-watching that TV series would become less important. Losing weight is easier if your doctor tells you that you’ll die if you don’t, than if you want to fit into a suit or dress in your closet at an upcoming wedding. You can buy new clothes that fit you now, but you can’t buy a stronger, more fit body overnight (despite what the infomercials claim).

Priorities or excuses?

So, don’t make resolutions on January 1st or any day. Make a change to your priorities. Dig down as to why you want to make the change or take the new step. Think about what will happen if you don’t do it and what could happen if you do. Picture both scenarios and see which you like better. And then, get an accountability buddy, or audience. Have people who can cheer you on and hold you accountable if you don’t do it. Fear and guilt will help motivate you towards the positive outcomes you desire. Seek out mentors who’ve been through the same situation and ask their advice. Get the cold truth about their setbacks, so you know it isn’t going to be easy, but it is going to be worth it. And then, do it! I look forward to you sharing your successes with me.

© 2020 AlanBerg.com & Wedding Business Solutions LLC

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