My family hosts a neighborhood New Year’s Eve party every year. It’s a family affair with parents and kids from preschool to college in attendance. We always wrap up the evening by sharing our resolutions with the group. A few years back my son started videotaping the resolutions and playing them back the following year.
It was eye-opening to revisit those resolutions a year later. Most of us had given up and forgotten about them months earlier. Many of our resolutions had been made on the fly at the party. Others were so restrictive or unpleasant they made us miserable, so we quit.
In fact, research says only eight percent of resolutions are achieved. This is certainly true with our little group of friends.
That’s fine for a party game. But if you want to make real changes in your health, it’s not so great. And a big chunk of New Year’s resolutions are about health – diet, weight loss, exercise, smoking and drinking. So we face a big question: how do we make the lifestyle changes needed to achieve our health goals?
Think like a Couch Potato.
No self-respecting Couch Potato makes investment resolutions for the coming year. Couch Potatoes are playing the long game. They use this time of year to rebalance and bring their portfolio back in line with their long-established goals. This is exactly how the Healthy Couch Potato should use this quiet week at the end of the year – to rebalance health choices and align them with established goals.
The problem with most New Year’s Resolutions is they include big and sweeping lifestyle changes that simply exhaust us. The phenomenon of decision fatigue is at play here. If you have sworn off all sugar for the year but have ready access to an array of sweet treats “for the kids,” you’re going to run out of willpower long before next December.
But we know that the Healthy Couch Potato isn’t into the extremes of the typical New Year’s resolution. He doesn’t punish himself for a failure or quit at the first “bad decision.” Instead, the Healthy Couch Potato lives a life of simple, healthy choices.
But what if you’ve fallen into some bad habits and you need to make changes to stay on track? It’s time to rebalance.
The Heath brothers offer a better way to rebalance than the sudden severe about face of the New Year’s resolution. Remember the driver, the elephant, and the path? That’s how Healthy Couch Potatoes should think about the New Year in the coming days. How do you clear a path that makes it easy to keep the elephant on track?
If you’ve gone off the rails with your diet, for example, spend the next few days clearing a path for yourself. Think of it as Rebalancing Week. No time to cook? Research some simple healthy recipes that are quick to prepare. Stock the pantry accordingly. Or buy a crockpot and adjust your morning routine to throw dinner on before work. Eating too much junk? Clean out the pantry and replace the chips and cookies with healthier choices to satisfy the munchies.
Is exercise your nemesis? Spend this rebalancing week playing with ways to work it into your schedule. Don’t start out training for a marathon; just try a brisk walk at lunch or a quick bike ride before dinner. Be sure you have the shoes and clothes you need, your favorite music on your iPod and anything else to make it easier to get moving.
Keep your own personality and preferences in mind as you do this. If you hate mornings, don’t decide to get up at 5 a.m. for the local boot camp. Your inner elephant will shut that right down. But if you’re a morning person, it may just work.
This rebalancing week is also a good time to take a look at items that need to be managed periodically. Your financial plan is more than your investments, right? You have insurance and wills and powers of attorney. They need to be revisited periodically and put in line with changes in your life or goals. Same thing applies to health goals.
One of the biggest health threats we face is accidental injury, and this week is the perfect time to eliminate any hazards under your control. Check your smoke detectors, be sure rugs are secured, lock up any guns in your possession, make sure your brakes and tires are in good shape, etc.
If you think of this last week of the year as the rebalancing week for the Healthy Couch Potato, you will wake up on the first of January with a path cleared for you and your elephant. The weight of an overly zealous New Year’s resolution on your back will be a thing of the past.
This year I’ll make a resolution at the party to be part of the festivities. Something fun like trying a new food at least once a month or something sanity-preserving like changing the subject every time my mother-in-law brings up politics. But the real preparation for a healthy 2016 will have already been made the previous week in the rebalancing process.
Amy Rogers MD is not a practicing physician and nothing written here should be taken as medical advice from either Amy or AssetBuilder. Medical decisions should be made with care in consultation with your health care provider.