By Robert Cheeke, author of Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness — The Complete Guide to Building Your Body on a Plant-Based Diet — plant-based nutrition certified - Cornell University
If there is one thing we can all count on, as predictable as fireworks on the fourth of July, it is that Americans will set their sights on new goals for the New Year. This is tradition, like a family gathering around the holidays. It's what we do. Though setting New Year's resolutions are something we say we're committed to year after year, how sincere is the vow really? When was the last time you achieved your New Year's resolution? When did your efforts continue past the first 30 days into the New Year? How many times did you find one excuse after the other to tell yourself why next year is a better time than now to focus on that goal?
When we consciously decide what our New Year's resolutions are going to be and reveal them to those around us, most of our goals tend to be aimed at health and fitness. This could mean the cessation of a bad habit or the beginning of a fitness program, or even a dramatic change in diet, all in the name of increasing our happiness. That's what most New Year's resolutions are really about. They're not ultimately about losing weight, quitting smoking, making more money or being a better friend or partner to someone. They are about the biggest goal of all, the pursuit of happiness.
Perhaps the reason many of us fail to achieve our annual goals we promise is because we're working toward something for the wrong reasons. If we're trying to achieve a temporary goal, it is easy to either attain it and then fall back into the same patterns that led us to want to create a change in the first place, or give up because it can be put off for another time. Focusing on arbitrary amounts of weight to lose, numbers of calories to consume or burn, a personal best time in a race, or any other like goal, loses sight of the overall objective, which is to find happiness. The reasons we strive for these specific goals of weight loss, change in diet and health habits, or financial gain is because we're often unhappy and we think those achievements will shift our life in a positive direction. The truth is, the typical (and there seem to be only a few that most of us share) New Year's resolutions are masks, covering the underlying issues involving self-improvement.
Rather than trying to burn fat and build bigger biceps while riding your bike more and spending quality time with your dog, think about finding a deep meaning in every one of those areas. Why do you want to do those things? What will achievement in those areas mean to you and how will it improve your life? For example, rather than focusing on losing 20 pounds, how about finding sincere meaning in exercise and incorporating it into your daily or weekly routine, adding year-round happiness to your life? Rather than creating a resolution to fix one area of life, why not focus on discovering your passions and incorporating those activities into your life as often as possible? Rather than dragging yourself to the gym when you don't want to go, find the types of exercises you do love, such as dancing, skiing, swimming, playing basketball, going for a bike ride, or walking with a partner, friend, family member or animal companion. Find what moves you and inspires you to want to be healthy and active.
Motivation shouldn't just show up at the end of December and fade away in February or March. Identifying the meaningful things in your life, incorporating the activities that you're passionate about and prioritizing time to experience those things on a regular basis is a much more effective way to achieve long-term happiness. Your personal best isn't the result of working toward the same few goals that everyone else has. You're at your best when you're engaged in meaningful activities for the right reasons, on your own terms, on a regular basis, adding joy to your life and to those around you.
There is no logical reason to begin anew and set your sights on a brighter future at the beginning of the year. We have the beginning of each month, each week and each day — all of these options are just as appropriate starting positions for your own pursuit of happiness. I suggest today is the perfect day to find your new motivation, discover your own passions and create your personal best.
Happy New Year, no matter what day it is. Today is your new beginning. You can and will achieve because you are now pursuing your goals for all the right reasons.
Since many New Year's resolutions have to do with health and fitness, here are five simple actions to take to ensure you'll be on the right track, all year long:
Healthful Tips for the Holidays
- Eat whole plant foods and minimize consumption of processed and refined foods, even during the holidays.
- Start your day with a walk in the morning and finish your day with a walk in the evening. This will help burn fat by exercising on an empty stomach in the morning and will burn calories after consuming our typically most calorically-dense meal in the evening.
- Meditate or practice deep breathing, focusing on your breath and being present for 15-30 minutes (or more) a day.
- Stay active even during the colder months. Winter means colder weather, but you can still find ways to stay active by taking up indoor sports, going to a gym, or adding layers of clothing. Don't let the seasons dictate your level of activity.
- Do something nice for someone this time of year. Prepare a healthy meal for someone in need, help keep animal companions warm during the winter months, be a supporter of other people's goals, and give sincere compliments when you see hard work paying off. Smile often and see how that helps support your own enthusiasm for your own goals this season.