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  December 22, 2011 
The Anti Resolution 

"Plan for the rough spots in advance" 

By: Lorraine Esposito

As 2011 comes to an end, it’s time for the New Year’s Resolution ritual. Since most people fail to achieve their resolutions (88% to 97% of us give up), how about this year you try something different? For 2012 declare your anti-resolutions as well. In the words of Denis Waitley,

                         “Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.”

 An anti-resolution has to do with planning for the worst, but not in the sense that most people might think. I find that most people over plan for the worst scaring themselves in the process. This is disaster for a worthy goal, because fear shrinks goals; and if it doesn’t shrink the goal before you start, it will shrink the amount of time you’ll spend trying to achieve it. People are all-too-ready to give up on a dream at the first sign of trouble, so over-planning for the worst, in effect, just prepares them to accept defeat early. Maybe that’s why so many of us give up on our dreams. I think planning for the worst should support your worthy goal rather than scare you away from it.

Isaac Was Right
When you’re attempting to achieve something great, you will encounter Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion: The Law of Reciprocal Action. It states, “To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.” In 1687 Newton only applied his theory to objects in motion; but since then the meaning has been proven valid for all things in the universe. In short, it means that, for everything there is its opposite: Good has bad, light has dark, etc. That’s what the anti-resolution is―the opposite of your resolution. Since you can’t have something for nothing, why not plan for the worst and use it to support your goal? Those signs of trouble can be indicators of success, not failure. I’ll explain using the number-one New Year’s Resolution: losing weight.

I’m gonna lose weight this year!
Jane resolves to lose 40 pounds and declares her intention to her friends and family. She plans for a healthy lifestyle, which includes changes in eating, shopping, exercise and leisure activities. At first, everyone is in support of Jane and gives her encouragement. She decides to eat at home for a while because she feels more in control of portion sizes. She has made space in her schedule for exercise 4 times each week and wants leisure activities that are active and don’t revolve around food. She reads books on nutrition, exercise and self-esteem and has joined a support group that meets once each week. All of these changes are very important for Jane to achieve her goal and, objectively, all her friends and family support her. But they begin to act differently toward Jane.

You’re no fun anymore
Some of her friends feel left out because Jane sometimes chooses the gym over a get-together at Starbucks. Excited by the information she is learning, she starts sharing tidbits about nutrition and exercise with her friends, but they aren’t interested and begin to roll their eyes and make small biting comments about “Ms. Health Freak,” or they start calling her “Janie Craig.” When Jane loses her first 10 pounds and asks her friends to celebrate with her by shopping for a new pair of jeans, they are all too busy. Later she finds that they went out to Joe’s All-You-Can-Eat BBQ Buffet without her, instead.

Jane feels depressed and isolated by her friends and even her family, who tells her that she was fine just the way she was and say that she’s no fun anymore. She is lonely eating at home and is tired of cooking for one. Her depression makes it hard to maintain a positive attitude about her diet and even about her success. She doesn’t feel very successful because she doesn’t have people to share the success with. When she wants to go out for a walk or a bike-ride rather than watch TV, she gets nervous and feels intimidated because she doesn’t have anyone to go with her. What will happen to Jane and her worthy goal? The same thing that happens to most people―85%, in fact. She is likely to re-gain all the weight plus 2 extra pounds.

Going into this endeavor, her only idea of the worst-case scenario was another failed attempt to take control of her life. Guess what she sees now? Yep―another failed attempt to take control of her life. It’s all just too hard. But that’s not what I see. Because I see the anti-resolutions.

Birds of a feather probably weigh the same
Let’s back up and look at where Jane is probably starting from. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine tracked the impact social networks have on weight. Over the 32-year study, the researches discovered a 57% increase in your risk of obesity if you have a friend who is, or who becomes, obese. The risk is dramatically increased to 171% if you have mutual close friends who are, or who become, obese. So it’s very likely that Jane’s friends are overweight too. As Jane loses weight, her friends might think that they look bigger now compared to Jane, and start to resent her for the courage she has to do something they aren’t able to do just yet. Jane’s planning for the worst might have considered this fact, so that when the small signs of resentment appeared, she wouldn’t have been surprised by them; in fact, she might even have considered them a small sign of success. If Jane prepared for the worst―friction in her friendships―she would have a better chance of keeping her friendships as she continued to lose weight.

Cooking for one
Jane’s environment includes influences beyond her friends and family. The places with which she is familiar and in which she feels comfortable may not be supportive of her new idea of health, and she’ll need to make changes. It’s likely that, if Jane eats out, she has grown accustomed to being served portions suitable for 2 or more people. In the last 20 years, a typical bagel has grown in size and calorie content from 3 inches and 140 calories to 6 inches and 350 calories; similarly, sodas that were packaged in 6 ½ ounce servings and 85-calorie containers are now 20 ounces with 250 calories. Her decision to have more meals at home is wise, but it takes a whole lot more effort. She’ll need to make time and have enough energy for food shopping and for meal planning and preparation. This can be a huge change in lifestyle for many. According to the United Stated Department of Agriculture, nearly half of our food expenditures go toward dining out, and over one-third of us are eating out at least 2 to 3 times each week. Planning for the worst here―feeling overwhelmed by food shopping, meal planning and meal preparation―she would see her overwhelmed feeling as a sign that she is doing it right. If she wasn’t feeling burdened, it might mean she was still eating out too much.

The environment always wins
One more area for which Jane would be wise to plan is her leisure activities. The importance of creating healthy environments includes the need for changes in activity levels. According to The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity, people are advised to “reduce time spent watching television and in other sedentary behaviors” and to “build physical activity into regular routines.” Since women spend an average of 5.25 hours per day watching TV and, as a nation, we are spending 13.9 billion minutes on Facebook alone (that’s up 700% from last year), a change here will certainly mean a radical change in behavior. It’s likely that Jane will feel anxious as she leaves behind the familiar and tries new, more active things. If unprepared, Jane might mistake her anxiousness about changing her routine as a feeling forewarning doom. But properly prepared, Jane can see that, if she wasn’t feeling out of sorts a little, it might mean she hadn’t changed her routine enough.

Sometimes bad is good
When anyone makes changes in his or her life, the parts of the old environment that supported the old ways of acting won’t feel the same; they will probably feel uncomfortable for a while. Is that a bad thing? Or is it, instead, really a good indication that the person is on the right track? Had Jane prepared herself for the worst by planning her anti-resolutions, she would have seen the feedback from her environment as signs of progress. True, it feels bad to be isolated from your friends and to have anxious and overwhelmed feelings. But it doesn’t have to derail your worthy goal. Being prepared for the worst makes it possible for you to plan your transitions so that sticking it out is easier.

So this New Year’s Eve, declare a worthy goal. Craft a long and detailed list of all the amazing benefits you’ll enjoy as a result. The more detailed the list, the clearer the vision and motivation you’ll create. Then, spend some time on the New Year’s Anti-Resolution list. List all the “bad” things that are likely to happen as you make changes. I don’t recommend making this list bright and colorful, but I do suggest you give it deep thought. Then, as you go about making changes, when you hit the inevitable rough spots, you’ll remember that you anticipated them―and you might even welcome them as signs of success.

Related Articles: Old Year’s Resolutions, Fat is Like the Flu, Change, Can’t Lose Weight

  Email Lorraine with your question


 This article was originally published on eZine in 2009.


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