Happy New Year!
Hopefully you survived the holidays without too much deviation. But even if you didn’t, there is something magical about a new year. It’s a new chance to start over and recalibrate yourself and your direction. To me it kinda feels like getting out of a long shower. Whatever I did yesterday has been totally washed away and now I’m all clean and ready for a fresh start.
This is why so many people set New Year’s Resolutions. Especially on the heels of whatever deviations took place over the holidays, it makes sense to react with commitments to do something new. Some set vague goals that last days, others last weeks or even months, and an amazing few have the specificity and the discipline to carry their resolutions through the whole year.
Historically I would be in the “New Year’s Resolutions are foolish” camp. I believed that it makes more sense to set “New Day Resolutions” so you’re not forever waiting for a new year. But four years ago my mentality shifted.
My friend, Laura Decker, introduced me to LifeChurch.tv and pointed me to a 4-part series about starting your year. In that series, Pastor Craig chose a word, a phrase, a verse, and a discipline to define his year. (He has a page about this process here.) Over the last four years this process has become more personalized to me but the “Word” of the year continues to shape and define me and has led to some awesome progress in my life.
2016 was the year of Core Strength. It was all about learning to be centered in myself, stop taking everything personally, invest in my physical self, master the basics of my job, and so on. Honestly, 2016 was a pretty stellar year for me, punctuated at the end with a jackpot win in Arizona. I made more income, achieved more goals, and grew more personally than in any year previously.
Building on that momentum, I started in early December to think about 2017, eventually settling on the word “Purpose” because I feel it’s time to focus and be intentional about who I am becoming, where I am going, and the Legacy I am creating. I’m pretty stoked about that word and what it will mean for this year!
With the word selected, it was time to set some goals… many of which took effect right away. For example, one goal is to write twice a week (either journal or blog) and so this is one of three blogs that are in process and should come out this week. They should be more consistent going forward.
But while I was setting those goals, I did something that I haven’t done in a while and I was quickly reminded why I don’t do this… I set a goal that I planned to start in the future. More specifically, I decided that I would do a Whole30 starting the day after Christmas.
So why is that a problem? Mardi Gras Mentality.
Quick culture lesson for those who don’t know where Mardi Gras comes from…
- The Catholic church has a 40-day fast called Lent leading into Easter.
- The night before Lent starts, people started “one last time” style partying.
- This last-chance debauchery grew into what we now know as Mardi Gras.
Here’s how that played out in my life. Christmas Eve I set out for my parent’s house with a “my super strict diet starts tomorrow” mentality. I absolutely love my parents but their house is about the worst place on earth to be if you are trying to eat junk in moderation. For example, in addition to our stockings, Santa (Mom) leaves this display out for us to share:
And this is the centerpiece while we play games (yes, those are chocolate covered raisins… like a pound of them).
There is literally candy or junk food in basically every room of the house and several closets. And the food in the fridge … let’s just say I’d have to bring my own food to eat Whole30 there.
On Thanksgiving, as a treat, I had a piece of pizza and it was the first since starting with Donovan in June. On Christmas day, I ate five pieces of pizza… and 10 McNuggets… and an iced late with whip cream… and… well more cookies and candy than I can articulate. And then there was the excess related to Christmas Dinner.
Keep in mind, I don’t eat sugar or sweets, never really consume bread or starch, and my body doesn’t process dairy well. Let’s just say that my stomach hurt pretty bad the next morning. But that’s not the worst penalty for this behavior.
See, all that eating is a breeding ground for guilt and shame, two emotions that quickly lead me to justifying bad decisions… after all, I’m already a failure. As a testament to how much I have grown in 2016, neither one of those really were an issue the day after Christmas!
But that kind of eating also awakens some hungers… like crazy cravings for sweets and chocolate and salt and fat and junk. Mindless cravings that really tripped me up trying to follow this perfect meal plan (Whole30 is completely intolerant of any variance). So just a few nibbles of something sweet and then it’s like “oops, I guess I’ll start tomorrow…” and for good measure, how about a few more of those chocolate protein bars before bed…
Then it was Tuesday and without realizing what I was doing, I put sweetener in my tea. “I’ll start this afternoon.” Then I grabbed some nuts and started eating… oops, peanuts are off limits. “Well, I guess I will start tomorrow.”
And then it was Wednesday. I woke up and worked out and packed my food and was on track doing great… then we get the email “Bill is going to buy our whole team drinks from Summer Moon.” I am such an addict to that Dirty Almond Chi… and it’s free… and I can start tomorrow…
I literally hit “send” on the email with my order from Summer Moon when my phone buzzed. It was a text from Donovan:
Today is the Tomorrow you promised yourself Yesterday.
That text gave me the push I needed to get on track and stay on track. All I can say is I’m glad it didn’t go one more day. My birthday is the 27th and, while I don’t want to go crazy, it would be nice to have some honey in my tea!
So what causes this Mardi Gras Mentality?
I think it’s kinda like the money I won in Arizona. Technically the money hasn’t hit my account yet, but I’ve already spent $4k one place, $100 somewhere else, and tomorrow we are going to buy clothes with $1K set aside as the budget. I am spending because I am confident the money is coming.
And that’s the same mentality that comes to me the day before a diet. I “know” that I am going to be really good starting tomorrow… so what’s a little deviation now?
The difference is math. My math with my winnings is very clear. Set aside 35% for taxes, then one % to savings, another % to giving, and a third % to fun. I decided the numbers before I went so when I won the jackpot it was just multiplying by a bigger number.
The math with my food isn’t that simple. How do you calculate how many cookies you can eat based on 30 days of clean eating? You don’t and so it’s easy to justify one more.
Ok, enough rambling. What’s the point?
If you can in any way avoid it, don’t set disciplines to start in the future! This is dangerous.
Where that’s unavoidable (ex, Christmas) go in with a plan. Thanksgiving I had a plan and I had a great time and I felt great when I got back to Austin because I had successfully navigated the “grey” area. Christmas I had no plan … and so I set myself up for failure.
Here’s my other point. I’m going to live! Even this morning in church I had a woman come up and tell me she can tell I’m losing weight. So no matter how bad those days seem to have been, no matter how much I wonder if I’ve gained some weight, I’m making progress and moving forward and it’s all just part of the story.
So no matter how great or terrible your last weeks of December were, why not start now (not tomorrow, just start now) and make this a new chapter? Your future self will thank you.