Does anybody remember when Jennifer Hudson was the face of Weight Watchers’ campaign back in 2010? I remember watching her belt it out in those commercials, strutting her 80-pound weight loss all over the screen, looking fabulous and full of life. But more importantly, I remember her talking about the key difference between Weight Watchers and other weight loss programs. Unlike other programs, Weight Watchers isn’t a crash diet or a quick fix; instead, it’s a slow, ongoing commitment that leads to a distinct shift in the way people approach eating. It’s not about finding a short cut to weight loss–it’s about identifying a healthy and sustainable way to live your life.
Well. New Year’s Resolutions are to crash diets like Lifestyle Changes are to Weight Watchers.
Okay, I might’ve lost some people there with that SAT-like solving analogy, but you guys get my point. The reason why so many people fall off their New Year’s Resolutions before the month of January is even over is because they make the mistake of treating their resolutions like they are quick and easy life hacks. They also fall off because they make declarations to resolve in areas of their lives that they’ve paid little to no attention to in the past, but suddenly decide to prioritize because it’s the beginning of the year. For example, you’ve spent the entire year eating fast food 2-3 times a week, and out of thin air you make a New Year’s Resolution to stop eating fast food completely.
The reality is that real change takes planning, time, patience, failure, and a ton of willingness to be uncomfortable. It also takes an attentiveness and desire to make adjustments in areas of your life that are adjacent to the resolution at hand. For example, in order to really achieve that resolution of eliminating fast food completely, you may need to examine if your schedule permits you to cook dinner every night, or if your budget permits you to grocery shop every week. Without analyzing the full picture, you are blindly setting yourself up for disappointment and subsequently, acute frustration that will probably leave you resenting and abandoning your resolution before you even have the opportunity start working at it.
Let’s not allow that to happen this year!
Here are a few reasonable, effective, and non-instant gratification seeking lifestyle changes you can make in 2017 that are sure to improve your outlook and appreciation on life over the next year.
1| Less talking, more doing.
Feel yourself complaining about the ills of the world a lot, but doing little to nothing to change them? Find yourself talking about all the things you wish you could do, or wish others would do, but never seem to do anything to address them? This year, I learned that anything you want to change or do is function of how much work you’re willing to invest in it, and how many sacrifices you’re willing to make along the way. Are you willing to give up some of your free time to spend more time networking and writing a business proposal for that entrepreneurial endeavor you’ve always wanted to pursue? Are you willing to say ‘no’ to a few more people and say ‘yes’ to yourself more? Are you willing to teach yourself how to do something, and learn how to monetize it? Are you willing to turn your passionate Facebook statuses into community organizing? Over the course of this year, when you find yourself complaining or wishing something were different, instead of leaving it there, ask yourself one simple question: What am I going to do about it?
2| Less spending, more budgeting.
As young professionals just starting out in our careers, spending excessively and cycling in and out of broke-ness can seem like an inevitable part of this stage of our journeys. As a result, we tend to normalize this reality, joking about our fluctuating bank accounts to silence the panic in the back of our minds. This year, instead of spending aimlessly and hiding from your account because you’re afraid of what it might tell you, help yourself by creating a reasonable budget you can stick to. Make sure you include all of your expenses, including your money just for socializing (you deserve it! — in moderation). Then, figure out small, low-lift opportunities where you can spend less. Do you have to grocery shop at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods during every grocery trip? Do you have to order a speciality cocktail every time you go out for happy hour? You’d be surprised how much of a difference saving $10 here and $25 there can make over the course of a year. Also, there are so many great resources out there to help you create your budget if you’ve never done this before!
3| Less complaining, more prayer.
When are we going to stop complaining about the season that we’re in, and embrace the discomfort by pursuing prayer? In my darkest and most confusing seasons of life, my faith has been the only stronghold that has guided me through. The great thing about Jesus is that He doesn’t throw anything at you that he hasn’t planned for and that you can’t handle. Knowing and truly believing this has given me a sense of peace about turmoil that I can’t explain. 1 Peter 5:10 tells us “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” Friends, that means that He’s not just leaving you out here to dry and figure it all out on your own! Suffering, sadness, and pain are all unavoidable parts of life. However, there is restoration, confirmation and strength in these predicaments. Instead of relying on yourself, rely on Him to guide you. See how differently you feel when you spend the time you would typically spend complaining, actually spent completely submitted to Him and His word. Romans 12:12 tells us, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
4| Fewer excuses, more tough love.
This one applies to you and your friends, loved ones, significant others, etc., and it’s a lot easier said than done because it’s not what you or anyone else wants to hear. We love to hear, “It’s okay that you didn’t finish that, you were busy!” Or, “I know you made the effort, don’t worry about it.” What would it look like if we all stopped letting ourselves and others off the hook so much, and instead pushed back [with love]? For example, I told myself that I was going to go to the gym yesterday, but I didn’t end up making the time for it. I could easily make the excuse that I had an early day and spent the better part of my evening editing old blog posts, putting up our Christmas tree, etc. But the reality is that I didn’t make the time, and I am responsible for that reality. So, instead of letting myself off the hook [and being okay with it], I am pushing back on myself [with the help of my fiance, who has no problem giving me the tough love I need]. While things fall through all the time and that’s completely okay, make sure you’re monitoring how you’re responding to those situations when they do. Don’t allow yourself to be fine with it; a little disappointment in yourself can be a good thing.
5| Less Netflix, more reading.
Really? You’re going to start binge watching another season of another show? We’re all guilty of it because it’s just so easy and accessible. If you have the free time to dedicate to watching back to back episodes of your favorite Netflix series or rerun show, you definitely have time to go to your local library, open up a library card, and take out at least one book a week. Imagine if you took just half the time you spend watching Netflix reading something stimulating and thought-provoking that might inspire your next endeavor. This year, be more protective of your time – it’s as valuable as you make it!
6| Less gossip, more honest communication.
Remember how in high school, everyone seemed to talk about each other [friends and enemies alike] behind their backs? And then, in college, everyone seemed to talk about each other [friends and enemies alike] behind their backs? And then, in the real world, everyone seems to talk about each other [friends and enemies alike] behind their backs? Gossip is a learned behavior that has been engrained in most of us since elementary school. We can’t help ourselves. We screenshot Instagram posts and Facebook statuses of people we never interact with in real life and post them in our group text with our best friends speculating about how she managed that get a ring that big, or land that job. We spend more time discussing someone else’s problems at great length than we spend assessing and addressing our own issues. Okay, now that we’ve gotten all that ugliness out there – stop it! If you don’t like someone, why even spend time with their name in your mouth or on your phone? Stop wasting your energy. And if you have an issue with someone that you do like, why spend time complaining about them behind their back? Do you know the probability that doing so will actually help change their actions? 0%. You have a much better shot at resolving whatever the issue is by having an open and honest conversation about it. You guys know all of this already, but I felt that it needed to be said explicitly.
7| Less being reactive, more demonstrating self-control.
This year, recognize that you control you; nobody else does. People do a lot of shady things, and life will throw its fair share of curveballs at you. Instead of being reactive, be thoughtful and controlled in your actions. Choose the way you want to respond rather than allowing the situation at hand to make the choice for you. Someone slips into the parking spot you had your eye on [and your blinker on at that!]? Choose to give them the polite wave instead of the spiteful finger. Your significant other is in a bad mood one day and is taking it out on you for no reason? Choose to respond with love and understanding instead of meeting them where they are. Life is all about choices. You have control over much more than you think you do.
8| Less comparison, more contentment.
Comparison is truly the thief of joy. One minute, you’re perfectly happy with your life and the day you’re having; the next minute, you see someone smiling at a pumpkin patch with their significant other on Instagram and you start feeling some type of way about not being at a pumpkin patch yourself. Or maybe, your struggle with comparison goes a lot deeper than social media. Perhaps you’re in a job that you’re not particularly fond of, and you’re envious of people who seem to be thriving and fulfilled by their careers. Maybe you’re single, and comparing your life to what you think it would look like if you had a significant other. No matter the case, comparing your situation and your circumstances will always leave you feeling disappointed, sad, and envious. Why? Because we glamorize what others have because we can’t see their entire picture, but we can see our own. As a result, it’s never really a fair comparison, so your life will always seem to be on the losing side. This year, pray for true contentment and peace to sustain you in whatever season God has you in at the moment. Understand and trust that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be, and that there’s so much beauty and richness in that.
9| Less external, more internal.
This has very little to do with extrovertedness vs. introvertedness (because truthfully, we are all actually a little bit of both), and a lot to do with learning to prioritize yourself before anything else. Before you get consumed in what other needs and what the world is calling you to do, focus in intently on what you need, and what your body is calling you to do. If you don’t have enough hours in the week to shave your legs, re-paint your nails, or take at least one bubble bath, you probably aren’t carving out enough ‘me’ time. What happens when we start funneling all of our energy into other people and activities? We neglect our own needs, and we begin running on E. And what happens when we’re running on E? We have a higher tendency to be reactive and less controlled. We have a higher tendency to blame others for the way that we feel. Make sure you’re reserving sacred time that is just for pouring into you – in whatever way you best receive love and care.
10| Less passivity, more passion.
2016 was definitely a year of turmoil for our country. We mourned the loss countless brothers and sisters in our community to the senseless criminalization of Black bodies, and watched hopelessly as the system protected their assailants; we elected a man into the most powerful position in the world whose own hate speech and disdain for marginalized people and communities has energized white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups and created a new wave of public and overt racism and xenophobia; and we have stomached the reality that there is a lot of work to be done, and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to be shed to achieve the type of equitable and just society that every human deserves to live in. Be a status quo disruptor this year. Don’t wait for someone else to fight the fight that is yours to participate in. And, don’t become desensitized because the issues are more visible now. Our world needs more outspoken, passionate change-agents and fewer silent, passive passersby.
// So, there you have it, friends. 10 reasonable (but hefty!) lifestyle changes that can make a ton of difference for you over the course of the next year. What resonates with you the most on this list? What would you add? I would love to hear your thoughts!