Don’t you love the feeling of a fresh start and setting new goals? Many of us do. We want to better ourselves and our lives. January is a popular time for this with New Years resolutions on our minds and in our sights. The gyms are bursting at the seams. The health food stores have empty shelves. Married couples have a renewed sense of devotion. Solid family budgets are in place. And, church attendance is at an all time high. We’re a bunch of go-getters shooting for the stars. Then…February rolls around, and swarms of us start dropping like flies and going back to the same old habits. Sound familiar?
I’ve been there too many times to count, Friend. Why do we do this?
I think it has a lot to do with “ALL” and “NOTHING”. These two stinkers creep into my mind and make me either ultra-committed to something or completely apathetic about it. This “all-or-nothing” mentality is toxic and paralyzing, and it sets us up to fail.
I can be a sold-out, health-shake-drinking, early-rising, exercise-machine if I put my mind to it. I’ll say “No” to all my favorite food time and time again…for weeks or even months…and be close to my goal. I’ll tell myself that I’m ALL IN. I might even purchase a shirt with “All In” on it, just to let everyone else know how committed I am to this goal.
But, then I get tired and bored. My focus begins to waver. And, then, without even realizing it, I’m back to my same old habits. I end up feeling like a total failure, and I’m left with NOTHING to show for all of my hard work.
Just talking about it makes me want to go eat Cheetos instead of run.
The cycle is maddening and exhausting.
Friends, I’ve had enough of this. I’m done with all-or-nothing thoughts and behaviors. I don’t want my body, relationships, or my faith to look like a sloppy ping pong match.
So, how do we fight against the all-or-nothing beast? How can we be ALL IN and WIN?
After much trial and error and lots of prayer, I’ve learned that I have to shift 5 components of my approach to change in order to make it last longer than January. Here they are in no particular order:
1. Focusing on my daily goals will keep me going strong.
This is something I have definitely learned the hard way through the years. It’s good to set long term goals, but we can’t achieve them without setting small, short term goals FIRST. Therefore, we must focus on what we can achieve daily. For example, if exercise is our goal, we need to wake up in the morning and make sure we get our exercise in that day; we don’t need to obsess over how much exercise we can get in that week or what the scale says. We need to take it day by day. When we do this, we won’t become overwhelmed or discouraged, and we will have an easier time sticking to our resolutions and making lasting changes.
2. Perfection can’t be my goal.
If perfection is my goal, then I will fail every time. I’m human; therefore, I’m going to falter here and there. When it comes to my health, I’m going to indulge in some chocolate every now and then. It doesn’t mean I need to eat the whole box or give up exercise and become a couch potato.
If I want to improve my marriage, I must realize that my husband and I are imperfect people who get moody and impatient from time to time. We aren’t going to be perfect…ever. So, let’s not expect perfection from ourselves or anyone else, or we will always be disillusioned and disappointed. When we realize this, it takes the pressure off and keeps the ever-toxic all-or-nothing mentality at bay.
3. Progress is both my path and my destination.
When we’re making “progress”, we’re moving forward, getting better, and inching closer to our goal. But, in my own life, I’ve often failed to see that progress itself is also a pretty amazing goal or destination.
Whenever I set a goal and meet it, I eventually get bored and lose sight of it. Why is this? It’s because I placed my focus solely on the goal and not the progress I was making. When we meet a goal, we need to set another goal…and then another one…and another one. We stay on the path of progress by continually making goals and aiming higher. We get closer to progress itself–our target– with each goal we meet and new objective we set for ourselves and our relationships.
4. Mistakes don’t have to become bad habits.
I’ve learned this one the hard way…especially when it comes to my health. I’ve lost and gained twenty pounds four times in the past five years. I’ve been the epitome of a “yo-yo dieter”. I’ve been an aerobics instructor and a Weight Watchers leader. But, I’ve also been an out-of-shape mom who is content to wear workout clothes without stepping foot in the gym that day.
This yo-yo behavior became my norm only because I would let one mistake turn into a bad habit. I would eat too much popcorn and chocolate one night and end up doing the same thing night after night until it was all I craved, and all my healthy foods would eventually go stale in my pantry. I should have allowed myself one night a week to indulge and eat mainly healthier foods all the other nights. Moderation is a GOOD thing. Just because I can’t be perfect doesn’t mean that I should give up.
The same rule applies to our relationships. If we want to see improvement, we can’t let mistakes turn into bad habits. We must address what we’ve done wrong directly and take steps to make amends and strengthen our relationship.
5. Accountability is a must.
A good friend will always tell us the truth and hold us accountable…especially when we ask them to. My husband is always my main accountability partner, even when it comes to exercising and eating right. He’s been my gym partner and my encourager no matter what.
I’ve even asked him to hide certain “red light” foods from me, so I am not tempted. This may sound ridiculous to some of you, but the struggle is real, Friends. I’m a Kentucky girl who can down a whole box of bourbon chocolates anytime, anywhere. They are deliciously rich and creamy confections, and I can’t resist them whenever my in-laws bring them to my house. So, my sweet husband hides them for me. I’m sad to say that I’ve asked him to unhide them a time or two, and he’s reminded me of why he hid them in the first place. Bless his heart…the looks I must give him! But, he hangs in there and tries to help me stay strong because he loves me and wants to see me make the progress that I so desire with my health.
We need accountability when it comes to our marriages too. If we’re trying to improve the communication in our marriage, we can ask a trusted, married friend of our same gender to be our accountability partner and talk through some of the snags we are experiencing in our partner. We need to make sure this is someone who is FOR us and our marriage and has some wisdom on the subject.
We must know when to ask for help and follow through with it. Why go it alone when we don’t have to? A trusted accountability partner is a tremendous blessing.
These 5 shifts in my approach have help me to push my all-or-nothing tendency to the side, and I’m seeing progress! I hope they help you too. Be blessed!
Thank you so much for reading, responding, and sharing!
Dave and Ashley Willis have built a strong following, reaching millions of married couples through their blogs, books, and videos. Get Dave and Ashley’s most popular resources for couples and groups. Their mission is to create resources focused on building Christ-centered marriages and families. They have four young sons and live near Augusta, Georgia.