Resolutions Gone Awry

Its that time of year.  The end of January.  Snow is falling. (A lot of it in New York!)  And, your New Year’s Resolutions are on the verge of becoming history.

This week I’d like to encourage you to reconsider those resolutions.  Perhaps they need to be altered.  But, it may not be time to put off those goals for New Year’s Eve 2012.

What do Resolutions have to do with Aging and HIV?

Living with HIV into midlife and beyond requires adaptation to a great deal of change.  There have been changes to your body, career, family, your friendship networks, and to the world around you.  Optimal aging with HIV involves flexibility as you develop new strategies to cope with aging.  Often this means discarding old patterns that no longer work for you and beginning the difficult task of learning new ways to care for yourself.

You may have used the new year to reflect on what has and hasn’t worked for you in the past, and developed some ideas about what you want for yourself in the year ahead.  You may have made an intention to change the way you eat, to exercise more, to address your drinking, to make new friends, to join an organization, to look for a new job, or get yourself out there in the dating world.  You may even have come up with a plan to reach those goals.

Well, now is the time to review how that plan is going.  If you are still on target, then read this post in order to help you look for warning signs that your resolution is going awry.  But, if you are anything like me, your commitment to change is starting to waver, and you are at risk for giving up altogether.  If that is the case, let me tell you about my New Year’s Resolution.

My Story

At the end of December I realized that I had been gaining weight.  In fact, a step on the scale revealed that I was the heaviest I had ever been.  So, I resolved to lose weight in the new year.

I had helped many others through similar challenges and knew what pitfalls to avoid.  For example, I knew that I needed a reasonable goal.  If I tried to lose too much, too quickly, I would just feel deprived and give up.  So, I decided that I would set a goal of 1-2 lbs per week.  I also knew that I should not only change my eating habits, but also increase my exercise, so I joined a gym.

Great plan.  (Do you see where I’m going with this story?)  Well, its the end of January, and as of yesterday I have lost 1 lb.

This is where I want to say, “what’s the point? My metabolism has slowed and no matter what I do, I won’t be able to lose that weight!”

But, since I’m writing this post to help you, I have to take the following advice:

Don’t Give Up!

When a plan doesn’t succeed, it just means there’s something wrong with the plan.  In every failure there is a learning opportunity.

So, first, before you dismiss the commitment you made to yourself, remind yourself what you wanted to accomplish, and why.

Do your reasons to meet that goal still seem rational?  Then, you have to find a way to make it work.

Next, assess the steps you took to meet that goal.  Did you do what you said you were going to?  If not, ask yourself, why you didn’t.

Make Adjustments

Maybe the goal makes sense, but the way you are going about it is faulty.  For example, I could have joined a gym near my apartment. But I don’t get home until late every evening, and am usually too tired to exercise then.  It would be better for me  to find a gym near work, where I can go during a break in the day.

Once you know why your plan hasn’t worked, you can make changes to the plan and try again.

Back Off

I often hear clients who have given up on their resolutions only to discover that the goal they set for themselves was unreachable.  In my case, I set a very reasonable goal, but I got a cold and missed one week of exercise.  I also didn’t consider that I would have to build my stamina slowly, having been away from the gym for some time.  And, there was a learning curve, as far as my diet was concerned. It took me some time for me to learn what foods I could, and couldn’t eat, in order to stay on target for my weight goal.

Backing off is different from giving up.  Its being honest with yourself about what you are, and are not, willing to do  to accomplish your goal.

Ask for Help

There may be obstacles in your way that you are unaware of.  If you have rethought your plan and are still getting nowhere, it may be time to get some help.  Talk about your goals with a friend, your doctor or a counselor.

Change is hard.  We develop patterns of taking care of ourselves and relating to others.  Sometimes those rituals are deeply ingrained in our sense of ourselves, our memories of friends, and our families.  Food, for me, is one of those issues.  I still eat the same meal for breakfast that I did as a child.  Changing my diet means changing my relationship to food, and that can have emotional meaning, as well.

Sometimes you just need a buddy.  Share your resolution with a friend. (And, they can share theirs with you.)  By including someone else in your plan, you have someone to support you, encourage you, and to hold you accountable when you want to give up.

Resources

On the resources link (above) there are a list of agencies that may be able to help you reach your goal.

I hope that this post helps you to recommit to your resolution, reassess your objectives, and get the help you need to achieve your goal.  Please let me know if you set an intention for the new year, and how you are progressing on that goal.

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