You’ve make a resolution for 2018. You know what you want to achieve, how to achieve it, who it will involve, where it will be pursued, and when it will be completed – ideally. New Year’s resolutions usually involve improving health whether that’s by shredding pounds, eating healthier, getting quality sleep, exercising regularly, building into relationships, or taking more alone time. All of these are notable pursuits, but what happens when progress stalls, time pressures hit, tensions rise, and physical limitation are realized (i.e. time, energy, and money are not infinite). How will you stay committed to your goals for the long haul well after the new year hype has waned?
People often abandon their goals for one of three reasons: (1) the goals are unrealistic, (2) skills or knowledge for achieving goals are lacking, or (3) personal conviction is too weak. The first two are relatively easy to correct. Unrealistic goals, such as losing fifty pounds in two months, can be reframed in smaller manageable goals set in realistic and healthy time frames. Becoming confident in executing action towards a goal may require registering for a class, asking a friend to teach you, hiring an expert, or watching several YouTube videos to teach yourself (that’s how I learned web-building). Maintaining conviction, thus staying motivated, is the crux.
Creating stronger conviction
People struggle with commitment because they lose sight of why they are pursuing health investments that cost them time, energy, sleep, and, perhaps, money. Without meaningful “why’s” at the foundation, challenges can easily thwart good intentions. So, I propose that the strongest “why’s” – the “why’s” that double the motivational strength to keep going when we feel like throwing in the towel – are those that focus on the benefits to you as well as others. I’ve termed this mindset Me-for-You.
Mainstream health messages propose, “Do it for yourself” – and it stops there. I’m proposing something that looks similar outwardly, but is framed by a vastly different mindset. I propose that you invest into yourself for you and for the benefit of others. Me-for-You investments – exercising, meditation, prayer, healthy eating, alone time – launch the capacity to benefit others. When you have energy, you can give energy; when you are loving, you can extend love. Neither energy, love, peace, nor joy come naturally to most people without an investment in healthy habits, healing brokenness, and personal growth. Me-for-You mindsets recognize that the best gift I can give to other is a healthy self. Benefit to others, then, becomes the overarching pursuit; personal investments become a means to that end; and your motivation for sticking with the challenge strengthens.
Absolute health is not required
If you’re thinking optimal healthy is required for Me-for-You living, it’s simply not true. A long-time friend, who has endured substantial energy deficits for thirty-plus years due to chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME), showed me that physical weakness does not limit her from being all she can be for herself and others. She insists on vacuuming to stimulate her muscles even though her husband has gladly offered his energy over hers. She eats regularly to stabilize what little energy her body extracts from food (CFS disrupts energy metabolism in the mitochondria). She eats as healthy as she knows how to best manage her nutrition-related chronic diseases and prevent further deterioration. Personal investments allow her to have enough energy to call people, write encouraging cards, knit dish cloths, and allow some visits on better days. Abounding health is not necessary for benefitting others and not necessarily more effective, though better health can increase our potential to benefit others.
What Me-for-You looks like in my life
In December, I turned the big 3-0! With that came some reflection on my 20’s, namely the sharp contrast between how I thought that decade would unfold versus what was. Can anyone relate? Looking towards my 30’s, I thought about what I want to pursue and where I want to invest my energy and time despite ongoing environmental limitations.
I am already convinced that health is a gift needing regular health investments for maintenance and restoration. Somehow going from needing six hours in bed a day (plus 10-11 hours at night) to running and cooking again has given me a new-found appreciation for health. Having a Me-for-You mindset helps to strengthen that conviction, especially when I want to become lazy with my diet, exercise, and prayer life. I think about the other aspects of my life, such as travel and climbing, that will be recovered by staying disciplined. Greater yet, I am thinking about the awareness and skills I can bring to others in helping them recover or maintain their health.
If my nearly three years with CFS taught me anything, it was to hold all plans loosely while pursing them intently. Health can change without warning or reason despite doing the right things – or so I think. These setbacks don’t leave me helpless in all respects. I have to wipe away tears, and remind myself how far I’ve come. When setbacks strike, I can continue working towards my goal, although it may look different and be at a different speed than if I had normal resources (i.e. energy without environmental sensitivities). Whatever state of health you’re in, think Me-for-You to help strengthen your conviction for health investments this new year.
Wishing you the best in 2018,