A Time for Progress
A few years ago in early January, one of my relatives who was in her 60s told me that her New Year’s resolution was to lose thirty pounds. In February, I asked her how her diet was going, and she told me that she had quit the diet. When I asked why, she said, “The first week I lost three pounds. The second week I didn’t lose any weight. The third week I lost only a pound. The fourth week I didn’t lose anything. After that, I gave up.”
I asked her why she quit, and she told me the diet wasn’t working because she had lost only one pound over a period of three weeks. When I told her that dropping four pounds in one month was good, she reminded me that three of those four pounds came off the first week. I told her it didn’t matter which week she was able to shed the most weight, because the final result was still a total weight loss of four pounds in one month.
It didn’t matter what I said. She was convinced that her diet was a failure. I was extremely irritated with her. I wanted to lecture her about how she was being illogical and childish, but I kept my mouth shut. Even though she knew better, she had convinced herself that the diet wasn’t working. There wasn’t anything I could have said to convince her that she was wrong.
One of the biggest mistakes we make when setting goals for ourselves is that most of the time we underestimate the difficulty of the task we are hoping to accomplish. At the first sign of difficulty we start having doubts and begin telling ourselves that we may not be able to achieve what we set out to do. As new obstacles arise, we have further doubts. Over time, we eventually convince ourselves that we were foolish for ever thinking that we could meet our goal, and we eventually give up.
In a sense, it is time that works against us. What is time? The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes time as “the measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues.”
A simpler and more understandable definition of time is “a measure of change.” Before time can exist, there must first be change.
We equate the beginning of the world with the beginning of time. Before the beginning of the world and time, all that existed was a timeless and changeless Supreme Being to whom we refer to as God. Time began with creation.
With each passing moment of time, there are changes occurring – changes in our thoughts, our bodies, our environment, and the people around us.
So how does time work against us when we set out to accomplish a new goal? If we use my relative’s attempted weight loss as an example, there were changes that took place in her mind each time she had doubts about her ability to lose weight. There were also changes in her environment that may have had an impact on how much weight she lost.
For example, if she planned on exercising on a particular day and was asked by her daughter to babysit her granddaughter, by agreeing to help her daughter out, she failed to follow through on her planned exercise. If she had exercised, certain changes would have taken place in her body to burn off calories. Since she didn’t exercise, the change that took place in her body was that calories were added rather than subtracted. In addition, her failure to exercise may have caused her to have additional doubts about her ability to exercise on a regular basis and lose weight.
Keep in mind that each day, with the passing of time, there were changes taking place in my relative’s life. Changes in her attitude and her body took place as a result of the food she ate, the people she talked to, the amount of sleep she got, and the level of activity she engaged in. With many of those changes, she was thrown off course and over time was unable to focus on her overall progress.
I’ve written before about how to set SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for: (1) Specific; (2) Measurable; (3) Attainable; (4) Relevant; and (5) Time Bound.
If on January 2, 2013, my relative were to set a SMART goal to lose thirty pounds, the best way to outline the goal would be as follows:
I’m going to lose thirty pounds by August 1, 2013, by doing the following:
- On January 2, 2013, after I wake up and go to the bathroom, I’m going to: (a) weigh myself and write down my weight on a calendar; (b) measure my body fat with a caliper and record the results on my calendar; and (c) measure my chest, waist, hips, and thighs with a tape measure and record the measurements on my calendar. On each Monday morning thereafter, I’m going to go through the same routine and record the measurements on my calendar (SMART Goal guidelines: Specific, Measurable, Relevant, and Time Bound).
- During the first week of January, I’m going to sign up for Weight Watchers (or any other proven weight-loss system that requires measuring the portions of food consumed). I’m going to convince a friend or family member to sign up with me as a partner. My partner and I will attend weekly meetings together and encourage and support each other every day (SMART Goal guidelines: Specific, Measurable, Relevant, and Time Bound).
- I’m going to walk at a fast pace on the treadmill for thirty minutes every morning after I weigh myself and before I eat breakfast (SMART Goal guidelines: Specific, Measurable, and Time Bound).
- I’m going to lose at least one pound each week. If there is any week in which I reduce my weight by less than one pound, I will reduce the amount of calories I consume during the following week and increase my exercise time from thirty minutes to forty-five minutes each day (SMART Goal guidelines: Specific and Measurable).
- Because I will be losing one pound each week, I will be able to meet my goal of losing thirty pounds by August 1, 2013 (SMART Goal guidelines: Attainable and Time Bound).
If my relative were to follow this particular plan, she would be able to overcome the inevitable changes forced upon her by the passage of time. Because of the SMART guidelines, she would be reminded to focus on the progress she was making rather than on the disruptions that came along as a result of changes occurring in her life.
Keep this in mind when you consider what resolutions you want to adopt for the New Year, especially the resolutions that apply to developing a more robust spiritual life.