Give Making a New Year’s Stress Goal a Go

For nearly a decade I have ended the year writing a blog about the pitfalls of New Year’s resolutions. I have offered suggestions for ways to improve your chances of having success if you make them and talked about the mechanics of why I prefer goals to resolutions. This year I decided to attack them from another angle, turning your desires or resolutions into “Stress Goals.”

Most resolutions involve a change in behavior of some sort such as dieting or exercising more. The problem with these resolutions is that there is no contemplation of what those things will entail. Usually, it’s just a general statement like I am going to exercise more this year.

The mind gets confused by things that are general, but it works best when dealing with specifics. Part of setting a stress goal is looking at all the things necessary to achieve the goal that will be challenging or anxiety producing, then making specific plans for them in advance.

For example, you may want to lose weight but know you tend to crave things like pizza and cheeseburgers on a regular basis. If you don’t have a plan before starting to help you reduce your consumption of or eliminate those foods, your odds of success are near zero.

In this example, my plan would be whenever I start to crave pizza or cheeseburgers, I would immediately eat something a little healthier. The sooner you eliminate the craving the more likely the craving will disappear, along the lines of the old saying “an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure.”

Generally speaking, when we crave foods it just means we are hungry. It does not mean that hunger will only be satisfied by the food we are craving at that time. Our bodies are built to survive and consuming food is a vital component of survival. We crave a food in order to make sure that we eat, and thinking of an appealing food is more adaptive and likely to get us to eat, than thinking of a bowl of gruel.

By contemplating all the challenges and discomfort you are likely to face in reaching your goal you can turn stress into your ally. Think about all of the things you accomplished without any stress. I left space at the end of this paragraph for you to list all of your stress-free accomplishments ;) . Stress is an essential ingredient in growth of any kind. If you never step outside of your comfort zone it will never grow any bigger.

Just visit any gym and the people who want to get bigger muscles or improve their cardio fitness are not lowering resistance, they are raising it to cause more stress on their bodies.

So, when you think about changes you want to make that are meaningful to you in the coming year, don’t just state a goal, make a stress goal with a plan to work with the challenges and turn them into allies.

Remember, the complete absence of stress is not happiness, it’s death.

Happy New Year!

Link to older New Years Blogs here


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