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Making routines to keep resolutions

POSTED: January 2, 2018 4:49 a.m.
Kim Cowart/

The key to keeping resolutions is to establish new routines.

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Monday is my favorite day of the week. I love mornings. The crack of the spine of a new book is music to my ears. I envy my kids each September as they rush to school with blank notebooks and perfect erasers. There is nothing better than fresh starts and new possibilities.

You’d think I’d love the turn of a new year. You might expect me to sit down at the kitchen table Jan. 1 with that blank notebook waiting to be filled with resolutions. The truth is I hate resolutions. I haven’t made one in my lifetime I’ve kept more than a day. Even with the best of intentions, with one minor slip-up, I condemn myself a failure and surrender.

Like most people, though, I do want to improve. I have a long list of goals I’d like to accomplish: learn French; save more money; figure out the secret to grilling a juicy steak; teach my daughters how to put their dirty clothes into the hamper.

Rather than making resolutions, I suggest making routines.

Routines are how I get things done. Routines require no thought. No spur-of-the-moment decisions. Habits are worked into the day so there is less opportunity for failure. Routines the pathway to our goals. If our goals are marathons, routine is the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other, mile after mile. Running 10 more miles may feel impossible, but we can surely convince ourselves to take one more step. And then do it again. And again. Before we know it, we’ve covered those 10 miles and then some.

Want to get into better shape? Rather than making a resolution to lose 15 pounds or run a half-marathon, create a routine where those resolutions become consequences of your actions. Put your half-marathon training schedule on your calendar and make that run appointment as unbreakable as a work meeting. Pack your gym bag and put it in your car each morning and reroute your commute so the gym is on the way home. Restructure your morning so you get up an hour earlier and run or take a class before you shower. I no longer have a full-time job, but I still wake up at 4 a.m. to get a run in before carpools and errands. It’s just what I do.

Want to eat healthier? Rather than resolving to count calories, track macros or avoid certain foods. Pick a few delicious and nutritious recipes, shop for only those ingredients necessary and make a menu for the week ahead. Half of my bad eating decisions are made because I didn’t plan ahead. I write the week’s dinner menu on a board in our kitchen, so I know what to make and the family knows what we’re eating. We have only 10 favorite dinners that make the rotation and all are simple, quick and easy to make. Our breakfast and lunch options are fairly limited, too, but are varied enough to keep everyone happy. We keep our kitchen stocked with the basics. Fewer decisions mean less stress and less chance of hitting McDonald's at the last minute.

Routines sound boring to some. There’s a fine line between sticking to a routine and falling into a rut. We have our 10 favorite dinners, but I’m always willing to try something new. If it falls into the “simple, quick, and easy” category I’m happy to add it to the rotation. If running becomes more of a chore, I switch to cycling or HIIT to keep it fresh, but I keep that time dedicated to exercise.

My routine brings me joy. The key to success is to make good habits and making good habits takes time. There’s a reason the gym is busy in January, not April. When enthusiasm wanes, routines save the day until that enthusiasm returns — and it will if you give it time.

So resolve not to resolve this year. If you want to make a change in your life, make a new routine. Don’t let change happen to you. Make change happen for you.

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