Michelle Rupp: Hello and Happy New Year. Welcome to 2022. I’m Michelle Rupp and thanks for joining us today on this episode of AFMCTV. Of course, it’s the beginning of the new year, and what is on everyone’s mind, resolutions, goals, maybe habits, whatever adjective you use. We’re going to talk about it this morning and we’re going to get things kicked off with Ken Clark, a friend of the show, our therapist, if you will, out at Chenal Family Therapy, and Ken, first of all, Happy New Year.

Ken Clark: Thank you. Thank you. I’m excited. Any new year, a new chance at a do-over is welcome right now, right? Like in the middle of all this craziness. So, no doubt, happy new start.

MR: So, I’m curious, first of all, where does the idea of resolutions, where does that come from?

KC: I think it’s probably as old as humanity itself. I think probably we put names on it in recent memory, but humans have always looked at their situation and had the capacity to think of something better. Right? That is one of the things that make us different than probably the rest of the animal kingdom. Very few dogs aspire to move to a bigger house with a bigger yard. It’s something we do as humans. The term itself, ‘goal,’ right? I mean, it really is taking on a sports connotation, scoring the points, changing the scoreboard. But it’s as old as humans themselves to look at their situations and long for something more and to try and plot a path to get there.

MR: So it is, it’s a new year, it’s a new opportunity to start fresh, how can we ensure some success as we are looking at, ‘Well, I guess I’ll try setting resolutions or goals again this year. They didn’t last too long last year, but we’ll try it again this year.’

KC: Yeah, so probably one on a big philosophical level. The biggest problem is that, that we do this every December/January instead of doing it all year long, right? This is a reflection of the fact that that we maybe drop the ball the other 10 or 11, 12 months of the year, and now we’re feeling like we need to bring about some change. So, the number one thing that you could resolve to do is not have this be a December/January process. That resolving to stop and look at where you’re at. Quarterly is probably a really good habit. We think a quarterly retreat with self, just a couple hours at your local coffee shop, sitting down and thinking through ‘where do I want to go in the next 90 days is a much, much better discipline than our reactive end of the year, ‘I need to lose a few pounds and spend a little less money and all that kind of stuff. Number two, this is the core problem in my field, in human psychology, is how do we motivate people? If it were that easy to crack the code on that, we would probably be in a lot better shape. What goals really are is a reflection of where procrastination and things like that exist the rest of the year. Goals are this mental self-talk that we’re going to overcome the lack of motivation that was previously there. And so, what we say a lot in my office is that ‘procrastination exists where a choice exists.’ Part of what we need to do if we really want to make changes in our lives is remove choice by adding routine, and so that’s what we would really encourage you towards. Are any of these things that you’re looking at that you want to do, not just in January, but all year long. If there are no solid routines built around achieving those goals, they will likely not be achieved because human choice always picks the path of least resistance, which often is Netflix instead of the Peloton.

MR: That’s right. Well, and I was going to ask what is an example of choosing that routine over the choice?

KC: Yeah, probably in its simplest, it’s, ‘I’m going to go to the gym every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at seven a.m.’, as opposed to, ‘I’m going to go to the gym more in 2022’. Now that by itself, that routine can be strengthened by adding a workout buddy or shifting your job schedule, or who gets your kids to school, or whatever. The more that we support those routines with other actions. General goals that don’t have a routine attached to them are probably just a hope. They’re probably just a dream, goal is when we attach a routine and action to it and begin moving towards it. So that’s what we would really do is, it’s kind of the old smart goals. You’ve heard these are specific, measurable, and all that kind of stuff. Pick days, pick times, pick partners, you know, really make it real, get it on the calendar, set alarms on your phone. Otherwise, it’s just a hope that’s going to slip into the chaos of the new year.

MR: And also, not losing sight of the fact that what works for, you may not work for your spouse or may not work with your friends. In terms of how you are setting these goals, these resolutions, whether you do it monthly or quarterly, or start in January and hope for the best that following December, you’re still in the game.

KC: Yeah, ignore your friends on social media that brag about another hard 4:30 a.m. workout. We all don’t like those people, right? Don’t compare yourself. In the end, whatever works for you works, right? When we talk about it in a sports analogy, it may be an ugly touchdown, but it’s still a touchdown right in the end. If you get the behaviors done, that’s what matters most and not how pretty it is or how you do it compared to the other people that seem to have it so dialed in. Figure out what works for you because that’s what ultimately is going to bring about change in the long run.

MR: That’s right because at the end of the day we do want to be successful. There’s something about that gold star, there’s something about looking at your to-do list, everything is crossed off. You can wad it up and throw it away. That is that triggers that sensor in our brain that hey job, well done, you did it.

KC: And one of the places that we screw ourselves up sometimes, is becoming too aspirational in a short period of time. There’s that famous quote “people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year and underestimate what they can accomplish in five or 10”. I do a lot of business planning and executive coaching. One of the things we really try to get people to do is to think of three years of change, not just one year. That weight loss, or that amount of money you want in the bank, or whatever, take that and divide it by three and accomplish one-third of it this year. We know if we set the bar too high, we don’t notice progress. We don’t get that kind of dopamine release of getting a gold star on our chart. If we aspire too much, it doesn’t ever look like change is occurring. If we are more reasonable and break it up over a couple of years, it can become a healthier habit instead of a behavioral binge and it’s probably more likely to, number one – be achieved, but number two, be sustained. So be realistic with yourself. Don’t shoot for the moon. Just make good progress this year.

MR: That is excellent advice. And at the end of the day, we have been through it these last couple of years and we should never lose sight of giving ourselves some grace, because we’ve, we’ve been through it.

KC: It’s kind of like finishing a marathon. It doesn’t matter where you finish or what your time is; it’s impressive nonetheless that you went 26.2 miles. In the last couple of years, just the fact that you’re listening and considering what change looks like after life has given you an excuse to just want to hide under the covers… thumbs up. I’m impressed. Be proud of yourself that you’re even showing up today. That says a lot about you and your character and your grit.

MR: Any final thoughts. 

KC: Oh, it’s all of us. The good news is all of us are setting these and most of us are failing at them. You talked about giving yourself grace. The way we would say clinically is ‘ditch the shame, ditch the negative self-talk’ that somehow, you’re worse than everybody else or less motivated. Everybody needs to institute some change in their life. We all struggle to do it. The last thing you need to do is strap a heavy backpack full of self-loathing onto yourself. So go easy on yourself, folks.

MR: All right, Ken. Always Great advice. Happy New Year. We’re excited to see where 2022 takes us.

KC: For sure. Let’s do it. I’m excited.