When I was 16 years old I made a New Year’s resolution that changed my life. I resolved to give up soda for one year. I have no recollection of why I did it, but I do remember it ended up being a resolution as well as sort of a bet with my boyfriend at the time. Giving up Coke, root beer, Pepsi and especially Dr. Pepper (I loved Dr. Pepper!) was a big deal to me as a teenager. But I did it, successfully. It wasn’t overwhelmingly difficult, although I missed that sweet, bubbly, satisfying taste at times. I couldn’t wait until New Year’s Eve when I could drink it again!
On Dec. 31 I went to the store and assembled a collection of long-awaited nirvana — a can each of various kinds of soda, including and especially, Dr. Pepper. That evening I drank a lot of soda, indulging myself after a year of “deprivation.” Surprisingly, none of it tasted as good as I remembered. Too sweet, somewhat artificial and a weird aftertaste. And after I indulged, I was up all night because of the caffeine!
At that point, it wasn’t hard for me to resolve to repeat my resolution for the next year (the boyfriend did not participate). But after the second year, I didn’t indulge in the forbidden soda on Dec. 31 because it was no longer a resolution. It was a life change and something I didn’t even think twice about. To this day, I don’t drink soda and I do not miss it. Knowing everything we know now about the ill-effects of soda, I’m grateful I inadvertently kicked that habit early on!
I firmly believe that if there is something you want to change in your life, you have the power to make that choice, and the strength to see it through. People — regular people like you and me — make life-changing choices and succeed in those changes all the time. It’s not always easy, it’s sometimes very difficult, but it is not impossible. And it can be very rewarding!
Life-changing choices usually involve adding or subtracting something from your life. So, perhaps it’s giving up meat to become a vegetarian, or adding a daily 20-minute meditation practice to alleviate stress. You may not feel a difference after a week, but you will definitely feel a difference after a year. Only you know what you want to accomplish, and what you’re willing to do to make the change last for the long-term.
Here’s how you do it:
- Make up your mind. Absolutely, unequivocally, 100%. If you don’t think you can do this, maybe this isn’t the right approach for you right now.
- Resolve, but don’t think of it as a resolution. If thinking “I’m doing this forever” is making you hesitate, set a period of time. A month is really not long enough to reset a habit, but a year is, as I discovered. Also, a year really is doable, also as I discovered. At least stay with it long enough to really see how what kind of a difference it makes in your life.
- Stay simple. Focus your energy on making one change. Just one. Too many changes will dilute your focus and weaken your chance of success.
- Decide on your approach. Do you need support and how are you going to get it? Would you rather not share it until you are into the process long enough to know you can achieve success? Or is accountability to someone other than yourself helpful? For me, the power behind my resolve is in keeping it to myself until it is firmly a part of my routine.
- Do not expect perfection. You are not perfect and so you will likely not achieve perfect results. Did I have a sip of soda during that first year? I did (just one). However, it didn’t change my resolve or the eventual outcome that I gave up soda forever. Be good to yourself, and keep your eyes on your long-term goal.
Good luck! You can do this!
At the risk of sounding cliche, it feels very positive for me to think of 2020 as the year of perfect vision. May we all experience that somehow in some way. Wishing you a Happy New Year!
— By Pritam Potts
Coach Pritam Potts is a writer and strength coach. After 16+ years of training athletes and client of all ages as co-owner of Edmonds-based Advanced Athlete LLC, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. She writes about health & fitness, grief & loss, love & life at www.advancedathlete.com.