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"Expect the best, plan for the worst, and be prepared to be surprised."  

--Denis Waitley  



At the start of every year, it's time for the New Year's Resolution ritual. When it's your turn to declare your worthy goal for the next new year, you'll do well to heed the advice in this quote, but not in the sense that most people think. I find that most people over prepare for the worst, and scare themselves in the process. This is disastrous for a worthy goal, because fear shrinks goals; and if it doesn't shrink the goal before you start, it will shrink the amount of time you'll spend trying to achieve it. People are all too ready to give up on a dream at the first sign of trouble. So overly preparing for the worst, in effect, just prepares them to accept defeat early. Maybe that's why only 12% of people who make a New Year's Resolution actually keep them. I think preparing for the worst should support your worthy goal rather than scare you away from it. Those signs of trouble are probably indicators of success, not failure. Since the number one New Year's Resolution is to lose weight, I'll use that goal to illustrate my point.  


Jane decides to lose 40 pounds and declares her intention to her friends and family. She plans for a healthy lifestyle, which includes changes in eating, shopping, exercise and leisure activities. At first, everyone is in support of Jane and gives her encouragement. She decides to eat at home for a while, because she feels more in control of portion sizes. She has made space in her schedule for exercise 4 times each week and wants leisure activities that are active and don't revolve around food. She reads books on nutrition, exercise and self-esteem, and has joined a support group that meets once each week. All of these changes are very important for Jane to achieve her goal and, objectively, all her friends and family support her. But they begin to act differently toward Jane.  


Some of her friends feel left out because Jane sometimes chooses the gym over a get-together at Starbucks. Excited by the information she is learning, she starts sharing tidbits about nutrition and exercise with her friends, but they aren't interested and begin to roll their eyes and make small, biting comments about "Ms. Health Freak," or they start calling her "Janie Craig." When Jane loses her first 10 pounds and asks her friends to celebrate with her by shopping for a new pair of jeans, they are all too busy. Later she finds that they went out to Joe's All-You-Can-Eat BBQ Buffet without her, instead.  


Jane feels depressed and isolated by her friends, and even her family, who tell her that she was fine just the way she was and say that she's no fun anymore. She is lonely eating at home and is tired of cooking for one. Her depression makes it hard to maintain a positive attitude about her diet, and even about her success. She doesn't feel very successful because she doesn't have people with whom to share her success. When she wants to go out for a walk or a bike-ride rather than watch TV, she gets nervous and feels intimidated because she doesn't have anyone to go with her. What will happen to Jane and her worthy goal? What happens to most people―85%, in fact, is that they end up gaining all the weight they lost back, plus 2 extra pounds.  


Going into this endeavor, Jane saw her worst-case scenario as being another failed attempt to take control of her life. Guess what she sees now? Yep―another failed attempt to take control of her life; it's all just too hard. But that's not what I see.  


Let's back up and look at where Jane is probably starting from. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine tracked the impact social networks have on weight. Over the 32-year study, the researches discovered a 57% increase in your risk of obesity if you have a friend who is, or who becomes, obese. The risk is dramatically increased to 171% if you have mutual close friends who are, or who become, obese. So it's very likely that Jane's friends are overweight, too. As Jane loses weight, her friends might think that they look bigger now, compared to Jane, and resent her for that awareness. Jane's planning for the worst might have considered this fact so that, when the small signs of resentment appeared, she could see them as small signs of success. If Jane prepared for the worst−friction in her friendships―she would have had a better chance of keeping her friendships as she continued to lose weight.  


Jane's environment includes influences beyond her friends and family. The places with which she is familiar and in which she feels comfortable may not be supportive of her new idea of health, and she'll need to make changes. It's likely that, if Jane eats out, she has grown accustomed to being served portions suitable for two or more people. In the last 20 years, a typical bagel has grown in size and calorie content from 3 inches and 140 calories to 6 inches and 350 calories; similarly, sodas that were packaged in 6 ½ ounce, 85-calorie serving containers are now 20 ounces with 250 calories. Jane's decision to have more meals at home is wise, but it takes a whole lot more effort. She'll need to make time and have enough energy for food shopping and for meal planning and preparation. This can be a huge change in lifestyle for many. According to the United Stated Department of Agriculture, nearly half of our food expenditures go toward dining out, and over one-third of us are eating out at least 2 to 3 times each week. Planning for the worst here―feeling overwhelmed by food shopping, meal planning and meal preparation―she would see her overwhelmed feelings as a sign that she is doing it right. If she wasn't feeling burdened, it might mean she was still eating out too much.  


One more area for which Jane would be wise to plan is in her leisure activities. The importance of creating healthy environments includes the need for changes in activity levels. According to The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity, people are advised to "reduce time spent watching television and in other sedentary behaviors" and to "build physical activity into regular routines."  Since women spend an average of 5.25 hours per day watching TV and, as a nation, we are spending 13.9 billion minutes on Facebook alone (that's up 700% from last year), a change here will certainly mean a radical change in behavior. It's likely Jane will feel anxious as she leaves behind the familiar and tries new, more active things. If unprepared, Jane might mistake her anxiousness about changing her routine as feelings forewarning doom. But properly prepared, Jane might realize that, if she wasn't feeling out of sorts a little, it might mean she hadn't changed her routine enough.  


When anyone changes a routine, the parts of their old environment that supported the old ways won't be the same and will probably feel uncomfortable for a while. Is that a bad thing? Or isn't it really a good indication that the person is on the right track? Had Jane prepared herself for the worst by understanding this concept, she would have seen the feedback from her environment as a sign of progress. True, it feels bad to be isolated from your friends and to have anxious and overwhelmed feelings. But it doesn't have to derail your worthy goal. Being prepared for the worst makes it possible for you to plan your transitions so that sticking it out is easier.  


So, next time you declare a worthy goal. Craft a long and detailed list of all the amazing benefits you'll enjoy as a result. The more detailed the list, the clearer the vision and the motivation you'll create. Then, spend some time on the Anti-Resolution list. List all the "bad" things that are likely to happen as you make changes. I don't recommend making this list bright and colorful, but I do suggest you give it deep thought. Then, as you go about making changes when you hit the inevitable rough spots, you'll remember that you anticipated this event, and might even welcome it as a sign of success.  


"Expect the best, plan for the worst, and be prepared to be surprised."  

--Denis Waitley  



What do you think? Have you ever experienced an anti-goal and given up your worthy goal? Can you soften the impact of anti-goals by planning for them at the start? E-mail Lorraine@Peacemaker-Coach.com and share your story.  


Warmest Regards,  

Lorraine Esposito  




Life and fitness coach and author Lorraine Esposito has been featured in broadcast, print and online media and is a public speaker regarding personal leadership and empowered parenting to community and school-based audiences. Find out more about Lorraine at www.Peacemaker-Coach.com and her latest book The Morning Peacemaker, How to get your kids out the door on time without saying(nagging) a word at http://www.MorningPeacemaker.com   


.If you have kids ages 2 to 12 you'll LOVE this book!  


Available through http://www.morningpeacemaker.com and Amazon.com   


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