From the moment we are born, we begin our march towards death. Or as the saying goes, “You will never be as young as you are today.”
As dark or depressing as that statement might hit you, the case in point is that our time here on earth is limited. Each morning that we rouse ourselves from a night’s slumber, we have nicked another 24 hours off of whatever allotted time the universe has given us. The existential truth that we are living and dying simultaneously should give us pause.
The two places we can’t live in are the past and the future. The present is truly our one and only authentic reality. But just as the choices we made yesterday formed who we are today, so too will what we do today become the very makeup of the seemingly same, yet different person we will be tomorrow.
For example, if today we choose to overindulge on sweets, fried foods and decadent desserts, our future self who steps on the scale tomorrow might weigh a little more and most likely be suffering from a gut biome in distress. Our decision to not properly warm up prior to an intense game of basketball or tennis this afternoon, could easily end up with a body on the couch in the morning that is no longer pain-free. Our choices have consequences that affect the quality of our daily existence. We can behave in a manner that celebrates the living side of our continuum, or act in opposition and embrace that march towards the afterlife.
New Year’s resolutions capitalize on our desires to affect change. We are naturally drawn to the optimism that a new anything provides: from large, life-altering events like buying a new home, switching careers, or getting married, to relatively small shifts like a new hair style or for me, something as simple and inspiring as a blank notebook. The opportunities are endless as long as what is ahead is unmarred by mistakes or regret. The chance of a fresh start is exhilarating and we embrace it with enthusiasm and earnest intent.
Our annual pledges or promises often tend to be health-based: lose weight, stop eating sugar, drink less, exercise more, etc. The clean slate that magically appears when the clocks chime midnight, sends us encouraging messages of “You can do it”, “This time will be different” and “Just you wait and see”! But recent statistics show that on average, only 9% of the population who make New Year’s resolutions end up keeping them, which actually seems optimistic since another study showed that 80% of people have already abandoned their vows by February. Predictably, the majority of us will once again be biting off more resolve than we can chew.
So rather than choking on our intentions, why not try nibbling, instead of gulping? In lieu of a new year resolution, what if we opted for 52 weekly endeavors, or even 365 daily aspirations?
In the corporate world, terms like “Work Breakdown Structure”, Micro Productivity” and “Product Decomposition” are all ways to describe breaking down large tasks into smaller, more manageable ones. In many recovery programs like AA, the adage of “one day at a time” has helped millions of alcoholics stay sober for decades, by simply not drinking in 24-hr increments. It is my honor and privilege to know many of these brilliant and beautiful champions of change, and they are living testaments to its effectiveness and success.
Another benefit of tackling more appetizer-sized portions of commitment is that –just like a tapas tasting menu– you get a chance to broaden your palate and expand the number of opportunities for self-improvement. In place of a singular, broad declaration of “I will eat healthier and exercise more this year,” what if on Sunday you vowed to have a Meatless Monday in an attempt to eat more plants? Odds are probably good that you could do it, knowing that an In-N-Out Double-Double was in your future on Tuesday if you so desired. But what if you didn’t?
Maybe on Tuesday, you choose to eat every meal at home, making your lunch, rather than grabbing fast-food, just for that one day. And then on Wednesday you eliminated soda and on Thursday you vowed to eat only when you were hungry and not when you were tired, bored or stressed. Friday came along and you were feeling rather good about yourself for hitting your goals, so you made a decision that you would skip the traditional TGIF gathering at the bar and opt instead for an extra-long walk with the furball, who was anxiously awaiting your return from work. Saturday and Sunday became an exercise-before-breakfast weekend to incorporate a little intermittent fasting into your 24-hours and before you know it, you’ve had a week’s worth of healthy lifestyle changes, one day at a time.
The beauty of a daily resolution is its flexibility. Setting targets that can improve mental health and well-being are also great tools for self-care. Whether it’s a promise to call your mother, weed the garden, take a bubble bath, or going out of your way to give someone a nice compliment, there are unlimited ways to uplift yourself – and others. A common denominator in Blue Zone communities (areas around the world with the highest longevity and lowest rates of chronic disease) is a sense of purpose or what Okinawans call IKIGAI, translated as “that which makes life worth living.” Having a singular, daily aspiration not only invokes action, it also grants a sense of pride and accomplishment for a job well done when carried through.
Tim Robbins’ character, Andy Dufresne, in The Shawshank Redemption famously said, “You can get busy living or get busy dying.” If you’re looking for a way to make 2023 your best year ever, choose the former option and make it a daily habit that you can stick to. Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it can help make it permanent. Your 2024 self will thank you!
A SPECIAL NOTE:
In writing this article for the year end edition of the SC Journal, I find myself filled with an abundance of gratitude. The opportunity to reach out to so many of you and spread awareness on the importance of healthy lifestyle choices via this column is not something I take lightly, or for granted. The Noble Path Foundation has been able to touch the lives of so many youths in our local neighborhoods via our free wellness and social programs that my heart skips a beat when I think of what still lies ahead. And none of it would be possible without the help and support of kind and generous souls within our community. I am touched by the giving and on behalf of our entire team, we can’t thank you enough. I invite everyone to stop by our building at 420 N. El Camino Real if you get a chance, and see for yourself how the magic works. Wishing you all a healthy holiday season filled with joy, hope, love, and LOTS of laughter. ~ Cindi
Cindi is President and Founder of The Noble Path Foundation, a 501(c)(3) located in San Clemente, CA, dedicated to helping the youth of our communities reach their highest potential via healthy nutrition and lifestyle choices, safe and fun social activities, and motivational mentoring. For sources and links to the statistics mentioned in this article, please visit our website and search for the article under our blog at www.thenoblepathfoundation.org.