Making New Years Resolutions Under Realistic Conditions — and hopefully keeping them this way

[Keiko O’Brien is about to give birth during a ship-wide emergency with only Worf to assist]
Keiko: “Worf, have you ever done this before? Delivered a baby?”
Worf: “Yes. No. I took the Starfleet emergency medical course. In a computerized simulation, I assisted in delivery of a human baby.”
[later]
Worf: “My computer simulation was not like this. That delivery was very orderly.”
Keiko: “Well, I’m sorry!”
Star Trek: The Next Generation: “Disaster”

I’m writing this posting lying in bed, on my back, staring at the iPad hovering above me. The table arm still works beautifully, and so does the Bluetooth keyboard. Today I’m even more glad that I have this reading and writing aid — given that I’ve just run 16.44 km in 1 hour and 33 minutes.
Even after a really hot bath and generous application of “horse balm” — my legs, even part of my back, still hurt. Not the good kind of hurt, I hope that comes later.

Part of the reason for the pain is that my endurance is currently below average level. I went jogging a couple of times last year (about twice a week until April 2013, then again during August). But somehow the motivation went away, came back for a month, and vanished even more quickly.
So, one of the resolutions for this year was to start with long-distance running again. I know it’s good for me, a much needed compensation for other things in my life. But it also takes effort for me. It’s not really intrinsically motivating for me — a slight push is still needed. And even brilliant Exergames like “Zombies, Run!” can get you only so far. Especially when your base gets demolished at the end of Season 1 — STORY DEVELOPERS! I HOPE YOU GET YOUR BRAINS EATEN BY ZOMBIES! I RAN SEVERAL HUNDRED KILOMETERS FOR THAT BASE AND LIKED IT NOT SMOKING! 😉 ).

Well, resolutions being resolutions, I kept the resolution to resume long-distance running for one and a half weeks before it broke down:

Date Distance Time (h:mm:ss)
1/1/2014 16.76 km 1:35:38
1/4/2014 20.80 km 2:04:33
1/7/2014 25.41 km 2:41:04
*no running for 3 weeks* 🙁
1/28/2014 16.44 km 1:33:35 (now)

Granted, one reason for the break was that I got a cold after that 25 km run. It made me miss an appointment I had scheduled for running, and sometimes that’s all it takes. Especially if you stumble upon a beautiful book series that you just burn through. And Sherlock Season 3 did not help either. But while a “back on the horse attitude” and little more redundancy might help here, I wonder whether other issues contributed to it more. After all, I was well again a couple of days later and there were days without the pull of interesting works of art … err, entertainment.

Another reason was probably that I was operating under the attitude of “I run when I’m in the mood for it.” Not good. If you want to go jogging regularly, it must not matter how you feel prior to running. It’s a bit like Gurney Halleck’s comment in “Dune”: “Mood’s a thing for cattle or for making love. You fight when the necessity arises, no matter your mood.” You feel shitty, you go running, you likely feel better afterwards. You feel great, you go running, you still feel great. More often than not there is no initial “I’m in the mood.” — that’s a myth like waiting for inspiration when you have to write. Inspiration, like mood, is overrated for anything that takes continuous effort.

But I think the main issue why this — and probably many other — resolution do fail goes back to the conditions under which the resolutions are made. I made the resolution at the end of the year when looking back on the past year and thinking about the new year. I was on vacation then — as well as during the first two runs. The third (and last) run fell on my the first day of work in 2014. And I think it wore me down quickly. Not only because I walk to work each day (4 km each morning and another 4 km each evening), but also because it changed the setting, did cost a lot of resources (mental and otherwise), and put me in a different mode altogether. Combined that pretty much killed the resolution to go jogging regularly.

So, I wonder whether New Years resolutions are really that useful. Even if you combine them with concrete IF-THEN reminders to make them actionable, they are made in a different setting than the setting you are in (most of) the rest of the year. Perhaps it’s best to wait until the end of January, get acclimated to the job again, into it’s rhythm and demands, and then think what you want to change, and how you can realistically implement it. That might be a better New Years resolution and something to write in the calendar for end of January.

Might be worth a though. Taste the year, then decide what you do with it.

As for me — I hope re-committing myself to that resolution will work. I have also made a few additional commitments for which I will need my endurance back in about a month … back on a “25+ km and laughing about it” level. It’s a bit like digging hole, jumping in, and then finding out whether you can dig yourself out again. If nothing else, you are highly motivated. Together with a resolution made under realistic conditions — it might work.

We’ll see. If nothing else, at least the pain just turned into the good “a lot of my muscles are relaxing and that’s wonderful” kind of pain.

Now if my bed only had a minibar …

Categories: Improving your Creativity, Infrastructure, Inspiration, People, Self-Improvement


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