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Rethinking Resolutions

January 05, 2021

Whether you love them or hate them, resolutions are an inevitable part of starting a new year.

And while they are a time-honored tradition intended to produce a positive outcome, the unfortunate reality is that resolutions garner significant attention because they often fail.

Although there’s no secret code or foolproof strategy to a successful resolution, there are some principles that may improve the likelihood of achieving your desired outcome.

If you’re looking for changes that will last, it may be time to rethink resolutions—keep reading for suggestions on exactly how.

1.) Focus On Your Environment:

Success in any endeavor requires an environment that facilitates positive outcomes. Choosing a singular focus, such as diet, exercise, etc. will likely fail without support from your entire day.

Instead of narrowing in on a specific goal, look at aspects of your lifestyle that will promote and reinforce advantageous decision making on a broader scale.

Examples include:

  • Optimize your light environment

Light shapes life and physiologic function. When your light environment is dominated by artificial light and devoid of sunlight, your body responds accordingly—with dysfunction.  The result is poor sleep, lack of energy, and lack of motivation. This is an environment that ultimately works against long-term, positive outcomes.

Optimizing your light environment optimizes your circadian rhythm, which controls all physiologic function. This includes neurotransmitters and hormones, energy production, metabolism, sleep and mental wellbeing. 

Aim to watch the sunrise each morning, wear blue blockers throughout the entire day, eliminate artificial light in the evening, watch the sunset and then go to bed shortly after. This is a recipe for fueling your entire day with optimal light and creating a lifestyle that supports healthy choices.

  • Make Your Environment More Natural

There are incredible benefits associated with time spent in nature, including stress reduction, immune support, mental wellbeing, decreased inflammation, and much more. But, the unfortunate reality is that most people spend very little, if any, time outside.

Taking regular breaks to reconnect with nature is a great way to change the trajectory of your entire day and improve overall wellness. And when you feel better, you do better!

Prioritize time outside, without glasses/sunglasses and as little clothing as possible. Choose activities that forces you into nature like hiking, outdoor sports, etc and involve others in the journey.

  • Optimize Your Sleep

The importance of consistent, quality sleep can’t be understated. Sleep is the only portion of our active day uniquely dedicated to rest, repair and growth thanks to a powerful hormone called melatonin. Without it, we will break down over time.

Most importantly, sleep is critical for cognitive function and our brains rely on it to conduct important processes like:

        • Clean out toxins and other waste.
        • Build new connections, rewire old ones and solidify memories.
        • Conduct neural repair and reorganization

Yet, so many neglect sleep as a critical piece of their ecosystem, instead choosing work and entertainment over proper recovery and cognitive repair.

Prioritizing sleep and the factors that result in quality sleep is a great way to support energy levels, immune function, and mental wellbeing. It also leads to better decision making, which can help you consistently create an ecosystem for functional health.

Focus on your light environment, circadian synchronization and sleep hygiene for high quality sleep night after night.

Continually evaluate the environment you operate in—if negative, non-productive influences exist, make the conscious decision to let them go. Repeat this process consistently.

Eventually you will have built an environment that fuels your full day and supports effective decision making.

 

2.) Create Systems For Success:

"If you genuinely care about the goal, you’ll focus on the system.”

-James Clear

A goal without a system is just that, a goal.

Systems help optimize the process by which you intend to achieve an objective and create long-term sustainability. 

Of course, this is not to say you can’t accomplish anything by focusing purely on a goal—you certainly can and honing in a desired outcome without a definite plan for getting there can be incredibly valuable. 

But, it may not be optimal.

What do you do when you achieve your goal? How do you maintain this success?

Without a system, accountability is a challenge. Without accountability, sustainability is generally impossible.

Once you define your goal, focus on building a system that results in the desired outcome(s). Ask yourself critical questions like:

    • What are the steps required in order to achieve my desired outcome?
    • What are the potential roadblocks and how do I overcome them?
    • Why do I want this specific outcome?
    • How will I stay accountable?
    • How will I respond if I don’t succeed?

Use the answers to these questions in order to build your process—including your process for handling failure.

Then critically evaluate, measure and analyze the results. Look for inefficiencies, automations and opportunities for optimization. And repeat.

Eventually, you will have built something far more valuable: a lifestyle.

 

3.) Prioritize Elimination Over Addition

Resolutions traditionally involve committing to a new habit or changing some aspect of your lifestyle. This usually looks like a new diet, workout routine, or activity you wish to adopt in order to accrue some benefit.

But, adding an additional factor to our lifestyles, especially when there are overwhelming influences working against us, can be a recipe for failure.

Instead, consciously reflect on what factors you may be able to eliminate in order to create a more optimal environment for success.

Examples include:

    • Technology use:
      • Focus on eliminating all technology once the sun has set for better sleep.
      • Choose a technology free day each weekend to reduce stress.
      • Optimize your circadian rhythm by waiting at least 30 minutes after waking up to use any technology.
    • Light:
      • Take a small break from artificial light periodically. Even 5 minutes every hour or an hour a day will make a huge difference.
    • Sleep:
      • Eliminate late night snacks for higher quality sleep.
      • Eliminate artificial light after the sun has set as to not disrupt your circadian rhythm.
      • Turn off Wifi and other technology at night in order to eliminate distracting frequencies in your environment.
    • Nutrition:
      • Eliminate artificial foods.
    • Movement/Exercise:
      • If you find yourself consistently sore or tired, consider taking an additional day off.

While not doing something can be just as hard as actually doing something, choosing to eliminate the areas holding you back may actually be more valuable in the long-run.

 

4.) High Impact, Low Investment

Choosing actions/goals with non-linear outcomes is a great way to reap major rewards with little investment.

What does this mean?

Non-linear effects are small actions and inputs that result in massive amplification—you can visualize this as as a steep curve on a graph.

Take for example the simple act of watching the sun rise. As the sun’s morning spectrum hits your eye, your circadian clock is set, signaling your body to down regulate melatonin, up regulate cortisol, boost dopamine levels, control apoptosis and autophagy and stimulate mitochondrial efficiency (this is just scratching the surface)—effectively getting you ready to take on the day. All of these critical processes, which have huge implications, originated with a very simple stimulus—yet, the importance is often downplayed because the non-linear effects are not recognized.

There are countless examples of actions that require little investment, but result in a massive reward, including:

    • Watching the sun rise in the morning and set in the evening.
    • Wearing blue-blocking glasses when indoors.
    • Getting as much sunlight as possible throughout the day.
    • Eliminating artificial foods. Choose seasonal, local foods instead.
    • Incorporating movement throughout the entire day.
    • Focusing on your routine the hour before going to bed for quality sleep (no artificial light, no technology, restful activities, etc.).
    • Practicing meditation.
    • Daily cold exposure (showers or full immersion).
    • Consistent reading

While perceived investment is certainly not one-size-fits-all (what may be more challenging to one person, could be less challenging to another), there is sure to be habit and practices in everyone lives that will fit into this category. Focus your attention here first. Once you’ve nailed one, move on to another and so on—eventually you will have built a lifestyle.

 

5.) Measure It!

Data is critical for continued analysis, optimization and growth. And for most, progress and accountability are powerful motivators. Therefore, choosing goals with measurable outcomes will support success and long-term sustainability.

While a goal without a system for measurement is certainly achievable, human nature values positive reinforcement and measurable outcomes—so, why not give yourself the best opportunity to succeed?   

Fortunately, crafting a system for measurement doesn’t have to be complicated. It just has to be consistent. Choose a sustainable practice, such as:

    • Making a spreadsheet and recording progress daily using whatever system makes sense for you.
    • Keeping a journal.

Or, if you’re looking to get a bit fancier, you could:

    • Using a wearable like the Oura Ring to understand how your actions affect sleep, readiness, etc.
    • Find an App designed for your purpose.
    • Track your progress with regular bloodwork.

No matter what you set out to accomplish, make sure you can commit to recording your progress consistently. Set timers and reminders to stay consistent or include others in the process to boost accountability.

 

6.) Community Optimizes Success

Success in any goal requires support.

Finding people and groups who are also working towards a similar outcome(s) is critical for maintaining accountability and a shared sense of purpose. Not to mention, it makes the process a lot more fun!

If a community doesn’t exist, make one! Find like-minded people willing to join along in whatever goal you set out to crush—then go do it!

Takeaway:

Goal setting is a valuable practice. But, success in any goal comes to those who recognize that how you get there is far more valuable.

It’s the process you implement, the environment you cultivate, and the lifestyle you create in the pursuit that makes it truly worthwhile.

See you in the field.

 

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Medical Disclaimer: This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Monette nor the pu

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