Hissy Fit - January 2021 - Slow and Steady: Way Better Than All or None

...because everyone needs one every once in awhile


January 2021
by Elizabeth Skenes Millen

By now I hope your New Year’s resolution (NYR) is in full swing. If you’ve chosen weight loss as your goal (which is the No. 1 NYR) you, like many, may have chosen the All or None Approach, because that’s just who you are. So obviously, you have managed to discard every cookie, popsicle, potato, rice, potato chip, pasta, bread slice and morsel of chocolate that you could find in your home. You have gone to the gym every day since January 2, and you are contemplating staring into the pantry to figure out how to make something deliciously sweet with a one packet of Sweet’n Low, apricot preserves someone gave you two years ago for Christmas, peanut butter and a high-fiber, low carb English muffin. You are living on the edge with your extreme plan that is sure to soon fail.

Did you know only 9 percent of New Year’s resolutions come to fruition? Don’t shoot the messenger! It’s math, and math doesn’t lie according to one of those “news” channels. However, this is no lie: The all or none approach doesn’t work for most people, even those who claim they are “all or none” people. Here’s the problem with this approach—you’re either doing your all, which is too much, or doing nothing, which is simply nothing.

Let’s tackle the ALL side first. When you start a program—weight-loss, financial, health, learning a foreign language—in a manner that’s absolutely unsustainable (full throttle ALL), you will definitely not be among the 9 percent who make it. Why? Well, because it’s too much. Warren Buffett once said the best financial guidance book is The Hare and Tortoise, one of Aesop’s Fables. This story shows how slow and steady wins the race, as opposed to fast starts, short cuts and highs and lows. This philosophy is true most of the time, but the slow and steady pace doesn’t suit most American’s lifestyles or patience: We want it all and we want it delivered…NOW.

It doesn’t matter if it took three years to gain 30 extra pounds, they need to be gone by Valentine’s Day, right? So how do most of us do it? We go to the extreme and practically kill ourselves doing it. One thing is for sure, this method certainly isn’t enjoyable or fun, which are important parts of success in obtaining our goals. Enjoying the process almost guarantees success, both short and long term.

Being extreme never turns out well. Think of Tiger King, Jennifer Grey’s nose, Ponzi schemes—all extreme, all not good. Extremism doesn’t offer longevity because it’s based on unrealistic, overwrought expectations. It’s best to slow down and channel you inner Baby Bear—you’re in this for the long haul, and you want it to be juuust right! There are fabulous things about the long haul, even though it’s not as lickety split as you would like it to be.

The long haul allows you to take baby steps, which in turn gives you permission to wobble a little and even fall down. In other words, you don’t have to be perfect 24/7/365, which is a huge relief, because who is?

The long haul offers moderation, common sense and balance—all good things. You won’t have to be crazed and unwrap two dry celery sticks, a.k.a. dinner, while dining with friends at your favorite restaurant. You can enjoy a night on the town without believing you blew it, which usually makes us jump to the other side of this equation—NONE.

Before we move on to talk about the none side, let’s finish the case for moderation and the great things this middle-of-the-road concept can do for you. Did you know that if you walk a mere 30 minutes five days a week, you will significantly reduce your risk of death from a heart attack? How easy would it be to cut just 500 calories out of your diet each week? That's only 71 calories a day. If you say it’s easy, guess what? You are on track for weight loss, and if you can bump that 500 calories reduction each day, you will most likely lose 50 pounds by the end of this year. That’s a huge win, and the year is going to go by regardless of what you do.

There was a woman who wanted to play the piano but thought she was too old at age 72 to start lessons. She discussed all the reasons why she shouldn’t do it over a cup of coffee with a good friend, asking, “How old will I be when I master the piano?” Her friend replied, The same age you will be if you don’t.”

What a powerful point. The fact of the matter is time will keep passing by no matter what. It’s up to each one of us to choose to work toward our resolutions or not, even if we have already quit and joined None’s team. But don’t go to that team. Remember you are a free agent with goals, none equals zero. Even 100 zeroes strung together still adds up to nothing. Just get off the All or None train; it’s a rocky ride on both sides of the aisle.

Give your resolution a chance this year by choosing slow and steady. Before you know it, we will be four months into the year, and you will have made tremendous progress, all while enjoying the process. Any day you feel wobbly, remember the words of tennis great Arthur Ashe, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” That’s what the tortoise did, and he won. So will you.