Well, it's that time of year again. While every corporate blogger waits for their employer to release last year's earning report, we are forced to find other things to write about that comply within [corporate "black-out" rules].
In the past, I used this black-out period to publish my [New Year's Resolutions] in this blog. In 2010, I took a different approach. I decided NOT to publicize my resolutions to see if that allowed me to stick to them better. Derek Sivers cites research recommending you should [Keep your Goals to Yourself]. For a bit of nostalgia, here is a [recap of my previous resolutions].
"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results."
-- Albert Einstein
In addition to being a technical consultant for IBM, I am also a certified yoga instructor with formal training. Back in 2004, I co-founded the Tucson Laughter Club, based on [Hasya yoga], a form of yoga that incorporates breathing, stretching and laughter exercises. The two jobs are actually similar, in which I am standing in front of a group of people, telling them what to do and how to do it.
January is the month where gyms and yoga classes are filled with new students who have made New Year's Resolutions. Every time I am asked "What should I do to lose weight, get fit, and sleep better?"
(Note: I am neither a medical doctor nor registered dietician. I can share with you ideas that have worked for me (or my yoga students) that might help you achieve your goals. I strongly suggest you read books and consult with medical experts as necessary.)
I always tell them the same answer. But first, I make them promise they won't share the secret with anyone, and that I will whisper it in their ear. After I get their nod of agreement, I whisper "Eat Less and Exercise More."
I get the same quizzical look every time. The response is typically "That's your big secret? Everyone knows that!" If that's true, why are nearly a third of all Americans obese, out-of-shape, and/or sleep-deprived? The answer is the knowing-doing gap.
Jeff Pfeffer and Bob Sutton explain this concept in their book [The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action]. I have read this book, and highly recommend it. People know what they need to do, but are not doing it. If you don't have time to read the book, here is an [8-page summary] from Harvard Business School Press.
While the book is focused on why businesses fail to achieve their goals, I think many of the principles apply to individuals trying to reach their health goals:
- Understand "Why" before "How". People are quick to follow process and procedures, rather than understanding the underylying biology, chemistry, or physiology.
- Knowing comes from doing and teaching others. Learning is best done by trying a lot things, learning from what works and what does not, thinking about what was learned, and trying again.
- Actions speaks louder than words, thoughts, and elegant plans. Without taking some action, learning is more difficult and less efficient because it is not grounded in real experience. When I was in Japan, one of the employees told me their boss was NATO, which stood for "No Action, Talk Only!"
- There is no doing without mistakes. In building a culture of action, one of the most critical elements is how you treat yourself when
things go wrong. Even well planned actions can go wrong. All learning involves some failure, something from which one can continue to learn.
- Fear fosters knowing-doing gaps, so drive out fear. Do you fear making mistakes? Do you fear success? Do you fear people will make fun of you for trying something outside your comfort zone? Drive out that fear!
- Measure what matters and what can help turn knowledge into action. Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it!" The trick is to figure out which measurements lead to corrective actions.
If you have problems keeping any of your New Year's Resolutions, try to figure out why. Is it because you didn't know what to do? Or, more likely, you know what you needed to do, but didn't do it? Feel free to enter your comments below!