Strengthen Your Relational Fitness in the New Year

January 6, 2019
Katie Stallard

Are you a New Year’s resolution person? I have not been among the 40% of Americans who set an annual goal for self-improvement—until recently. According to Nielsen’s “Top 100 New Year’s Resolutions” list a few years ago, “stay fit and healthy” and “lose weight” were the leading good intentions for 69% of resolution makers. As we kick off a new year, many people are heading off to the gym. Since I have yet to embrace regular exercise (I know, I know…), I have tended to avoid the practice of New Year’s resolutions. That changed in 2014 when on a whim, I boldly made a resolution I felt confident I could keep. I firmly resolved, in the presence of witnesses and with a twinkle in my eye, to eat chocolate everyday!

How did I do? One study showed that 75% of people make it a whole week, 46% make it past six months and as low as 8% achieve their goal. I made it past the one-year mark. In fact, I kept the streak alive for 21 months before I inadvertently missed a day. Don’t worry—I picked the resolution back up the very next morning and I am now entering my fifth year. Even on days when I was recovering from a chemotherapy treatment and had no interest in eating or drinking anything at all, I managed to eat a single chocolate chip from the kitchen pantry to keep the resolution alive.

I know that in my own life it is all too easy to keep my head down, “moving the ball(s) down the court,” and not take the time to reflect on what I want to improve on or do differently, identify a habit I should break or a set a goal I should aim for. Our son-in-law, on the other hand, has an extensive and impressive list of goals he has identified. He has established goals for the categories of business, faith, family and fitness. Jeremie’s goals, which he has shared with our daughter, include opening a new office in Texas (his current office is in Canada), tithing a larger amount to their local church, going to a baseball game in every Major League Baseball stadium (he played baseball in college) and bench pressing 300 pounds. He reads through the entire list twice a day—first thing in the morning and before going to sleep at night. This goal-setting and goal-reviewing practice motivates him and keeps him on track. No surprise, his career is off to a fast start. One study found there is a higher likelihood that you will reach your goal if you write it down and then share it with others who will provide accountability to support your efforts.

Here’s another tip: You are more likely to follow through on a resolution or goal when it is specific rather than overly broad. For example, you’re better off saying, “I will have vegetables at lunch and at dinner,” than, “I will eat healthier.” In a recent article in the Washington Post, Katherine Milkman, a behavioral economist at the University of Pennsylvania who studies decision making, advocates “temptation building” as a successful means to improve your follow-through on a good intention. For instance, you want to develop the habit of going to the gym but you’d rather sit on the couch and binge-watch a series you’ve started. Temptation building would link the activities: Restrict yourself to only watching the show while you’re on the treadmill at the gym. You might surprise yourself on how eager you are to grab your gym bag the next day!

So, what if we resolved in 2019 to be intentional about our relational fitness? Just as there are actions we can take that strengthen our physical health, such as eating properly, staying hydrated, getting rest and being active (there’s that exercise!), there are things we can do that will nurture connection and strengthen our relationships with family, friends and co-workers. Here are two ideas for you:

We know from scientific research and anecdotal evidence that connection makes us smarter, happier and more productive (according to neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman); more resilient to cope with stress; more creative and a better decision-maker. At work, connection smooths the way for cooperation and collaboration. It truly is one of the best resolutions you can make in the new year.

So here’s to having an abundance of connection in your life. Happy 2019!  

About the Author

Katie Stallard joined Connection Culture Group as a partner in 2018. She is a co-author of the book Connection Culture: The Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy and Understanding at Work and is a gifted connector, speaker and teacher. Audiences and seminar participants enjoy her sense of humor and practical advice.

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