The New Year is here, and we are all hard at work on our resolutions. Do you want to lose weight? Get more organized? Quit smoking? Did you make the same resolution last year? What about the year before that? Join our hosts, Juliet C. Dorris-Williams and Gabe Howard, as they discuss why making a New Year’s resolution can be damaging and how to work towards long-term goals and recovery year round.
Highlights of PEER Voices Episode Five
1:29 – “It’s almost always generated by some type of outside force….I do not like New Year’s resolutions. Because we want people to feel like they are worthy.” (Change comes from within. If the motivation for change isn’t your own, you are unlikely to succeed.)
3:10 – “All of these people are going to make money on how bad we feel about ourselves.” (Many resolutions are inspired by commercial advertising, which is designed to prey on our perceived inadequacies.)
7:47 – “We have a goal and milestones and steps along the way. That’s how we get there.” (Large or long-term goals need to be broken down into smaller parts.)
15:33 – “Don’t be wedded to a mistake just because you took a lot of time to make it.” (Be humble enough to see when the path you are on is not going in the right direction.)
17:27 – “As long as you are still alive, you can still do it.” (Large goals take a long time, and it is never too late.)
20:43 – “How about being happy now?” (You will not magically be happy at some future time. Recovery is a lifelong and daily process.)
Transcript of “Trauma Informed Care: Forget New Year’s Resolutions: How to be successful in long term goals any time of the year.”
Editor’s Note: This transcript is computer generated and therefore may not be an exact match to the recording.
Announcer: [00:00:07] You’re listening to the PEER Voices Podcast. This show is for peers, by peers, and focuses on information that’s important to our community. Here’s your hosts, Juliet Dorris-Williams and Gabe Howard.
Gabe: [00:00:27] Hello, everyone! And welcome to the first PEER Voices of 2019. We hope you had a happy holiday. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and every other holiday that takes place in December. My name is Gabe. And with me as always is. . .
Juliet: [00:00:42] Juliet Dorris-Williams. Hello, everyone.
Gabe: [00:00:44] And we are excited to talk about New Year’s resolutions.
Juliet: [00:00:48] Or not.
Gabe: [00:00:49] I know I have made a bundle of New Year’s resolutions.
Juliet: [00:00:53] Stop the madness.
Gabe: [00:00:54] My hope is that one of them will stick. Now, Juliet, you are not a fan of New Year’s resolutions.
Juliet: [00:01:00] I am not a fan, at all.
Gabe: [00:01:02] You are a fan. Now, now, hang on.
Juliet: [00:01:06] Umm-hmm.
Gabe: [00:01:07] You are a fan of people changing their behavior for the better.
Juliet: [00:01:12] Umm-hmm.
Gabe: [00:01:12] You just think that when they do it on January 1st they’re stupid.
Juliet: [00:01:16] Well, I don’t think they’re stupid. I do think they’re setting themselves up for failure.
Gabe: [00:01:21] That’s a really interesting point. Talk about that for a moment. Like, why do you think that wanting to change on January 1st sets people up for failure?
Juliet: [00:01:29] Well it’s a false. . . it’s a false start. And it’s almost always generated or, well, generated, we’ll go with that word, by some type of outside force. So what we were talking about before we started recording was the ads for weight loss programs. The commercials for active wear. I’m seeing a lot of that. I’m seeing a lot of, “Oh come join this gym.” Seeing a lot of those kind of outside forces. All of those things and people and entities that want to make you feel bad about yourself. And so this is why I do not like New Year’s resolutions. Because we want people to feel like they are worthy. Right? Not that there’s something wrong with you. There’s something wrong with you. You’ve got to change it and let’s start on January 1st.
Gabe: [00:02:22] I agree with you. It’s everywhere. And you know I absorb these messages because I do not you know listen I’m over 40 I’m not as young as I once was.
Juliet: [00:02:31] You’re so old
Gabe: [00:02:31] I’ve got a few extra pounds. And when I see these commercials I think, “Man, you know, if I was healthier I would be better.” And that’s a true statement. But of course the reason I want to lose the weight is because the TV told me to. And I’m not going to be successful unless I want to lose the weight because I want to lose the weight.
Juliet: [00:02:50] That’s right.
Gabe: [00:02:50] So you’re saying that a lot of New Year’s resolutions are just manufactured out of…
Off-Camera Voice: [00:02:55] Social norms.
Juliet: [00:02:56] Social norms. Yes. OK. So you’re starting over?
Gabe: [00:02:59] I’m sure there is a social norm in there.
Juliet: [00:03:01] Yeah.
Gabe: [00:03:01] Our production assistant, that almost never gets airtime, is absolutely correct.
Juliet: [00:03:05] No, she’s right.
Gabe: [00:03:06] It is social norms. And things like that make us feel like we have to.
Juliet: [00:03:10] And there’s some kind of internal thing that I think all human beings share, unless you don’t have any empathy – which is a whole other conversation, that there’s something inherently wrong with us. That we’re not tall enough, we’re not this or that enough, we’re not, just we’re not. It is something where we’re not enough. And that’s it, we’re not enough. And so all of these people are going to make money on how bad we feel about ourselves anyway. I hate them.
Gabe: [00:03:49] They utilize New Year’s to have the final piece of the puzzle.
Juliet: [00:03:53] Yeah.
Gabe: [00:03:53] So we already think bad about ourselves, we we already think society is thinking it.
Juliet: [00:03:57] And you’ve spent a month eating Christmas cookies or something.
Gabe: [00:04:02] They merged that all together into marketing.
Juliet: [00:04:04] Marketing.
Gabe: [00:04:05] To make sure they get a billion dollars out of a gym membership.
Juliet: [00:04:08] Because they have studied us and they follow us on social media.
Gabe: [00:04:13] And they use psychology.
Juliet: [00:04:14] Yes.
Gabe: [00:04:15] They have convinced us that we’re bad.
Juliet: [00:04:16] Yeah.
Gabe: [00:04:17] And they have the solution.
Juliet: [00:04:18] Yeah. And the solution is, “Your life is going to be wonderful if you lose weight. If you’re suddenly, a size 6.” Or I don’t know what the magic size is.
Gabe: [00:04:29] I don’t know either.
Juliet: [00:04:30] I don’t know what the magic size is. But are you going to get a lot of girlfriends, if you are suddenly very svelte and all thin and what not.
Gabe: [00:04:41] So you’re saying I need to stay fat to protect my marriage?
Juliet: [00:04:44] You’re going to be more successful if you are thin and beautiful and whatever else. Rather than you’re not there yet. I guess they don’t make money if you just think that you are enough.
Gabe: [00:04:58] That is very true. So it’s not the idea of being healthy that is problematic for you? So when your friends say, “Hey I want to lead a healthier lifestyle.” Or, “I want to lose weight.” Or, “I want to join a gym or be more active.” That’s not the part that is raising the hair on the back of your neck?
Juliet: [00:05:15] No. No.
Gabe: [00:05:16] Its this idea that the reason that they want to do it is because they feel bad about themselves.
Juliet: [00:05:20] They feel bad about themselves and someone in society does not support us just being ourselves. And yeah, they’ve capitalized off of our own insecurities and that’s the part that I hate. Right.
Gabe: [00:05:36] And if people don’t have the right tools, not only will they feel bad about themselves, and that’s what made them join the gym or join the weight loss program, but then since they’re not prepared, because they didn’t think it through, they will fail at that plan. And then they will feel bad about that.
Juliet: [00:05:49] Well the thing is about feeling bad about yourself is it’s not something that stays around. If it stays around for too long, that means that we probably or we might have some depression going on we got a whole other different problem. But that it’s cyclical. It’s not like you feel horrible about yourself all the time 24/7. So that commitment to that thing that society imposed might only last a month. Or give it six weeks.
Gabe: [00:06:17] And then you’re right back where you started.
Juliet: [00:06:18] Then you’re right back where you started.
Gabe: [00:06:19] Is it fair to say that if it’s something that you want to do, and if it’s a good idea, you would have wanted to do it in November?
Juliet: [00:06:25] That’s right.
Gabe: [00:06:26] Or to do it in December?
Juliet: [00:06:26] That’s right. Or in July.
Gabe: [00:06:29] And the very fact that there is this fake deadline –
Juliet: [00:06:30] Right.
Gabe: [00:06:31] Is proof that you’re trying to put it off and sort of follow the lemmings. No doubt right off the cliff. I still like making New Year’s resolutions.
Juliet: [00:06:43] Have at it, Gabe.
Gabe: [00:06:44] I can’t help it. But you are right. I’ve never been successful in a New Year’s resolution. However, I have been successful at, we’ll keep with the weight loss theme. As you know, I lost over 300 pounds over 15 years ago. It wasn’t January 1st that I did it. It was like the middle of summer, and it took months and months and months. And it’s something I’ve had to keep up with day in and day out. It had nothing to do with numbers on a calendar changing and it had everything to do with me getting the right mental health care. And with me getting the right weight loss support. Going to a nutritionist, etc. But it’s still a good idea to set goals, right?
Juliet: [00:07:22] I’m not opposed to setting goals. I’m not.
Gabe: [00:07:24] Let’s change it from “New Year’s resolutions” to “year planning.” How do you feel about planning out your year?
Juliet: [00:07:36] Hmmmm. I don’t know about planning out a year unless we’re talking about a specific project. Ok.
Gabe: [00:07:45] Now I’m just playing loose and fast with the words, trying to trick you.
Juliet: [00:07:47] Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was a trick. I saw I saw that right away. So I like the idea of planning, particularly in organizational planning. So you don’t know if you don’t have it. Most organizations have a mission, and then they have a vision. The vision is, “OK, there’s that hill over there and we want to get to it.” So how do we get to that hill? We map. We have a goal and milestones and steps along the way. So that’s how we get there. And so there’s nothing wrong with that setting a goal and mapping out a plan to get there.
Gabe: [00:08:25] And when you set a goal, and you map out a plan, and you keep things reasonable, you’re much more likely to succeed. So a goal is good but a resolution is almost entirely made up of the things you saw on television?
Juliet: [00:08:38] Right. Right. And again it’s back to that. Back to those things that I already feel bad about. About myself.
Gabe: [00:08:45] So what are the things? You said that businesses have mission statements, and visions, and goals but people can as well?
Juliet: [00:08:52] Yes.
Gabe: [00:08:53] I know that you have talked about your personal mission statement before. And I’m not asking you to share. You don’t have to share it.
Juliet: [00:08:58] Thank you.
Gabe: [00:08:58] But this is something that you did for yourself. Since you understood what Juliet Dorris-Williams’ life goals were and it helped you get closer. I created a vision board once. When I was very sick and in therapy, I talked about huge long term goals. Very long term. It took me 15 years to get to them. And I had short term goals like –
Juliet: [00:09:18] Did that work?
Gabe: [00:09:20] It did work. I actually completed everything on the list.
Juliet: [00:09:24] That’s awesome.
Gabe: [00:09:24] It took 15 years. But the reason that I was successful is because I didn’t create the vision board because it was January 1st. I created the vision board because I was in a psychiatric hospital. So that was kind of a wake up call. And then I went to outpatient treatment. So I was getting a lot of treatment, and I said, “I feel aimless. I don’t know what to do.” And they helped me make goals. And some of the goals were very basic, like, “I want to go back to work. I don’t want to see you people anymore!” And I had some goals that were much much bigger. You know, own a house, etc.
Juliet: [00:09:58] And so someone said to you, “You have this goal of wanting to go back to work? So, okay, what are the things that we need to do or you need to do to get yourself back to work?”
Gabe: [00:10:09] Exactly. And somebody said, “How can I support you?”
Juliet: [00:10:12] Yeah.
Gabe: [00:10:12] And it wasn’t just somebody, it was many people. After I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, they wanted to know how they could support my illness. Now that was appropriate. They were medical providers. But they also told me how to talk to my family, my friends, my support system. Because they needed to support me as well.
Juliet: [00:10:29] Right.
Gabe: [00:10:29] And I only bring this up because some of the suggestions that they made were very very simple. For example, going back to work was very very scary for me. And somebody suggested, “Hey, why don’t I drive you on the first day and pick you up after the first day?” And that was just incredibly reassuring. So by asking and by talking it out and getting it out there I succeeded at that.
Juliet: [00:10:47] Right.
Gabe: [00:10:47] If I would’ve just said, “I have a New Year’s resolution to go back to work,” and then joined a gym, I probably wouldn’t have gotten there.
Juliet: [00:10:54] Your goal and your steps toward the goal and toward the vision have to match what the vision is about. So you wanted to go back to work, so maybe joining a gym was going to make you feel better in the short term while you took that another step. Took another step because you were feeling better and feeling healthier. Exercise does have its reward. It’s not always about losing weight. It is also sometimes about just feeling better.
Gabe: [00:11:23] I think that it’s interesting when we think about weight loss from the 80s. You know, weight loss from the 80s was all about, and I know I’m dating myself, but it was all about pounds. Pounds and inches, pounds and inches, and pounds and inches. And here we are in 2018. We still have the exact same products and services. They’ve all been rebranded. So now it’s about health and wellness. Health and wellness, health and wellness. But I can’t help but notice that when you get there, to the gym, there’s still a scale.
Juliet: [00:11:49] There is a scale. It depends on what and who you’re following on social media, Gabe. Because there is a whole movement out there about body positivity. There’s yoga for all body types. And, it’s about feeling better. It’s all about feeling better.
Gabe: [00:12:10] And there’s an example of taking a New Year’s resolution, and maybe making it something that is sustainable.
Juliet: [00:12:17] Yes.
Gabe: [00:12:17] Again, my New Year’s resolution is: I want to feel better. I want to make small incremental changes towards this larger goal.
Juliet: [00:12:23] Yeah.
Gabe: [00:12:23] I think in a lot of times when New Year’s resolutions are there, they’re very grandiose. They’re very big. What’s your New Year’s resolution? I want to lose 50 pounds. Whereas if your New Year’s resolution was I want to eat less fried food or I want to go for more walks –
Juliet: [00:12:38] It’s reasonable.
Gabe: [00:12:38] Yes, then it becomes more reasonable and this is a way that we could keep it. Now this is very analogous to what a lot of our people face. You know , I brought up being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and managing all that. And, as you know, at The PEER Center, we deal with people who have addiction issues and trauma issues.
Juliet: [00:12:53] Yes
Gabe: [00:12:54] And obviously they would all love to make a New Year’s resolution that says, “I will no longer be an addict” Or, “I will no longer be an alcoholic.” “I will no longer suffer from childhood trauma.” “I will no longer let my past beat me down.” And they all want that and we want that for them.
Juliet: [00:13:08] Yeah, we do.
Gabe: [00:13:08] But that’s not reasonable. And they’re setting themselves up to fail.
Juliet: [00:13:11] Right.
Gabe: [00:13:11] So how do we do this? Pretend it’s July now. How do we help people, whether it’s ourselves or other people, be successful at these lofty goals? Because not wanting to be addicted to drugs and alcohol or not wanting to be mentally ill or not wanting to be traumatized, those are all worthy goals.
Juliet: [00:13:28] They’re worthy goals
Gabe: [00:13:28] Now, where do they have to start with that? What is step one?
Juliet: [00:13:30] Right. That’s magic. If we had that figured out we could wave a magic wand.
Gabe: [00:13:36] We’d be so rich.
Juliet: [00:13:38] Yes. Yes.
Gabe: [00:13:38] We’d have dump trucks of money.
Juliet: [00:13:41] It’s something about what you said earlier, about needing the support for meeting milestones and goals. Sometimes the support has to remind you where you were. And say or just remind you, “This is where you were a year ago. This is where you were, maybe even six months ago. And this is where you are now.” And we all need someone. We need someone, a support system around us that will remind us that we are making steps even if they are small steps. We are great believers in small steps. Just keep taking a step. One step is all that’s required. It could be a small step. We don’t have to make giant leaps toward a goal. And, as we know in recovery, small steps matter. And we don’t get out of the business of taking steps, because recovery is lifelong. We still have to take those steps every day.
Gabe: [00:14:47] And this is where peer support is very powerful. Because you might see things that I don’t.
Juliet: [00:14:53] Exactly.
Gabe: [00:14:53] You know I might walk in the building and think I’m a failure. I made a mistake, I didn’t do the right thing and all I can focus on is the mistake that I made. The mistake could be legitimate.
Juliet: [00:15:04] Yeah.
Gabe: [00:15:05] Like, I legitimately made that mistake again. I remember when I was losing weight, I said to somebody, “Hey, I cheated this morning at breakfast. So I’m just going to, just going to eat.”
Juliet: [00:15:17] Chuck it all!
Gabe: [00:15:17] Yeah. I’m just going to eat bad food all day. And she said to me, “Hey, you ever go to the grocery store and pick off a grape? And eat it?” And I’m like, “Yeah, I’ve done that. Doesn’t everybody do that?” And she goes, “Well then you might as well rob a bank! I mean, you stole from the grocery store. So armed robbery is what you should do next!”
Juliet: [00:15:33] Yeah!
Gabe: [00:15:33] So you know, it just doesn’t have to escalate. And you know, that this was peer support. In the context of weight loss, I understand that. But I believe it’s very much tied in. I think one of my favorite phrases, that I learned here at The PEER Center, is “don’t be wedded to a mistake just because you took a lot of time to make it.”
Juliet: [00:15:52] Yeah.
Gabe: [00:15:52] And that’s so true. I also like, “Don’t rob a bank just because you stole the grape.”
Juliet: [00:15:58] And you said something very key earlier about yourself. You’ve made this vision board, and it took you 15 years, but you accomplished everything on that board. That’s phenomenal. You should blog about that.
Gabe: [00:16:13] [Laughter]
Juliet: [00:16:14] So, that is phenomenal. It took you 15 years, but you accomplished that. So what if, Gabe, you created this vision board on January 1st? And decided on January 1st that you were going to have that vision board completed by December 31st of that year?
Gabe: [00:16:32] Yeah. I would’ve been a failure, and I would have been disappointed. And because it was left open –
Juliet: [00:16:37] You would be setting yourself up for failure. It took you 15 years to accomplish all of that. But you did it.
Gabe: [00:16:41] I did. And the thing that I remember about that, first off, full disclosure, I thought the vision board was stupid. I did not want to make this thing. I was a grown man working with paste and magazines and scissors. And…yeah. I was not a fan.
Juliet: [00:16:55] I think that we need a group on that. On creating vision boards.
Gabe: [00:16:58] I genuinely believe that we do. Because I don’t have that vision board anymore. It’s gone to who knows where after a number of moves. But I remembered the things that were on it, because after I completed a couple, I got some confidence. I got some success in my pocket.
Juliet: [00:17:15] Exactly. That’s exactly right.
Gabe: [00:17:15] And then it stuck with me. But you’re right, it was always open ended because the person that had me make it was a social worker.
Juliet: [00:17:23] Yea!
Gabe: [00:17:23] So praise. Praise to you and your –
Juliet: [00:17:27] My colleagues.
Gabe: [00:17:27] Yes, praise to your colleagues who said, “This is the vision board for your life. As long as you are alive you can still do it.” So that was it. I literally had a lifetime. Now listen, I did not think I would complete it. I put some wild things on this board, because they suggested it. They’re like, “Hey reach for the stars on your board.” And even when I hadn’t completed it, I didn’t have a sense of failure. I had a sense of pride, because I had crossed off so many things. And you’re right, when we say “New Year’s resolution,” we go for this one big thing and if we don’t get it instantly we feel failure. And then we feel bad and then we rob a bank because we stole a grape.
Juliet: [00:18:08] So why do I hate New Year’s resolutions? KathyJean80, who is someone on our Instagram, and we should give her props for posting this. She says, “My goal in 2019 is to accomplish the goals I set in 2018. Which I should have done in 2017. Because I made a promise in 2016, which I planned in 2015.” It’s ridiculous and stupid.
Gabe: [00:18:38] So I would go back, like, way back. Like, I mean, I would start pretty much the day I was born. So yeah she makes a good point.
Juliet: [00:18:45] Yes.
Gabe: [00:18:45] It makes a very good point. And I think many people can relate to this.
Juliet: [00:18:49] She does.
Gabe: [00:18:49] But I still like New Year’s resolutions.
Juliet: [00:18:51] Have at it, Gabe. Have at it.
Gabe: [00:18:53] But people are still going to create New Year’s resolutions. So how can we get people to make New Year’s resolutions that are more reasonable?
Juliet: [00:19:01] Wow. This is why we’re doing PEER Voices podcasts! So maybe listen to this podcast, and then rethink. Yes, rethink it. I think there’s a movement out there for not doing that. I mean set some life goals, but don’t set yourself up for failure for something that’s supposed to last for 12 months, when it’s a lifetime change. And even now when they talk about diets, they talk about it being a lifestyle change. You’re not starting a thing that’s going to end magically in 12 months.
Gabe: [00:19:37] The best example that I saw, again, going back to weight loss, because weight loss is like the grand New Year’s resolution. It’s what everybody makes. Everybody wants to be thinner, taller, bigger, older, younger, whatever. The the best piece of advice that I ever read on the subject was, “Listen, don’t make your New Year’s resolution, ‘I want to lose 50 pounds.’ Make your New Year’s resolution, ‘I want to go to the gym three times a week.'” It’s much more manageable.
Juliet: [00:20:04] It is.
Gabe: [00:20:04] Make your New Year’s resolution, “I want to cut 100 calories out of my diet a day” or “I want to track my food.” Or something that is just manageable and reasonable and that you can easily mark your success.
Juliet: [00:20:17] Yes.
Gabe: [00:20:17] And that lets people be successful.
Juliet: [00:20:20] Yes.
Gabe: [00:20:21] I’m still going to make a New Year’s resolution. So this time next year, when you see me, I will no doubt look like George Clooney with red hair. So, you heard it here first. Now you’re going to miss out because you didn’t make a New Year’s resolution.
Juliet: [00:20:35] Correct. And I’m not going to look in the mirror and see someone who’s not me.
Gabe: [00:20:43] So, you’re just gonna be happy right now.
Juliet: [00:20:44] Right. Yeah.
Gabe: [00:20:48] So that really is the crux of it. You are happy now. And I might be happy in 12 months. And that’s all you need to know. I might be happy.
Juliet: [00:20:56] How about being happy now?
Gabe: [00:20:57] Exactly. Exactly.
Juliet: [00:20:59] Happy now.
Gabe: [00:21:00] Thank you, everybody, for tuning into the first PEER Voices of 2019. And we will see you in a couple of weeks.
Juliet: [00:21:06] Bye.
Announcer: [00:21:10] You’ve been listening to the PEER Voices Podcast sponsored by The PEER Center with a grant from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. To learn more about this podcast, please visit OhioPeers.org. To learn more about The PEER Center, please visit ThePEERCenter.org. We encourage you to share this podcast with other peers in our community. Thank you for listening, and see you next time on PEER Voices.