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How to China Proof Your Resolutions

Resolutions can be difficult to keep in ideal conditions. Living in China adds another layer in the battle to make changes. Check out these six tips to china proof your resolutions.

New Year's resolutions in China are like regular resolutions with an asterisk. For instance, I resolve to run everyday* really means that I resolve to run everyday that the AQI is under 150. I don’t belong to a gym or own a treadmill and want to use my lungs 10 years from now. 

So how does one make realistic, ambitious, yet attainable resolutions while living in the Middle Kingdom? Here are six tips to make your resolutions into Chinesolutions this year. 

1. Identify the desired outcome

If the end goal is increased fitness, rather than saying “I will run everyday,” make this more broad and realistic given the air quality situation. “I will engage in a cardio based activity that puts my heart rate in my target zone for 30 minutes, 5 days a week.” Quite a mouthful, but this can now include a spinning class in filtered air or an at home workout with Sean T. Flexibility. Consider the bigger picture, what the ultimate end goal is and how to adapt to it in China. 

2. Put the pieces in place

If your goal is specific, build the scaffolding to reach that height. Say you want to run the Shanghai Marathon next year; running as training will be involved. What systems do you need to put in place to make sure you can run even when the air is “hazy?" Search the buy/sell listings for a treadmill or join a gym if you don’t want to train outdoors. Think through the scenarios that could be potential roadblocks and plan your detours so you can still reach your end goal. 

3. Make it stand out from the crowd

If “improve my Mandarin” is on your list, join the club. Goals like this are on most lists because there is always room for improvement. What is the X Factor that makes this goal important and makes you committed to improving? And what does “improve” mean, specifically? Identifying your motivation for improving and setting a measurable goal will make you more likely to stick with it. 

4. The company you keep

You can happy hour hop from 10am to 10pm in Shanghai. If your goal is to do this, there are people who will gladly keep you company on your journey. If you want to have a Sober October or a Dry July, there are people who will do this with you as well. Find likeminded people that are working toward the same goals. Accountability and peer pressure are strong factors in keeping you on track. WeChat groups can create a simple check in system to keep you honest and hold you accountable. 

5. Think like the Zodiac

Not only is 2016 the Year Of The Monkey, make it the year of the (fill in the blank with your theme). Just as babies born under the monkey sign are said to have certain characteristics, think of the characteristics that you want your life to have this year and create a theme. If you’re a procrastinator, perhaps this is the year of action. The overarching theme is one of timeliness. What characteristics do timely, non-procrastinators possess and how can you incorporate those traits into your way of being?

What About Bob?

Like Richard Dreyfus tells Bill Murray in the movie What About Bob?, it’s all about baby steps. I wrote a column about this last year, and the bottom line is that starting with the smallest possible action is still a move in right direction. Often times, this small step is investing in change. Most of us don’t like the idea of throwing money away, so pre-paying for a Mandarin tutor or a pilates instructor can be just the incentive you need. You may not be motivated to do these tasks on your own, but one benefit of living in Shanghai is the availability of skilled professionals to kick your butt into keeping your resolutions.