Tag Archives: New Year’s Resolutions

Progress Can Be Counterintuitive

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

– Hippocrates

I love the New Year. I appreciate the promise of a fresh start and a brighter future. Many of us have set New Year’s resolutions, and one of the most common resolutions is losing weight by eating right, exercise, or a combination of both.

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Losing weight is not rocket science, but many of us carry around excess insulation even though we know what we should do. We know that we need to consume fewer calories than we burn and we know that not all food is equal (the nutrition in a potato chip or candy bar is far different than the nutrition in broccoli). So we make our resolutions that we will forgo the junk food or we count calories and reduce our calorie intake by 500 calories a day. It may work for a while, but it usually does not work in the long term.

What Works

Over the Christmas break I had some free time to read. I picked up a book entitled How Not To Die by Michael Greger, M.D.. I don’t want to die, so I thought I’d read the book. The entire title is How not to die: The Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease. The book had a 4.8 of 5 stars with nearly 2,500 ratings, so I thought I would see what Dr. Gregor had to say.

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As I read, I found that Dr. Gregor is a vegan; I am clearly not, but one passage really intrigued me. Gregor explained:

Though calorie cutting has been the cornerstone of most weight loss strategies, evidence suggests that the majority of individuals who lose weight by portion control eventually regain it. Starving ourselves almost never works long term. So wouldn’t it be great if instead we could find a way to eat more food to get the same weight loss benefit?

The researchers divided overweight subjects into two groups. The first group was asked to eat five cups a week of lentils, chickpeas, split peas, or navy beans—but not to change their diets in any other way. The second group was asked to simply cut out five hundred calories a day from their diets. Guess who got healthier? The group directed to eat more food. Eating legumes was shown to be just as effective at slimming waistlines and improving blood sugar control as calorie cutting. The legume group also gained additional benefits in the form of improved cholesterol and insulin regulation.[i]


Chickpeas Kichererbsen

How it Works

I am not the kind of doctor that should be dispensing medical advice (and for all legal purposes, I AM NOT), but there is a certain beauty in this approach. Rather than counting calories and feeling deprived, simply add a little more good food to the equation. Ideally you would increase the percentage over time which would decrease the percentage of the bad foods you consume.

I found this passage so intriguing for two reasons. First, I experienced this last year. I went on a temporary elimination diet in order to determine if I had any food sensitivities. To do this, I had to not eat any of the major foods that cause reactions: gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, peanuts, corn, and sugar and sugar substitutes for a couple of weeks. When you do this, you are not left with much to eat other than healthy vegetables, and I accidentally lost 12 pounds. I unwittingly did what Dr. Gregor recommended.

Second, I was intrigued because the idea reaches far beyond diet. When I first started studying leadership and management, the goal in my mind was to not make mistakes. That is impracticable; all leaders will make mistakes. But what if the goal for a leader was to be extra-focused on taking care of his people and instilling commitment to the organization. The good (the metaphorical chick peas) would offset the occasional mistakes.

The same holds true for the salesman who makes more calls, the office manager who really gets to know her people, and the contractor who instills a culture of safe and excellent work. Everything improves for those who eat the metaphorical chick peas. Add enough good and the bad is naturally reduced. Progress is counterintuitive.


What About You?

What are your metaphorical Chick Peas? How can you squeeze a few more servings of these in to replace the fast-food in your work life?



[i] Gregor, M., & Stone, G. (2015). How not to die: Discover the foods scientifically proven to prevent and reverse disease. New York: Flatiron Books. (pp. 1-8-109).

-Darin Gerdes



Dr. Darin Gerdes is an Associate Professor of management in the School of Business at Charleston Southern University. All ideas expressed on www.daringerdes.com are his own.


This post was originally created for Great Business Networking (GBN), a networking organization for business professionals where Dr. Gerdes is the Director of Education.


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Attitude Determines Results.

All week I have written about New Year’s Resolutions. I have provided principles to help you keep your resolutions, provided an action plan, taught you how to gain leverage on your resolutions, and discussed how to do more with less. Today I want to talk about your attitude.


Over the last two weeks, I have walked an average of an hour a day. I am starting to feel more healthy already, and this is encouraging. I have also been more intentional about what I have eaten.

My Confession

But this morning I ate a cheese Danish.

This act of self-betrayal was quite a blow to my psyche. Now, this transgression was not a matter of life or death, but statistics show that 25% of those who make New Year’s Resolutions give up within the first week.

I failed this morning, but today does not determine tomorrow.

Your Attitude

Source: Army.mil

The Battle of Shiloh was “the bloodiest single day of fighting yet experienced on the North American continent.”

After the first day of the bloody engagement, General Grant tried to get some rest under a large oak tree. He was injured and tired. It was there that General Grant and Major General Sherman, his second-in-command,  discussed the battle:

‘Well, Grant,’ said Sherman, ‘we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?’ ‘Yes,’ Grant replied, ‘lick ’em tomorrow, though.’

Lick ’em Tomorrow, Though.

Get your MBA Now from Charleston Southern UniversityIn any battle of attrition (weight-loss, finances, writing, education, getting organized, quitting smoking) you can’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the task.

So you haven’t completed your New Year’s Resolutions perfectly. That is OK. Press on. You’ll lick ’em tomorrow.

How have you gotten back on track after a setback?

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

PS. General Grant named his horse Jeff Davis (the President of the Confederacy).

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of Graduate Programs in the School of Business at Charleston Southern University. All ideas expressed on www.daringerdes.com are his own.

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How to Do More With Less.

Over the last few days, I  have been writing about keeping New Year’s Resolutions. My New Year’s Resolution is to write less and write more. It sounds strange, but let me explain.

With Less

The plan is to only write about the one idea at a time.

Bloggers tend to be wordy unless they are focused. I am no exception.

I have found that many of my posts get away from me. I sit down and intend to write a page, and before I know it, I am 5 pages deep with no conclusion in sight.  I see myself in ProBlogger’s 13 Steps to Being the Worst Blogger on the Planet (I violate #4,5,6,9, & 12 regularly).

Ideally, I would write short, clear posts that make a contribution to my readers’s thinking, like Seth Godin‘s blog.

This is Seth’s Entire blog post from December 27, 2013:

No one reads a comic strip because it’s drawn well

It has to be drawn well enough, not perfectly.

No one goes to a rock concert because the band is in tune. They have to be close enough to not be distracting, but being in tune isn’t the point.

No one buys a house because every floorboard is hammered in at the six sigma level of perfection. They have to be good enough, and better than good enough is just fine, but perfect isn’t something that’s going to overwhelm location, beauty, peace of mind and price.

As creators, our pursuit of perfection might be misguided, particularly if it comes at the expense of the things that matter.

That is all. But that is not all. This small contribution will certainly become part of his next book. Seth is doing less…and doing more.

Do More

The time I save through this focused activity should create more opportunities to write more frequently. It is hard to blog regularly when each post takes an entire afternoon. It is much easier to just focus on one key idea and move on.

Over time, the consistency of short contributions will pay greater dividends than longer, irregular postings.

Get Greater Results

We are all busy.

As a professor, I have classes to teach, papers to grade, research to review, and scholarly articles to write. Popular writing has taken a back seat to my other duties.

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Perhaps you are like me. The demands of your job place your aspirations just out of reach. I would suggest that you attempt to do more by doing less.

Are you an aspiring writer? A regular flow of shorter blog posts is far better than sporatic postings.

Are you interested in losing weight? Walking an extra 20 minutes regularly will burn more calories than one really long walk each month.

Maybe you hope to get your financial house in order. A constant stream of small savings is almost assured to beat the irregular deposits that you one day hope to make.

How can you do less and get greater results?

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

PS. If you are aspire to become a better leader, subscribe to the blog (add your email address in the box in the upper right hand corner). Openly share anything I provide here. All content is free. I view this blog as an extension of my classroom. Enjoy!

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of Graduate Programs in the School of Business at Charleston Southern University. All ideas expressed on www.daringerdes.com are his own.


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Gaining Leverage on Your New Year’s Resolution.

Over the last couple of days, I have tried to provide principles to help you keep your New Year’s Resolutions and I provided a New Year’s Resolution Action Plan.

New Year's Resolutions | DarinGerdes.com | Rethinking Leadership

Photo Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Crowbar_(PSF).jpg

Today, I want to help you amplify the strength of your commitment.

I chose this picture of the man with the crowbar to illustrate the importance of leverage.How difficult would it be to rip apart a wooden pallet with your bare hands? How much easier if you use the crowbar?

That is the power of leverage.  I want to help you get leverage on your New Year’s Resolutions.

Do you want to lose weight?

  • Do not drink your calories.  Replacing  each serving of Coke, OJ, Milk, and Coffee with water each day could easily delete 500 calories.
  • This could be 800-1200 calories if you have a thing for Starbucks lattes.

Do you lack motivation to eat healthy?

  • Start small. Each small step moves you toward your goal.
  • Eat slightly less meat and a larger portion of vegetables. That isn’t hard.
  • Reframe your experience (READ THIS:  New Year’s Resolution Action Plan).

Do you want to get healthy?

  • Stop eating one bad thing each day.
  • Start taking a good multivitamin.

New Year's Resolutions |DarinGerdes.com |Rethinking leadership

Do you have a hard time taking a multivitamin?

  • Get chewables or gummies and place it on your desk so you see it every day.
  • If it is in front of you and it is more like a treat than a burden, you are more likely to ingest it.

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Do you want to grow intellectually?

  • Go back to school.
  • Borrow Audiobooks from your local public library.
  • Download free audiobooks from Librivox.

Do you want to grow spiritually?

  • YouVersion has will help you read through the Bible in a year (a free app with reminders).
  • You can even listen to it as an audio book.

The point is simple:

  1. Whatever your resolution, act.
  2. When you act, set yourself up for success with leverage.

What can you add to the list to help others get leverage?

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

Dr. Gerdes is the Director of Graduate Programs in the School of Business at Charleston Southern University. All ideas expressed on www.daringerdes.com are his own.

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Your New Year’s Resolution Action Plan

This morning on the news I heard that only 8% of Americans will fulfill their New Year’s Resolutions. That is sad. I want to help you beat the odds.

New Year's Resolutions | DarinGerdes.com | Rethinking Leadership

Photo Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:New-Year_Resolutions_list.jpg

Yesterday I wrote a post about New Year’s Resolutions with the following points of advice:

    1. Focus on one primary goal
    2. Measure
    3. Take action and watch things begin to fall into place
    4. Rethink the issue
    5. Remember  decisions are made at the margin
    6. Remove the large obstacles

In this post, I am going to show you exactly how to translate each point into action.

Case Study: Weight Loss

Let’s assume that your New Year’s resolution is to lose 25 pounds.

1. You have focused on one primary goal. That is good. It is important not to have too many goals at once.

2. Measure. Suppose you currently weight 200 pounds (for the sake of round numbers). How long  will it be before you can slim down to 175 pounds?

If you walk for an just under an hour at 4.5 miles per hour, you will burn roughly 500 calories. There are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat. This means that in 1 week, you can shed one pound.

By doing nothing else, you will have achieved your goal by June.

Add in minor dietary changes and you can reach your goal by Spring Break.

How? Keep reading…

3.  Now that you have taken action, other things will begin to fall into place. 

When you get home, you are less tempted by that strawberry frosted donut (320 calories or roughly a half hour of walking) and elect to snack on something more sensible. You are internally motivated to choose something else. After all, that walk was a lot of work.

You are also are not as tempted to have a Coke (14o empty calories and 39 grams of sugar). After your walk, water looks quite appealing (o calories).

New Year's Resolutions | DarinGerdes.com | Rethinking Leadership


Put another way, two Cokes will cost me more than half the gains from my walk. How did I figure that?

4. I rethought the process.

I used to choose food based only on cost. But, when I began to think about food in terms of how much it cost me in time to exercise,  the equation radically changed (in the business literature, this concept is called multiple bottom lines):

  • I can walk off about 10 calories a minute as described above.
  • Let’s assume I make $10/hour. That is roughly $20,ooo per year. You can do quick math to adjust the numbers based on your income.
  • (Note the national average wage is $44,321.67 or an hourly wage of $21.31).

So you walk into McDonalds  determined to spend as little as possible for your money. New Year's Resolutions | DarinGerdes.com | Rethinking Leadership You look closely at the menu and realize that you can fill yourself with two McDoubles for only $2.38. What a deal!New Year's Resolutions | DarinGerdes.com | Rethinking Leadership Stop. Think differentlyThat will be the most expensive $2.38  you ever spent if weight loss is important to you.

Let’s do the math:

  • Two sandwiches cost $2.38 in total.
  • They are 390 calories each or 780 total calories.
  • You can walk off 10 calories per minute
  • So, you will need to walk 78 minutes
  • You make $10/hour (that is 16 cents a minute)
  • Congratulations, it has just cost you $13 to work off the $2.38 sandwiches
  • Note: If you make the average national wage, it costs $27.70

When the cost to get it those calories off your body is part of your calculation, you have much more motivation to abstain. I am not talking about psyching yourself up. This calculation creates a revulsion towards the things you should not eat.

5. Remember, decisions are made at the margin. This is not an all or nothing situation. What could you choose instead?

Choose an apple.

New Year's Resolutions | DarinGerdes.com | Rethinking LeadershipYou know it is good for you. An apple contains a mere 116 calories, no fat, and 20% of your dietary fiber.

Or, have some celery. Two stalks of celery are only 15 calories. You can eat all three bags of celery, and you will only have ingested 225 calories.

New Year's Resolutions | DarinGerdes.com | Rethinking LeadershipNow, I realize that celery is not exactly a treat, and by itself, it is bland. So have two stalks with two spoons of peanut butter.

You will have consumed about 200 calories which will include 7 grams of protein. This is a far cry from even one McDouble.

Remember, marginal savings add up and compound over time.

Which of these frozen Boston Market dinners should you chose? They look the same. They will both satisfy your hunger. But…

New Year's Resolutions | DarinGerdes.com | Rethinking Leadership

Look at the label.

New Year's Resolutions | DarinGerdes.com | Rethinking Leadership

The turkey dinner has only 290 calories and 9 grams of fat. The Salisbury Steak has 630 calories and 35 grams of fat. If you eat the Salisbury steak, you will need to walk an additional  half hour to burn it off. Make wise choices at the margin.

6. Finally, in order to accelerate your progress, remove the large obstacles.

MBA CHARLESTON SOUTHERN UNIVERSITYIf you are like me, you have regularly eaten the McDonalds burgers while you were on the go.

Another personal favorite was Cheetos. I have loved them since childhood. I am not sure why. They are like little angelic puffs of bliss on my tongue. I could consume nearly an entire bag in one sitting and this might happen once a week on average. New Year's Resolutions | DarinGerdes.com | Rethinking Leadership Yet Cheetos contain a shockingly high number of calories.

Look at the nutrition facts.

150 calories per serving does not look bad until you realize that there are 10 servings in the bag.New Year's Resolutions | DarinGerdes.com | Rethinking LeadershipSo if I stress-eat a bag of Cheetos (and I have 5 kids so I stress eat), I have just added 1,500 calories to my body.

Let’s do the math:

  • The bag costs $3.50
  • They are 1,500 total calories in a bag.
  • I walk off 10 calories per minute
  • It will take 150 minutes
  • If I make $10/hour (that is 16 cents a minute)
  • It has just cost me an additional $25 to work off one bag.
  • If I make the national average, it would cost me an additional $53.28 to work off one bag…and I am a business professor, so when I do the math, I am now revolted by these demonic little puffs from Hades.

But Wait, There’s More

Since a bag of Cheetos per week has been a regular habit, just ceasing to regularly eat a bag of Cheetos will have a pronounced effect on my weight.

  • I reduce my overall calorie count by 1,500 per week by doing nothing
  • Over the year, I will not have ingested 75,000 calories. (Multiply 1,500 by 50 weeks, allowing you to snack a few times over the course of the year).
  • There are 3,500 calories in a pound
  • This means, I will not have added 21.4 potential pounds of extra weight that I need to exercise off my body. It works the same way for the McDoubles you forego.

You Can Do This!

So what is stopping you? I mapped out a practical game plan. Now you have the tools to keep your New Year’s resolution.

What one thing will you do this year?

I would love to hear your feedback. How can this plan work for you?

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

Note: I am not a medical doctor. A nutritionist might suggest you eat or not eat something that contradicts my advice here. Obey the nutritionist’s recommendations about food but follow the principles about rethinking, marginal thinking, and removing the large obstacles. My Ph.D. is in organizational leadership. I am not dispensing medical advice but providing a strategy to help you rethink your goals.  In other words, don’t sue me.


Dr. Gerdes is the Director of Graduate Programs in the School of Business at Charleston Southern University. All ideas expressed on www.daringerdes.com are his own.


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How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolution This Year.

I love New Year’s Eve. I enjoy the feeling of the fresh start. However, like most people, I have made more New Year’s Resolutions than I have kept.

New Year's Resolutions | DarinGerdes.com | Rethinking Leadership

Photo Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:New-Year_Resolutions_list.jpg

According to statisticbrain.com, only two-thirds of us maintain our New Year’s Resolutions past the first month, and less than half continue past 6 months. I have a few suggestions that can increase the chances that you will keep your resolutions this year. I have culled these tips from the business management literature.

1. Focus on one primary goal.

I have really screwed up here. I was too ambitious and set too many goals. Then, I failed to reach most of them.

Focus on one primary goal.

Choose the goal that will give you the greatest return this year. Think and pray hard before deciding. Then pursue it wholeheartedly.

Dave Ramsey suggests that 80% of the rich focus on a single goal compared with only 12% of the poor who do this.

2. Measure.

You need to know where you are and where you want to go. Take stock now and then devise clear plans that will help you achieve your goal.

If you are in business, or have taken a business management course, you have likely seen SMART goals before. Smart goals are:






SMART goals work. They are powerful. This power comes from clarity. You cannot be vague about what you want if you hope to achieve your goal.

3. Take action and watch things begin to fall into place. 

Taking action is critically important.

Get your MBA at Charleston Southern UniversityJust thinking about your goal gets you nowhere. However, when you take action, you find that things begin to fall into place. You open yourself up to greater opportunity. You see things you did not see before. Others can only aid you when they know the actions you are taking. First…

You must act.

Without action, your change remains theoretical.

4. Rethink the issue

Newt Gingrich once quipped that “the system you have is perfectly geared to give you what you are getting.” So, if you want to get different outputs next year, you have to fundamentally change part of the system.

You are most likely to change the system when you think about it differently.

For instance, what if debt was not just a “bad” thing, but a monster preventing you from being free, keeping you as a slave to that job you hate? How many ways could you think of to slay that monster?

5. Remember that decisions are made at the margin. 

This is a concept borrowed from economics.

For our purposes, it  means that you will not get stuck thinking about the enormity of your goal. That can be overwhelming. You must let go of “all or nothing” thinking here.

Instead, look at what is next and make choices that lead you the right direction. Consciously take baby steps toward your goal.

For example, suppose you want to write a book. Don’t look at how long the book will be. That is crippling. Instead, write the first few pages. Know that they will be an imperfect rough draft in need of later editing. Once written, you have moved closer to your goal.  Small choices add up and compound.

6. Remove the large obstacles.

While you are making the small choices, be aware that all choices are not equal. Some choices may significantly retard your progress.

Suppose that you your primary goal is to win back the love and trust of your significant other.

You have reframed the issue by recognizing that if he or she left (because of your issues) you would spend your life savings in counseling if necessary in order to fix what is broken and  restore the relationship.

With that in mind, you were willing to go to the counselling that you had previously resisted.

You have worked on daily demonstrating your sincerity with small acts of thoughtfulness.

You are doing everything right so far.  Just know that the next drunken bender might wipe away all the progress you have made. Make a plan to eliminate such large obstacles so they do not prevent you from success.

Need More?

Tomorrow, I will provide a case study utilizing all of the principles discussed above to demonstrate how to actually apply them.

According to statisticbrain.com the number 1 New Year’s Resolution is weight loss, so THE ACTION PLAN will utilize these principles to discuss weight loss.

Rank Top 10 New Years resolutions for 2014
Lose Weight
Getting Organized
Spend Less, Save More
Enjoy Life to the Fullest
Staying Fit and Healthy
Learn Something Exciting
Quit Smoking
Help Others in Their Dreams
Fall in Love
Spend More Time with Family


Note: I am not a medical doctor. My Ph.D. is in organizational leadership. I am not dispensing medical advice but a strategy to help you rethink your goals.  In other words, don’t sue me. See you tomorrow.

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

PS. If you are aspire to become a better leader, subscribe to the blog (add your email address in the box in the upper right hand corner). Openly share anything I provide here. All content is free. I view this blog as an extension of my classroom. Enjoy!

Dr. Gerdes is the Director of Graduate Programs in the School of Business at Charleston Southern University. All ideas expressed on www.daringerdes.com are his own.


Filed under Change, Current Events, Effectiveness, Influence, Management, Motivation, Success