It's been more than two months since you looked in the mirror and decided that with THIS new year came new choices, new health and new goals.
How is that New Year's resolution working out for you? Are you still holding strong to those convictions, still dragging yourself out of the bed in the morning to get to the gym, still averting your eyes when you drive past the donut shop? Or, do you find yourself running from veggies, hitting the snooze button, and cutting across three lanes of traffic to reach that Boston Cream donut?
A client told me the other day that she had been faced with the reality that she had fallen off the resolution wagon. When she saw a neighbor in the grocery store she resorted to throwing four bags of frozen green beans into her cart to cover the package of overstuffed Oreo's she was planning to purchase, all in an attempt to avoid the humiliation of admitting defeat.
Why the struggle every February and March? Simple. Changing habits is hard work! Without daily re-commitment, accountability, and support, many of us just aren't going to change on our own.
This begs the question: why do resolutions fail? Are people really that weak-willed or lazy? Fifty percent of the population makes resolutions every January; the top ones are weight loss, exercise, stopping smoking, better money management and debt reduction. The vast majority find themselves giving up less than eight weeks later.
Timothy Pychyl, professor of psychology at Carelton University, explains that resolutions are a form of “cultural procrastination,” a way in which people attempt to reinvent themselves. Most people use resolutions to motivate themselves, however many aren't ready to change their habits, particularly bad habits. In addition, people tend to set unrealistic goals and lofty expectations.
Peter Herman, psychology professor, calls this type of decision “false hope syndrome.” Resolutions are often significantly unrealistic and out of alignment with the individual's internal views of themselves. When you make positive affirmations about yourself that you don't really believe, the positive affirmations not only don't work, but they can be damaging to self esteem.
Making resolutions work is essentially changing basic behaviors and in order to do that you have to change your thinking and rewire your brain. Habitual behavior is created by thinking patterns that create neural pathways and memories, which become the default basis for your behavior when you're faced with a choice or decision. Change requires creating new neural pathways from new thinking. This is a process that will take time and should be done one small (realistic) step at a time.
Another obstacle to keeping resolutions are the excuses we make. The big one tends to be that we “don't have enough time.” It's typically not true that you don't have enough time to follow through on your goals. We tend to spend countless hours surfing the web, watching mindless television and engaging in other non-productive activities.
Down time is important and healthy, but so is working on having energy to incorporate healthy activities into your life. Achieving more energy requires getting enough sleep, eating right and taking care of ourselves mentally. Lack of energy and fatigue effects productivity in all areas of life. “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regrets,” --Jim Rohn. Become more disciplined in personal life in order to maximize energy and conquer goals.
Tips that will help your resolutions work:
Focus on one resolution or change – are you more interested in losing weight, exercising more, or reducing debt?
Set realistic, specific goals – losing weight is not a specific goal. Losing 10 pounds in three months would be.
Don't wait to make a resolution. Start now and make it a year long process, every day. Putting it off until Dec. 31 isn't likely to make it any easier.
Take small steps. Many people quit because the task seems overwhelming, especially if the goal is too big.
Have someone keep you accountable. This could be a professional, such as a nutritionist, financial planner, or personal trainer, or simply someone that you are close to.
Celebrate success between milestones; don't wait until the goal is finally completed.
No more excuses! Make time for the important things in your life and make sure to have enough energy to work toward achieving your goals.
Focus thinking on new behaviors and thought patterns; you need to create new thought pathways in your brain to change habits.
Focus on the present; what's the one thing you can do today, right now, towards your goal?
Be mindful. Become physically, emotionally, and mentally aware of your inner state as each external event happens, moment by moment, rather than living in the past or future.
It may be the middle of March, but what better time to reignite your drive and start over than the beginning of spring? Resolve to refocus on your original resolution and start to change your thinking. Find someone to help keep you accountable if it will help.
Remember to have fun and enjoy the journey.