Falling Behind On Your New Year’s Resolutions?: You’re Not Alone
For the record, I do not do “the New Year’s resolutions” thing any more, but I know many people do, and just like countless others, you may have already or are on the verge of faltering in your stick-to–it-ness of those resolutions. Statistics show that 80% of people forgo their New Year’s resolutions by the sixth week of the New Year: good intentions gone down the drain.
As I mentioned in a previous blog, I gave up the ritual of resolution making about 15 years ago, but prior to that I was a very dedicated resolution maker. I would think about what I wanted to change or improve in my life. Rolling these thoughts around in my noggin, I would make a pretty healthy list of resolutions armed with the confidence that I would successfully implementation all of them!
Each December in prep for the New Year, I would buy a spiffy new journal and a fancy pen that flowed to my liking across the paper’s surface: no surprise for those that know me well. And, year after year, I wrote those well thought out resolutions in my neat new journal only to have them fall fairy quickly by the wayside and be left with a journal devoid of the first 15-20 pages. As soon as I acknowledged my fall from grace of keeping my New Year’s resolutions, I could not stand to have any evidence that I had even tried. Frustrated with my failure, I would violently tear out all the pages that had any hint of resolutions or journal thoughts about said resolutions written upon them. I would then re-cycle said journals for other writing tasks. Truth be known, you could rummage through my stuff today and probably still find one or two stashed here and there in my current residence (btw, stay tuned, I will undoubtedly, one day, write a blog about the conundrum of de-cluttering my house).
My inquiring mind wanted to know why I felt so compelled to make New Year’s resolutions in the first place and subsequently, why I couldn’t keep them. To answer this question, I had to challenge the whole notion of resolution making. What I discovered when I broke it down was that I had fallen prey to novelty. New Year’s resolution, a buzzword that caused me angst and for which I had a love-hate relationship. Mind you, resolutions were born of good intentions from past generation’s traditions but have somehow gotten rolled up in the hype of the holiday. Once I teased away the novelty of resolution making, I asked myself why I had even set them in the first place. Wasn’t I already trying to be the best I could be? And if not, would writing a list of things that I wanted to do or change or improve about myself really enough to get me to do it and make it stick? I needed to be honest with myself to have any hope of “buying” into the concept of making and keeping my resolutions. Interestingly, what I realized was that I didn’t need to wait to make resolutions only once and at the start of a new year to boot. Rather,I would start that day with growing myself into the person that I wanted to be. Now, that being said, as a result of my analysis of why resolution making didn’t seem to work for me, I decided to re-frame my brain to look at myself as an ongoing work of art, making tweaks or changes I felt necessary along the way rather than marking off my list of resolutions year to year on my way to being “done” with whom I was to be. I also noted some characteristics of my resolution making process, which I feel set me up for failure regarding the achievement of my resolutions. For those of you who are committed to the practice of resolution making, I hope what I share below will be of some help to you in your quest of the Holy Grail of Resolutions: Achievement!
First, I made my resolutions too broad. An example of this would be making a resolution to lose weight in the New Year (which by the way consistently ranks #1 in resolutions made by people polled). Rather, be specific with the resolution such as, “I will lose 20 pounds by June 30 and keep it off by walking 30 minutes each day and removing refined sugar from my diet and substitute empty calories snacks with fruit, preferably fresh.” With specific resolutions you have a recipe of sorts to refer back to when the going gets tough!
Second, I often was unrealistic re: my resolutions. An example of this would be making a resolution to enter a triathlon when you have been a couch potato most of your life or you enjoy swimming, biking and occasional running and think doing the same activity only for a longer duration can’t be that much harder. Don’t listen to that voice in your head: it is way harder believe me. Instead, be realistic. Such as, in the couch potato scenario, “I will walk 5 days or more per week for at least 30 minutes total (all at once, 3 - ten minute or 6 - 5 minute sessions) per day.
Third, I would set way too many resolutions. Instead, after mindful reflection and being truly honest with yourself choose one and only one resolution that you are truly passionate about to set for yourself: not for what you think society or social media would think is appropriate for you or cool, or what someone else tells you to do.
Fourth, I had a lack of personal accountability for my resolutions. I would say I wanted to keep my resolutions but again, I am not sure I was completely sold on why I was setting them. If you truly want to make a change, you have to start with the “man in the mirror” err, woman in the mirror, so to speak (thanks Michael Jackson) and be serious about it. Hold yourself accountable and don’t say, “I should” when it comes to implementing your resolution (see what I did there - a singular resolution not plural). Say, “I will do it.” And, if you can’t be your world’s biggest cheerleader, look to an outside source: a friend, a spouse, a family member, a colleague whom you’re not necessarily close to that will challenge you- maybe even give you a little grief - over any lame excuse you report as to why you are “not sticking to it.”
Be prepared for moments of doubt, tiredness, uncertainty and what most of you would call the dreaded “f” word: failure, but give yourself a break because it is about changing habits not just checking off the boxes on your list. We are all human, and our brains don’t give up habits easily (I won’t bore you with the Neuroanatomy, although I find it fascinating, so should you want to hear more, email me). It takes 21 days to break a habit. Remember that and keeping saying it to yourself in your quest to make a change that will last. It will be tough and rough at times, but you are worth it! Also remember to have fun with your resolution process. Be serious, but have fun: celebrate success but go easy on yourself, have the same compassion for yourself as you do others. Smile and feel good knowing you are making a change for the betterment of you, so go ahead, make the change.
Here’s the good news, it only takes 21 days to break a habit! We can do anything for 21 days. You can do it. Now, re-frame your brain for success, tweak your resolutions to one, be specific and realistic and check back in with me in 22 days and let me know how it’s going.