New Year: New you
An astounding 80% of New Years resolutions fail. So, what’s the point?
There’s a familiar feeling that accompanies those promises we make to ourselves around New Year. It’s déjà vu. Didn't I make those same promises to myself last year?
We, as humans are creatures of habit. Typical resolutions like healthy eating, quitting smoking and taking up exercise are very difficult habits to alter because these patterns of behavior have been built up over many years.
Check out my resolutions from last year-- I failed by setting far too many vague goals!
Why we fail?
1. Unrealistic expectations:Do your research. If you’re trying to lose weight, think about exercise and diet. Don’t go to extremes by eating lettuce and running 20 miles a week. Set a plan that fits in with your schedule and goals that is realistic and achievable, such as going for a walk three times a week.
3. Surrounded by temptations: Willpower is our very limited ability to deny what we want now in order to get what we want in the future. It wears out easily, recovers slowly, and you always need more of it later. Preserve it by avoiding all the places temptation will be so that you never have to confront it in the first place.
4. Too many resolutions: Focusing on one goal will guarantee greater success. The simpler and more focused your goal, the easier it will be to attain. It is hard enough to make one change. Trying to make two habit changes at once decreases the likelihood that you will make ANY change. As a rule of thumb, a daily habit takes 6 weeks to form. Pick one and go balls to the walls!
5. Setting “Should” goals: Maybe you feel like you “should” go to church on Sundays, but if you can’t pinpoint any value in it, you won’t make the change anyway. Don’t make a resolution until you know what you want and why you want it.
6. Vague goals: The real danger in these types of promises is that the person making them can wind up thinking they've actually accomplished what they've set out to do, regardless of what changes they made or didn't make. That's secretly the reason your brain made you keep the goal vague, because subconsciously it knew to leave some wiggle room.
7. “This will be my year!” Expecting a different result without dramatically changing your approach is a great way to ensure failure, just like last year.
Allowing wiggle room: “Letting it slide this time” is a very slippery slope, as I’m sure you experienced last year. Change is easier when it is all or nothing, leaving no room for fudging. Plan ahead for the weakest moments and tie yourself to the mast before temptation arrives, even if you are sure you are strong enough not to.
10. Confusing results with behavior. Let’s say you want to lose weight. That is a result. You may resolve to lose weight and assume the behaviors–I’ll just eat less and work out more. Again, those aren’t concrete behaviors. You can’t say, “I ate less twice today.” However, you can say, “I ate an 800-calorie lunch today.” That’s moving in the right direction.
How to succeed:
1. Choose one, simple, easy, impactful habit change. Set goals that matter to you. That you have time and desire to place energy around.
2. Believe in your own ability to change. Every day, people in the worst of circumstances — whose lives have been wrecked by factors like addiction–decide to change their lives and do. If they can; you can. Whatever has happened in the past has no impact on what you can do with your future. None.
3. Be ready to commit. Every resolution should have a plan to accomplish it.
5. Build in milestones. For example, instead of attempting to hit the gym every day, commit to exercising 2-3 times a week and gradually increasing.
6. Don't try to suppress the habit. This tends to backfire, making the habit, come back even stronger. Instead it’s much better to try and replace the bad habit with a better one. Rather than suppressing a snacking habit, for example, it’s better to make the snack food healthier: switch from candy to apples.
7. Find a friend or two who are serious about their goals and ensure they do the same.
8. Feel free to refine your strategy as you go, and keep going with your behavior change until it becomes second nature. Turn your change into a habit and the benefits can follow for life.
9. Now, go celebrate! (Not too hard, you’ve got work to do!)