Monday, December 30, 2013

New year, new you: Resolutions that stick.

An astounding 88% of New Years resolutions fail. (See last year'resolution to quit eating like a frat boy) 

Jan 16th could be called "National New Years Resolve Failure day" as the average resolution barely lasts 2.5 weeks. So, why even bother making them in the first place?

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? Most people start off with the best of intentions but the worst of strategies, expecting to magically find the willpower to avoid temptations.

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.

Think of January 1st as a chance to adopt a healthier lifestyle rather than the beginning of a period of denial. Gone are the days of promises to the gym and your body, I leave you with tips on how to make New Years resolutions that stick!

Why we fail?

1. Unrealistic expectations: Picturing yourself as a completely different person with infinite time, money, energy and resources. Pitch the perfection ideal, it's not attainable and will overwhelm you away from your goals. 

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.  

2. Failing to know yourself: It is not possible to change a core part of your personality that you've built up over your lifetime, ingrained in your behaviors through a multitude of experiences over the years. If you endeavor to "be a better person" first of all, that in itself is extremely vague.

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. You need a concrete plan with small milestones to let yourself know you're on the path to achieving your end goal.

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.

8. Trying to quit cold turkey: You can't rely solely on willpower, because your self-control is a limited resource. Quit in small doses.

9. 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.

4.      Make them specific. Write them down early on. Don't make impulsive last minute resolutions, which are less thoughtful and more likely to fail. 

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. This makes you feel accountable and less likely to give up when others are aware of your goals. Post your goal and progress on social media. We can lie to ourselves, but it's harder to lie to others.

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. Think of resolutions as opportunities to try new things rather than obligations to change. When you shed these goals in a positive light, your morale is more likely to remain high to give you the energy and motivation to propel yourself one step closer.

10. Forgive yourself. Beating yourself up over failure will get you no where. Realize each day the sun rises is a new day to start fresh and get back on track.

I know you're getting sick of lists by now, but I'll leave you with some quirky gems from around the interwebs, good for a laugh:

1. Lacking inspiration? Resolutions every 20-something should make. Let's nix those mass snapchats and turn off the smart phones at the dinner table! See also: this, this, and this.

2. More realistic resolutions. The one below is pure gold.

3. The reality of failed resolutions. Sound familiar?

4. Ditching the traditional for New Years "intentions"

5. The science behind failed resolutions. Hint: Willpower.

6. 24 Rules for being a human in 2014. Or a lady, or a gentleman

Now, go celebrate! (Not too hard, you’ve got work to do!)
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Lauren Gaines said...

What a great honest post! Sometimes I feel like it's trendy or the thing to do - make a New Years Resolution. I love the tips you included on how to succeed. I think it's especially important to find friends who have the same goals in mind. I've found I need accountability to make it work :)

Alisha @ The Alisha Nicole said...

Great tips! I think my biggest issue in the past has been setting unrealistic ive learned instead of setting one major goal to set a few small goals that will ultimately help me reach that bigger goal.

Ashley said...

This is such a timely post... I have really been re-thinking about how I set resolutions for myself. I want to actually make some long-lasting changes in 2014!

I am so glad I stumbled across your blog! I am a new follower via GFC!

Kailagh said...

This list is spot on, although I am one to make resolutions. I have always given up quickly, but that is not something I want to. So your tips on how to exceed are going to be helpful. Also, about changing your personality! SO RIGHT I hear people being like I am going to be a better person this year.. I want to ask how, but I feel like its rude! Haha. anyways love this!

xo. Kailagh

Amanda - Voyage of the MeeMee said...

I don't even make resolutions anymore. The way I see it, if you want to make a change, you should just make it as soon as you can! These are tips that can be used year round though, which is awesome because everyone has their bad days and needs a boost once in a while!