Are Your New Years Resolutions on the Back Burner by February?
Every year it’s the same thing. You review in your mind how the past year went and vow to make a number of changes in your life. You swear to yourself that this is the year for change and you are determined to make it happen. You start out all motivated but then quickly loose the momentum and by February or so you’re back in the same old patterns and rut. Why does this happen?
The key to keeping a resolution is to pick one that you can follow through with- in other words a doable and realistic goal that provides some positive reinforcement. Far too often people pick lofty goals with no clear definition or plans of how they will accomplish them. Choose a very specific goal and break it down into smaller steps that you can accomplish along the way. This will allow you to constantly feel success with each step and each of your smaller successes will add up to bigger accomplishments. Here are some examples:
1. Don’t just say I am going to spend less – Make a plan for knowing how much you are really spending and be specific about what you will change. Track and write down where you are spending your money (rent, mortgage, utilities, insurances, loans, cell phones, technology etc). Include all of those things that you may think are small things, such as coffee, magazines and eating out etc. Identify your areas of spending and start with one small change (e.g., only buy coffee 3 times a week- make coffee I really enjoy at home and bring it with me in a travel cup). A small and simple example but the point is to be very specific and start with something doable. From there you can move onto another area of spending that you want to tackle.
2. Don’t just say I am going to meet more people this year- Do something specific to allow for that opportunity. Research what activities or clubs are available in the community and pick something that you would enjoy. To start it might be a small group that you feel comfortable with but then expand your social connections.
3. Make your resolutions positive for yourself rather than taking the “whip approach”. If you can build pleasure and positive reinforcement into your plan you will be more likely to stick to it. For example, if you are concerned about your weight choose a physical activity that you enjoy (a walking group, badminton or yoga) rather than a strict workout plan. Choosing an enjoyable activity will help you stay with your goals and progressively increase them. Similarly, instead of saying I am going on a strict diet develop a plan for how you will add more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and leaner proteins to your overall eating plan. Whilst still giving yourself permission to enjoy some treats along the way.
Resolutions are also more likely to work if you share them with someone in order to help keep you accountable. Choose someone who will be supportive and challenging but not someone who uses the “whip approach”. Write down your goals and review them weekly or monthly. Identify a deadline to complete your goals or to reassess them.
A Little Perspective: So put aside the lofty undefined goals and choose something realistic that will get you going and keep you on a positive track. You can also put the whip away-it doesn’t work with children or pets and it won’t work for you. And if you can get in the habit of thinking about change as an ongoing goal rather than just being sparked by the New Year then you will definitely be much farther ahead.