If you are anything like me, you did three very typical things this past New Year’s Eve. You drank a little too much champagne, you watched the giant disco ball drop over Time’s Square on TV and you determinedly and optimistically made a whole bunch of resolutions for 2018.
OK, maybe your first two things were different, but according to recent studies, a whopping 60% of the population makes the infamous (play dramatic music here) New. Year’s. Resolutions.
Different Year, Same Resolutions
Do any of these sound familiar?
I will quit smoking
I will get a gym membership and go more than 3 times (a year)
I will lose weight
I will serve my family healthy homemade dinners EVERY night (no more Taco Bell!)
I will be nicer to my mother-mother-in-law
I will cut up my credit cards
Any one of these resolutions requires incredible energy and steadfast determination to keep. Attempting 2 or more of them at once? That has failure written all over it.
And yet, every year, we find ourselves waiting for January 1st to embark on what technically constitutes radical changes in our lives. Mentally and emotionally, we feel like we wake up on that date with a suddenly clean slate. No matter what our mistakes were in the past year, no matter how many times we fell off the wagon or how many Hershey bars we devoured, we look to the new year with hope and renewed vigor.
Hey! How’s it Going?
It is now a couple of weeks into the New Year. So…how are those resolutions working out for you? For me, not so much. However, the information I discovered while researching this article has made me feel much better about not sticking to my resolutions this year (or last year, or the year before that…).
According to some experts, resolutions fail because most people aren’t necessarily ready or in the right frame of mind to make drastic life changes just because the year changes.
In other words, it’s a lot more important to evaluate where you are in life than when you are in life. If January 1st happens to fall during a particularly stressful time in your life (death of a loved one, a break-up or divorce, moving houses, etc.) it’s probably not the best time to try to quit smoking or lose weight. Although there is never a perfect time, there is definitely such a thing as the absolutely wrong time.
Another reason resolutions fail, is that we set unrealistic goals and unachievable expectations for ourselves. We make grandiose plans for change as if January 1st has magical properties that will suddenly imbue us with unlimited discipline and will power. Newsflash: it doesn’t!
How you view yourself also has a direct effect on how well you stick to your resolutions. If your goals work in opposition to how you feel about yourself or engrained personality traits, your resolutions will likely fail.
For example, if your resolution is to make 10 new friends by February 1st, but you are painfully shy, chances are you will not achieve this. Furthermore, that failure will make you feel even worse about yourself thus making it even harder to meet new people.
Perhaps a better and more realistic resolution is to first get help in overcoming your shyness. Once you have that under control, the goal of making new friends becomes more achievable.
Unrealistic expectations also lead to resolution failure. You may have it in the back of your mind that if you just lose weight or land a better job, you will automatically become a happier person.
Let’s say you drop 30 lbs. or hook a great new job by the middle of, say, March, but that giant wave of happiness you expected doesn’t come. You realize with dismay that although you have put in great effort, your life has pretty much remained the same as before. You are now in danger of the “what’s the point, anyway” resolution pitfall which may cause you to revert to your old harmful behaviors.
How to go from Resolution Woes to Resolution Wows!
Let’s face it. No matter how much I warn you against it, come next December 31 you will surely be getting ready to once again enter the dreaded resolution game (confession: I know I will!).
So here are some tips that will help you actually stick to your resolutions and achieve your goals.
- Select a date other than January 1st to start your journey, that way any day is the right day to change!
- Pick only ONE resolution to focus on.
- Set small, specific goals to be achieved within a reasonable amount of time.
- Pick a friend to be accountable to during your journey or better yet, buddy up with someone who is also headed that way!
- Stick to your plan even if it seems that progress is slow. According to medical studies, it takes weeks of new behavior and thought patterns to re-wire the neutrons in your brain that caused the old ones.
- Celebrate your victories along the way!
- Focus on the here and now and live in the moment; ask yourself, what can I do right now to achieve my goal.
- Don’t dwell on past mistakes. Every new moment is a chance to start again.
It seems I have found a new resolution to make this year: I will definitely follow these tips when I make my resolutions next year!