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Another January has come and gone. Were you able to stick to your New Year’s resolutions? No? Well, you’re not alone! Many people find themselves in the same boat this time of year. The excitement and promise of a new year has worn off. You or someone in your household may have been sick at some point in January. That’s pretty common after the busyness of the holidays, especially if you have school-aged children in your home. Plus, the cold weather and short winter days don’t exactly light a fire under your rear to get things done. It’s no surprise that the vast majority of people fail at their New Year’s resolutions!
If you do an online search about why New Year’s resolutions fail, you’ll find articles on the science, psychology, and spiritual reasons resolutions don’t work for the vast majority of those who make them. So don’t beat yourself up for being in the same place yet again this year. Instead, read on to learn more about why resolutions don’t work and what you can do instead.
1. Resolutions don’t work because they rely on willpower.
Many people do not have the sheer willpower to make significant, lasting changes. This is a very normal and scientifically proven occurrence. However, your lack of willpower can lead to negative self-talk, beating yourself up, and an all-around feeling of worthlessness. And those are not the ingredients for success! Lack of willpower can have a snowball effect. For example, if you make a resolution to eat healthier, yet you go out with friends or family on Friday night and eat pub food or have dessert after that big meal, you’re more likely to decide that you’ve already blown your resolution, so you might as well pig out over the weekend and start again Monday. Worse yet, sometimes Monday comes and goes and we’re still pigging out! So what’s the answer? Here’s 2 suggestions:
*Ditch the expectation that you can change using willpower.
If you think you can build up enough willpower to tough things out and power through change, by Valentine’s Day you will more likely than not become part of the vast majority who fail at keeping your resolutions. To quote Dr. Phil, “How’s that working for you?” So far, my attempts to just “power through” haven’t gotten me very far and I’m always left feeling like a total failure. Even if you are one of the fortunate few who can change through sheer willpower, that can be an exhausting process! I don’t wish that for you or for anyone else’s journey!
*Focus on setting achievable goals instead of making resolutions.
Yes, you have the power within you to change, but you have to be smart and focus on creating goals, not making resolutions. Goals that are achievable and attainable are ones which are within the realm of possibility for your life. If I set the goal to become a 7-foot tall Women’s NBA pro basketball player, I’m automatically going to fail since I’m a 5’11 woman in her 40’s who hasn’t played basketball since 7th grade. However, if I set a goal to become a blogger in 2017 making $40,000 per year, I can make a plan to do that. Will I automatically achieve that goal? Not necessarily. But I can create a plan, do research, find resources that will help me achieve this goal, and I can do all the hard work necessary to make this a reality in my life. Here’s an excellent description of S.M.A.R.T. goals and how to achieve them.
*A note about goals.
One of my all-time favorite authors, SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow) coined the term “micromovements.” Micromovements are baby steps toward your goal. For example, if your goal is to clean out your closet, but the thought of that task is daunting or overwhelming, you can use micromovements to achieve this goal. Day 1 you can open your closet and take a look at all that is there. You could also choose to write down a plan of attack detailing what you are going to do each day. Day 2 you can pick one shelf or section of hanging clothes to sort through. Day 3 you can pick another shelf or section of hanging clothes to sort through. Day 4 you can clean up what’s on the floor. And so on. You can decide how large or small your micromovement is going to be. Essentially, you’re breaking down a larger task into bite-sized chunks, making it much more likely you’ll achieve your goal. The main thing to focus on with micromovements is to do something toward your goal EVERY SINGLE DAY. This builds momentum, which helps you feel good about working on your goal, which creates a feeling of progress, propelling you toward goal achievement. The word MOVE is at the center of micromovements. Your focus here should be on moving, not planning or thinking. Just do it!
2. Resolutions don’t work because they focus on the negative.
Resolutions such as, “I want to lose weight” (focus is on you feeling fat) or “I want to spend less money” (focus is on overspending) spotlight something you perceive as a negative aspect of your life. Okay, I bet you’re asking, “So what ARE you supposed to focus on?” Of course you want to focus on changing things you’re not happy with, but instead of focusing on the negative, try this:
*Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want.
Call it Law of Attraction, your subconscious mind working against you, a curse, or whatever you believe in, but when we focus on something we don’t want to do, that’s the thing we seem to do more of. Have you ever tried to ignore those cookies or potato chips in the kitchen? You may have bought them for the party Saturday night, but they will call your name from the time they enter your home until they have been devoured. Temptation is challenging. Temptation thwarts resolutions. When temptation comes knocking, remember the goals you made which help you focus on what you do want in your life! And if you say you want more chocolate chip cookies in your life, well, just ask if those cookies are helping you reach your bigger goals.
*Have a positive mindset.
So often we experience life through a negative mindset. Many of us complain about the most mundane parts of life. However, if we reframe those complaints and frustrations with a positive mindset, we can change the way we think about and experience our goals. Instead of saying, “I want to lose weight,” which has a negative focus, try something like, “I want to look and feel healthier.” In place of “I want to spend less money,” try saying, “I want to keep more of my money for an emergency fund, a vacation, to pay off my credit cards or (insert your goal here).” Shifting the focus to something positive about money will help you achieve your goal.
3. Resolutions don’t work because they make you feel bad.
Epic fail. That’s what it feels like for many of us when we break a resolution (or two, or five), especially if it’s only been a day or two since it was made. And if you told ANYBODY else about your resolution(s), you’ll feel even worse. Shame. Guilt. Torture. Don’t do that to yourself. Try this instead:
*Ask yourself how you want to feel this year. Then go do that.
Okay, it’s not quite as simple as that. Going and doing what makes you feel the way you want to feel takes work. But putting in the work is the only way you are going to achieve your goals and feel the way you want to feel this year. Did you notice I didn’t mention willpower? That’s because in order to make progress on whatever you want to get out of a new year, you have to decide what you want, how you want to feel, and develop a step-by-step plan to achieve whatever it is you want. Then go do that. You don’t have to wait for a new year, a new month, or Monday to roll around. Anytime is the perfect time to reboot, refocus, set goals, and and work on achieving them, so next year you can kick resolutions to the curb!
Your Gentle Nudge: What goals do you need to focus on moving forward? How will achieving those goals help you live a more fulfilling life?
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