Lots of people make New Year’s Resolutions. Before the month is finished, most resolutions have been abandoned, forgotten, or outright broken. So where does it all go wrong?
Failure to consider the barriers
We make resolutions without planning for the inevitable barriers and setbacks. You can’t lose weight, save money, or any other goal without expecting some challenges along the way. You’re not “cursed” or “doomed” — you’re just human.
Do we really want it?
We also make resolutions without considering if the goal is something we really want. Many times our resolutions are goals we think we “should” make when we really don’t want it or aren’t ready to achieve it. Take the goal of quitting smoking, for example. We all know the health risks. Other people tell you to quit. But do you really want to quit?
Are we ready to make the change?
Even if we really want something doesn’t mean we are ready to do the work required. Nothing worth having will ever be easy. Are you prepared to make the permanent changes necessary to see this change in your life? Are you prepared for the setbacks, frustrations, and discomfort of change? If you hesitate at all, then you might not be ready to change just yet.
What will replace it?
Nature abhors a vacuum. Nowhere is this more true than with bad habits. No habit is ever just removed without putting something else in its place. My father gave up smoking a pipe over 40 years ago. He replaced it with chewing on a toothpick. Guess what? To this day he still chews on toothpicks. I bet if he were to get rid of those toothpicks, he’d go right back to the pipe, even after all these years. If you don’t already know what you will do instead, then you’re not ready to give up that bad habit.
Doing too much at once
Sure, we’d all like to lose a few pounds, get a better job, be a better person, etc. None of those are bad resolutions. Behaviorists tell us that change is more effective and lasts longer if we work on changing one behavior at a time. Trying to do everything at once is a formula for disaster. Pick one resolution, then break it down into all the specific behaviors to change. Now prioritize those behaviors by importance. Choose the most important one and rewrite your goal just for that specific behavior. Once you have met that goal, then re-evaluate and tackle the next one. By setting smaller, quicker-to-achieve goals, you can see results faster, gain motivation, and be more likely to continue working toward your larger goal.
How to do it right
- Don’t wait for a special occasion to set a resolution. Start working toward your goals when the time is right for you.
- Focus on what you want and need. Trying obtain a goal someone else set for you is guaranteed to fail.
- Work on one resolution at a time. Focusing all your energy on just one thing makes it more likely you will succeed.
- Make a resolution that is measurable and time-limited. That way you can look back in a week or a month and know exactly how close you are to achieving your goal.
- Make it realistic. “Lose 50 lbs. in 2 months.” is not a realistic (or safe) goal for most people. However, “Eat a salad for lunch twice a week for a month.” is probably achievable.
You can set goals and succeed. All you need is a little planning.