It’s that time of year again where we vow to make all those changes to have a healthier and more prosperous new year. We resolve to burn off that Christmas fat at the gym, give up carbs and cigs, cut up the credit cards, save more for the future, and deepen our relationships. Unfortunately, as we’re all well aware, most people break their resolutions within a few months and end up following the same patterns that have always been a part of their life. Does this mean that they’re a waste of time? Not at all! We all have habits and things about us we desire to change. We just need to identify successful ways of meeting these goals.
Self-discipline is a long-term pursuit
First thing first, get off the New Year’s band wagon and focus on your year as a whole. The key is to keep your enthusiasm and motivation going for the entire year and beyond, not just for January and February. The law of diminishing intent reveals that our drive and intention to achieve something doesn’t last without conscious effort. We will have to do the dirty work in the present moment to get the long-term benefits. Make your resolutions a daily focus, be prepared for any obstacles that may limit progress, and don’t let this discourage you. So, how can you make resolutions last longer?
Don’t kid yourself
One common mistake for failed resolutions is setting too many goals. You won’t make much headway when you have 10 goals you’re focusing on. This can lead to split attention, distraction, and loss of willpower. Changing deep rooted behavior is rarely easy, so don’t overwhelm yourself with an entire overhaul. Set two or three realistic goals to begin your New Year transition and go from there. Set small goals that help you attain consistent progress and don’t get burnt out from the get go.
Use your environment as an ally
External factors can play a big role in our success, even if we’re highly internally motivated. When we surround ourselves with people and situations that are contrary to our desires, it can really punch our motivation and confidence in the gut. If you’re trying to lose weight but someone you live with keeps buying donuts you might find yourself making some excuses to indulge. Changing our environment and having a strategy to keep us focused has been shown to aid in behavior change. For instance, developing an early morning exercise routine where you are set up to workout first thing in the morning, or keeping vitamins by your bedside so you are reminded to take them each day can help keep you on track. Consider what environmental cues and triggers are helping and hurting you and set-up your surroundings to support you.
Be aware of “self-handicapping”
Face it, the longer you have been working at something without success, the more trying it becomes and more judgmental we feel about ourselves. If you have failed to achieve your goal in the past it might start to feel unrealistic to you. Change this belief now, or be prepared to sabotage your own success! Be forgiving and willing to accept you may not make perfect progress. Trying to be perfect leads to frustration and excuse making. You may end up telling yourself, “I can’t do this anyway.“ Give yourself time to change your habits and learn the new behavior.
Get an accountability partner
Having a helpful and supportive team will make anybody better. We all need someone in our life to help keep us focused and dedicated to our plan. Who do you know that has a similar goal and can help keep you accountable? This may be a family member or friend, a co-worker, or a professional coach. Connect with someone that you trust and who has been successful in this area before.
Don’t play the victim
At one time or another we have all played the victim. We use the victim role for protection by seeking attention, pity, and/or blaming others for our difficulties. When our expectations are not met, we have set ourselves up to feel like victims. As you approach your goals this year be aware of your behavior when things don’t go well. Do you start withdrawing; feel sorry for yourself, or blaming others? It is important to recognize that we can change our pattern of responding. Choose to respond in an empowering and encouraging way. Keep reigniting your passions and goals all year round. Don’t lose steam by trying to make excessive change. Take your time by finding a balance between your substantial goals and a realistic timeline. What are your New Year’s resolutions? What are you doing to make these changes long-term and lasting? Photo credit: Lel4nd