Have you made the same New Year’s Resolutions a few years in a row? If so, you’re not alone. The haphazard nature of New Year’s Resolutions is more conducive to stress than success.
New Year’s Resolutions fail for many reasons, but the reasons share a common trait. If change is truly desired, no delays should be made. By waiting for the clock to strike midnight on December 31st before taking the first step in your journey of self-improvement, your commitment is already on shaky ground. Half-hearted pledges, coupled with lofty goals are a recipe for disaster, leading one down a stressful path likely to end in despair. A lackadaisical approach like making a resolution to stop drinking while toasting the New Year with a glass of champagne is one such example.
Health related goals are common; many sources cite weight loss and smoking cessation as the most common resolutions. Instead of deciding to stop smoking or losing 50 pounds ASAP, consult your doctor to determine what measures will work best with your overall health.
Watch out for these common stumbling blocks on the path to success:
Think of your progress tracking/journal as a buddy. This is particularly helpful for goals which require modification of daily activity—like eating. When you know you will face your decisions by writing them down, it helps to see your second serving (or serving size) from a new perspective. Your progress, when tracked, gives you a tangible record—one which can be reviewed as a reminder of how far you’ve come.
Making changes to your daily life is already “going against the grain”. If your method of documenting is also difficult, that decreases your chances of success.
This is why no matter what your goal is, tracking progress should be done in a manner that works with your normal record-keeping methods. If you use mobile device apps, computers, or even hand-written journals, the method you keep should be consistent with your comfort level. When your chosen tracking method is a good match for your record-keeping methods, you increase the chances of realizing your goal.
Immediate Change/Unrealistic Goals
By setting the goals too high, you will not only find them difficult to reach, your despair will be greater. A better way to reach the goal is to think of the steps necessary to achieve the goal. Big goals cannot be achieved overnight; if they could be done so quickly and easily, they wouldn’t be “big”.
Many large goals involve a lifestyle change that cannot or should not be done overnight. For weight loss, many doctors are in favor of gradual calorie reduction and a slow and steady increase of exercise for permanent weight loss. By making drastic changes, a person could hurt him/herself in the gym by undertaking a strenuous workout on an untrained body, or collapse from low blood sugar.
Why you haven’t changed
Think about why you haven’t made the change before this point. For example, if you plan to wake up earlier in the morning to exercise, think about why you have been sleeping in. You will need to go to sleep earlier in order to wake up earlier. (For tips on getting more sleep, click here.) Likewise, if you overeat, you may have some anxieties or unresolved issues for which you have used food as a distraction for psychological pain. Counseling can be beneficial for such issues.
Set in Stone
Experiencing setbacks can increase anxiety, causing the individual to end the commitment. If you’ve documented your progress, think of your setback as a bad chapter rather than the end of your story. Remember, it’s self-improvement, not self-perfection. Continue your progress, accept that setbacks may occur—but don’t let it derail you, and enjoy your progress.
Thinking of what you’re “missing” will keep you from focusing on your improvement. Your goal is a choice you have made, and by pursuing that goal, you may need to end certain activities. For example: if you want to quit smoking, realize you’re not depriving yourself from smoking; you’re now enjoying cleaner air. A great example of this change in mindset is from an excerpt from Wayne Dyer’s “Excuses Begone!”
Decades ago when I decided to give up smoking, for example, I used Excuses Begone! beliefs. It was encouraging for me to realize how much more difficult it was to smoke than not to smoke. The smoker part of me always had to have a pack of cigarettes and an ashtray within easy reach, carry matches or lighters, dispose of ashes, deal with smelly fingers and stained teeth, earn money to pay for this disgusting habit, be careful exhaling noxious fumes, cough up nicotine residue from my lungs, buy lighter fluid and flints, and on and on. The truth was that continuing to smoke was the real difficulty, and changing my habit involved one simple thing: not smoking. This is true for virtually all of your habits. The belief that they’re going to be hard to change is only a belief! Making something difficult in your mind before you even undertake the effort is an excuse.
Spur-of-the-moment decisions are less sincere, and without the proper level of commitment, substantial and lasting change will not be made. Many people become consumed with the Christmas celebration and consequently don’t think about New Year’s Eve celebrations until December 26th—or later. If you haven’t taken the time to make a sound decision, don’t pressure yourself at the last minute. Schedule a time to contemplate and plan for a positive life change.
Self-improvement works best with assistance and accountability. Discover your “blind spots” and get help for anxieties and other issues that have caused you to subconsciously sabotage your goals by contacting CrossRoads at 317-842-8881 for more help with self-improvement.