With the new year, most people are eager to make positive changes in their lives and adopt new resolutions. Yet, come the end of February, the vast majority have abandoned them. It’s happened to me too, quite a few times, even on things I really wanted…
Given my irrepressible need to understand, I had to figure out why and found four main reasons for our failures: realism, “full-being” decision, visualization, and support. You’ll definitely recognize at least one of them, and maybe all. I know I did.
People often tend to make ambitious resolutions or goals for the new year, with major short-term goals: go to the gym every day; lose 30 pounds in two months; double their income in a quarter; etc. The bigger the leap between your current situation and what you want to accomplish in the short term, the more likely it is that your resolution will fail.
Let’s say that you want to exercise more. If you are doing very little exercise right now, chances are you won’t stick to going to the gym every day. So keep the goal, but change the path to getting there. Instead of such a big change, start with something small, such as organizing your life to walk more (parking the car at the spot farthest away from your office or the store door; using the stairs instead of the elevator; walking for 5 minutes a day), then grow what you do until you get to your goal.
There are several kinds of decisions: the intellectual kind, the emotional kind, and the “full-being” kind. Only the last one leads to resolutions and goals that become reality. The spark that leads to it may be brought on by a thoughts, or an emotion such as anger, but you need your mind, your heart AND your gut to be in agreement – a “full-being” decision – for your resolution to hold. This is why so many people who resolve to lose weight, for instance, fail. They intellectually know that they should lose weight, but emotionally the comfort they get from food, or the enjoyment of immediate gratification, get in the way.
I wish there was an easy recipe to make “full-being” decisions, but there isn’t. However, here is a proven way to get closer to it: Look at the bad results of not following through on your resolution (the ‘pain’). Then look at all the good things that will happen if you do follow through on your resolution (the motivation). If the pain is something you can live with, and/or the motivation is not strong enough, your decision to stick with your resolution will not be a “full-being” one. Find other pains and motivations, that spur you to action more. This may mean re-framing your resolution, for instance from ‘I want to lose weight’ to ‘I want to be able to run with my children and catch up to them’, ‘I want to still be there when my children get married’, or ‘I don’t want to have the poor lifestyle-based quality of life my parents have when I reach their age.’
If you don’t have a picture of where you want to go, of what the results of your resolution will be, it’s hard to stick to it. After all, without a clear destination, it’s tough to get there, no matter how strong your ‘full-being’ decision is.
For instance, it’s not enough to say that you want to organize your office and finally have all your papers in order. You also have to be able to visualize what it will look like, feel like, be like, and how you will feel having this new environment. If your goal is a completely new experience for you, it may be easier to picture yourself in someone else’s shoes who’s already done it, such as a friend who became organized.
Lack of support:
A sad truth of resolutions is that willpower will fail you at some point in your journey to making your resolutions a reality. It’s just human nature. If you don’t have a support system, chances are that you will not get where you want to go.
If you examine all great success stories, you’ll always find at least one or two people who were unfailing cheerleaders, and often professional mentors as well. Many of my clients told me that they wouldn’t have made it through the change from disorganized to organized, from frazzled to peacefully productive, without me. So find your support system, hire one if necessary. It’ll make all the difference.
Now that you know why New Year’s Resolutions fail, and how to make them successful, what will you do differently this year? Will you work on making your resolution a must rather than a should (‘full-being’ decision)? Will you create a support system? Will you spend more time visualizing the results of your efforts? Let me know by clicking on “Ask Karin a Question” at the top of this page and posting your comments.