New Year’s Resolutions
We are almost 2 weeks into 2017. Hopefully, if you made New Year’s resolutions this year, you are still on track with your desired behavior. Less than 70% manage past the first two weeks. For some of us, real temptation might not have crossed our paths yet. Our hormones might still be in balance. Stress might still be average. We might still feel good and motivated – for now. Life will return to normalcy though. Temptations will arise. Success will stall. Stress will catch up with us. Happy attitude, motivation, and ambition might leave us. Intention(s) might fade. What will you do then?
New Year’s resolutions tend to fail, and we know it!
A survey of over 1,000 respondents (living in the US) revealed that only 16.3% of people over the age of 50 achieve their resolutions each year (37.8% of individuals in their 20’s report they do). While 72.6% of respondents stay true to their resolutions throughout week one of January, only 44.8% manage to stick with it past June. US News even reports by week two of February, some 80% of those having made a New Year’s resolution are faced with disappointment leading most of them to give up on their intentions. But why is that? Why are most of us, year in and year out, unable to change our behavior? Don’t we want it badly enough, are we unable to change or are we too weak?
Why traditional New Year’s resolutions are flawed.
New Year’s resolutions are intentions to change something, to either pick up a new behavior or stop an unwanted behavior. While the idea to change something sounds great – and sometimes perhaps a bit easy – reality, our current lifestyle and habits doesn’t necessarily support our intentions.
Let’s say your New Year’s resolution is to stop eating sweets or junk food. Previously, whenever you felt stressed or emotionally strained you grabbed something from the vending machine or stopped at your favorite fast food place for comfort food. Previously, you didn’t think much about food, you ate what was available or what you had a craving for.
How are you going to make food choices now? How do you intend to handle stress and emotionally straining periods, during which we tend to throw good intentions out the window? By what method will you handle frustration, boredom (yes, too many of us snack out of boredom or pure habit), and emotional upheavals?
Have you thought about what is takes to implement the desired change? Have you made back-up plans?
Your intention to stop eating sweets is great but how will you handle tough periods, 3 days of sleep-deprivation (yes, it influences cravings!) or tempting brunch or dinner invites? How will you deal with factors that lead to failure, that perhaps have led previously to failure?
While a New Year’s resolution is great, it shows you have the desire to develop a positive habit, a resolution or the desire to change alone is insufficient. In order to change, to make your intention a successful part of your life, something else needs to change – your mindset and how you go about making your resolution stick.
Steps to make your New Year’s resolution stick.
1. Develop a plan.
A real plan. Think about the challenges you could encounter and how to deal with them. Ask yourself, based on your New Your’s resolution, some of these questions:
2. Understand the challenges,
have back-up plans but also understand that life isn’t perfect. You will be thrown a few curve balls, will be tempted and at times will fail. The questions is, how will you:
- manage set-backs
- manage a missed workout, a binge-eating attack, a few puffs from your friend’s cigarette or a few too many shopping splurges
- get yourself back on track?
Stumbling is NOT the end of it
but if you give up you’ll never reach your goal or
develop your desired behavior.
3. Focus on small successes.
Big goals are overwhelming and we all know changing habits are difficult. Start small and gradually increase from there. For example, instead of wanting to work out for an hour 3 times a week start with 30 minutes. Instead of wanting to stop eating all junk food and sweets start gradually by:
- decreasing your junk food intake
- reducing your sugary drink (or energy drink) intake from 1 bottle a day to 1/2 a bottle per day
- not eating fast food for lunch or dinner
- pre-cooking two meals per week
- bringing your own snacks to work (so you don’t need to rely on the vending machine).
Realize, by making small, gradual changes, how easy it might be to forego the undesired item.
Do you really miss it? Do you feel better? What are you replacing it with, do you happen to actually enjoy the „healthier“ alternative? ENJOY your successes and be proud of your baby steps as they too get us closer to our goal!
4. Believe in yourself
and your ability to achieve your desired behavior change but also understand why you want it. Is it for you or for someone else?
Why do you want to change and how important is this change for you?
Do you have the skills and knowledge you need to implement your desired behavior, if not, do you know where to get the information or support? More, have trust in your abilities that if you really want it you can achieve it. You must however be committed and be certain that you really want it. (To learn more about behavior and what influences behavior check out this article and video.) „Showing up is half the battle.“
Don’t commit to something halfheartedly, you’ll just set yourself up for failure.
5. Regularly review your progress,
re-acquaint yourself with your New Year’s resolution, why you made it, how well you have implemented it, which struggles you have or are experiencing, or what you can do to strengthen your desired behavior. Identify if the steps you have taken to engage in the desired behavior allow you to reach your goal and how it makes you feel. Is it what you expected? How has it changed you? Has it changed other aspects of your life?
Take the time at least once monthly to review your progress!
And recall what motivates you and why. Often „out of sight, out of mind„. Keep your New Year’s resolutions fresh in your mind, all year long, especially the benefits you gain by engaging in the desired behavior.
6. Surround yourself with people who remind you of the future, not the past.
- keep going on smoke-breaks with your friend, how easy will it be to achieve your New Year’s resolution to quit smoking?
- continue to go out drinking or clubbing, how easy will it be to decrease your alcohol intake and/or bar food intake?
- keep going out for lunches, dinners and happy hour, how easy will it be to eat healthy and control your energy intake, and make time for your workouts?
Not very easy, or? First of all, you are not only asking for an extra challenge, asking for temptations, asking to fail, but you are also stuck in your old life: the smoker, the social drinker, the unfit, chubby person. If you truly want to change and achieve your New Year’s resolution then
consider expanding your social circle to include people who live and present the life you want to live.
Thus, let past be and move on. (I’m not saying to give up on your friends.)
In business settings, we’d refer to this as „the Pygmalion effect„. Ones success is in large related to the expectations of those around us. Which leads me to number 7.
7. Change your environment
You want to:
- stop smoking? Then quit hanging out in places that allow you to smoke (yes, I know, tough crowd if you are living in Austria- smokers heaven).
- reduce your baked goods intake? Rather than passing tempting situations avoid passing by bakeries, avoid the grocery store section that carries the food you are trying to reduce. If you love baked item, make the time to bake healthier versions yourself. This way you truly know what you’ll put into your mouth. (Check out the „trade this for that“ poster.)
- reduce your sugar intake or shave off a few calories from your lunch? Consider „educating“ yourself about ingredients and caloric content of ready to eat food. (Check out these videos; especially if you live in Vienna, you might find them eye-opening.)
- exercise regularly? Find a group or workout buddy then during times of missing motivation a group can make you feel accountable for showing up. Plus, you might just meet a few really nice like-minded people. Working out in a crowd can be fun after all who likes to suffer alone? Walk, walk, walk and walk some more. Use the stairs and enjoy the activity you choose to engage in.
8. Understand change isn’t easy.
Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Learn to appreciate the challenges and temptations for what they teach you about yourself and your progress.
Be kind to yourself. We are humans, we make mistakes. If you stumbled, get yourself back up. Using words of Jim Rohn, „If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.“
One last tip:
identify with your new behavior.
You want to quit smoking, start viewing yourself as non-smoker.
You want to exercise more, start viewing yourself as an active, sport-liking individual.
You want to eat healthier, start viewing yourself as a health nut.
You want to be kinder, start viewing yourself as a self-loving, warm, and positive person.
What is your challenge?
What behavior would you like to change?
Are you frustrated because you seem unable to change on your own? Then please reach out!
Support, guidance, strength, and motivation in person and online. Together you might feel stronger and empowered. So, don’t wait, don’t struggle just contact me.