Forget that New Year Resolution!
By a show of hands, how many of you have made New Years Resolutions? By a show of hands, how many of you have not lived up to the resolutions? Yeah, me too. Here's why I believe New Years Resolutions tend to Fail.
Most resolutions are made because we are feeling bad about some behavior that we are currently doing or are not doing. In other words, if we feel overweight or out of shape, we resolve to "get in shape" in the new year, or "exercise more". If we think we are imbibing too much, we might make a resolution to drink less in the new year.
We feel compelled to make these types of resolutions because we feel bad about ourselves so we 'resolve' to adopt a new behavior, usually the opposite of what our current habit is, to feel better. We may even try on this new behavior for a few weeks until we slowly slide back into our old patterns.
If we want to be successful at changing behaviors, we have to change our approach to goal setting. After all, a resolution is a long-range goal that we 'resolve' to achieve. The problem is that these goals tend to be reactionary and uninspiring and are generated to reduce internal judgment of what we consider to be our shortcomings.
It is more helpful to set our goals based upon what inspires us and also to look at what is motivating our current behaviors. Our success increases as well when we refine our goals to a shorter period and increase the specificity of the goal. So how does this look in an application? Let's take our former example of feeling overweight and out of shape.
The first step is to look at what might have led to our current pattern of behavior. In other words, what led to our being overweight and out of shape? We can ask ourselves questions such as; "what choices led me to where I am now?", "Why am I choosing this behavior?", "What benefits have I gotten from this choice?", "How do I feel when I make this choice vs a different choice?", "What life situations have led to me making these choices?"
Perhaps in this scenario, work has gotten so busy that we haven't had the time to eat well and to exercise. Maybe we have stress in our lives and eating comfort food has helped to make us feel better. Whatever we discover can help lead us to new choices and new opportunities. The first step in real and lasting change is understanding why we do what we do.
The next step is to set an inspiring goal that is specific and time-limited. Think of it as a challenge versus a long term resolution. Instead of setting a goal to "go to the gym more in 2020" create a challenge for yourself that is inspiring. Perhaps you can set a 28-day yoga challenge or a 28-day cardio challenge. With time-bound effort and a specific challenge, we reduce the overwhelm of a resolution as well as the ambiguity associated with a poorly defined goal.
Once we hit that finish line from our first challenge, we can set another one to work towards. Having small wins builds motivation and momentum. If 28 days feels too long, try setting shorter challenges. For example, how about a 15-day walking challenge? If you are feeling more inspired you could set goals such as a "couch to 5K challenge". This particular goal might take longer than 28 days but having an end in mind can build anticipation and motivation.
You can set multiple challenges in different areas of life for yourself as well. For example, I've set a 28-day writing challenge for myself as well as a 30 day whole foods challenge to address my creative side as well as my health. It's up to you what you work on but the key is to feel inspired and motivated to become more of who you want to be instead of less of who you currently are.
One last thing to add to the mix to increase your probability of success is to build in accountability. Be accountable to someone for what you say you are going to do. Find a workout partner to join you in a challenge or tell someone you know what your plan is. Ask them to check in with you and support you in reaching your success. If you want to increase your chances of success, hire a skilled coach!
Best wishes to you in the new year and make your next year the best one yet!