How to succeed at New Year's Resolutions past February
For many there’s a motivating magic in a new year. We ask ourselves, what we want to bring forward into 2019? What do we want to leave behind in 2018? We think about resolutions—and some of us even write them down. The beginning of January happens. We’re full of hope and enthusiasm. So why—just a few short weeks later—do resolutions leave the majority of us feeling disappointed, deflated, and defeated?
If done right, resolutions are powerful, even life changing.
Yet 80% of us give up on resolutions by February. Where do we go wrong? The answers lie within our methodology.
1. Instead of ready, set, go, we just GO.
We rush into resolutions—with actions that tend to be dramatic—without adequate preparation. If we want to lose a few pounds the thoughts of hitting the gym 8 days a week and embracing a starvation diet somehow seem rational. So things become hard, fast. We’re so focused on what we’re doing and how we’re doing it—that we don’t give much thought to the why behind the what and how. The why we should contemplate changing. The why we want to lose weight.
Having a vision rooted in a meaningful why is instrumental in preparing for a major life change. What do ‘whys’ look like? A client told me she wanted to fit back into a favorite pair of old shorts she had held onto for 8 years. Why? Because in those shorts she spent a memorable summer hiking with friends and she was determined to repeat the fun. Another client told me she wanted to buy a ski pass. Why? Because that would mean she’d have the energy and stamina to once again be able to spend weekends skiing with her husband.
Knowing our why helps us bypass daily distractions. How? Being clear on what we want deep in our core is much greater than the momentary bliss of over-indulging on whatever it is that we’re trying to stay away from.
Want to properly prepare for resolutions? Start by knowing your why.
2. We don’t give our morale a boost.
Once we know our why, it’s time to examine our thoughts—which drive our feelings, actions and results. Thoughts can be quite toxic, especially when pointed toward our behavior, our body image and our self-worth. Our primitive brain has primed us to look for the negative in life. It’s a protective mechanism that dates back to caves and saber-toothed tigers. Prehistoric tigers are extinct, however loved ones telling us that we’re ‘too _______’ as children, do exist. Many of my clients who’d like to lose weight have trouble until they do the the mental work—identifying negative thoughts stemming from past circumstances and swapping those thoughts for healthier ones.
Want this year to be different? Boost your morale by believing you’re worthy of enduring the journey to greater wellbeing. Let go of the past, accept yourself for who you are, and shower yourself in self-compassion.
3. We go public with a whisper.
We’re enthusiastic, but not really confident we’re going to achieve our resolutions. So most of us stay quiet about them, or say we’re beyond resolutions and don’t do them. It’s easier—this way we don’t have to be ashamed or embarrassed when we relapse. But staying silent is a mind game that’ll sabotage our success.
This year pull out your megaphone. Tell the world about your resolutions. Be vulnerable, be proud, and ask your loved ones to help keep you accountable. If you tune into my Instagram post, you’ll see 3 of my resolutions for 2019. I’m both nervous and feeling a little silly about them, but knowing you’re cheering me on fuels me forward.
4. We embrace a one-size-fits-all approach.
What works for others may not work for you. Just because a friend is going Vegan doesn’t mean it’s right for a body that would respond better to Keto, and vice-versa. Just as we’re chemically unique, so are we at our essence. My top character strengths are self-regulation and zest. By embracing these strengths I’m able to more easily overcome life challenges. My husband’s top strength is humility—and because it’s who he is at his essence it’s served him well. Flip flop our strengths and we’d both struggle.
Spend a few minutes today taking the free character strengths survey at viacharacter.org. Choose 3 of your top 5 strengths and use them in ways that move you closer to your goals.
5. We think it’s a sprint—rather than an endurance event.
Don’t let up on your efforts too early—prepare yourself for 6 months of concerted action. Research* says that once we make it to the 6 month mark we’ll have far less difficulty maintaining our new behavior changes.
So my advice? Prepare for the long haul. Create a plan rooted in S.M.A.R.T.e.r. goals. Change your environment by removing tempting triggers and adding positive cues, like affirmations written on post-its placed where you’ll see them. Have a confidant you can be open with when you’re feeling emotionally weak. Know your why and your worth. Have a plan for distractions that’ll make you want to go back to unhealthy behaviors to cope. View lapses as learning opportunities, and not as permanent failures.
I want to be well, like really really well. So what’s my methodology? Turn up the volume on my self-empowerment playlist, and mindfully design a life where I can continue to grow healthy and live fully.
Anything is possible in 2019.
*Norcross, J. C., & Vangarelli D. J. (1989). The resolution solution: Longitudinal examination of New Year’s change attempts. Journal of Substance Abuse, 1, 127-13