2021 is here - New Year’s will always be a time for record sales of gym memberships, diet plans and sports equipment. And yet, the vast majority of people who set out with grand resolutions will find themselves falling short, often before the end of the month. Why is this? Are we destined to fail?
None of that is true. It is because we fail to understand the nature of ourselves and what we really need to do in order to successfully implement the changes we want to see.
Resolutions often represent big changes and those big changes rely on motivation - which while powerful, is very difficult to maintain for any length of time. To be successful in making changes, we need to have not only a goal - that resolution - but also a plan to help us get there using not just small steps, but breaking them up into tiny, incredibly easy steps.
We also need to recognize the importance of celebrating our successes along the way. That means recruiting others not just to be accountability partners, but celebration partners as well. This can be a partner, friend, or family member.
It is the celebration of those tiny wins that helps us build the habits we need to achieve those lofty resolutions. And celebration isn’t always a party or a present - it can be a happy dance in the hallway, an exchange of celebration GIFs with a friend or even just a “WooHoo!! I did it!” in your head.
We also need to look at our current habits - where can we add in those behaviors we need to complete those tiny steps and be successful? For example - if your goal is to meditate 30 minutes each morning, but you pick your phone up and start scrolling social media after it wakes you up with your alarm - how likely will that new habit stick? What obstacles are you creating with your bedtime routine of “set the alarm on your phone and plug it in by your bed”? Perhaps you need a new routine after you buy an old fashioned alarm clock - “plug in the phone in the kitchen” followed by “set the alarm clock by the bed”. Now when it wakes you up you have a choice - sit up and do 1 minute of meditation before you go to the kitchen to check your phone and celebrate your step towards your goal....or walk all the way to the kitchen and check your phone, get sucked into social media and then rush to get ready for the day without meditating. You may have to be a bit of a detective to figure out not only what new habits you need, but where to add them throughout your day.
Another reason people fail in resolutions is they pick something they think they should do instead of something they really want to do. For example - I commonly hear “I want to lose XX pounds”, what can you do to help me? Often very little can be done on my end, because being a certain weight by itself has very little meaning and doesn’t give you anything to measure - except your weight. Ask yourself: Why do you want to lose that weight? Is it to be able to play with your kids? For better heart health? To be able to fly in a plane and be comfortable in the seats? Using the example of the “Big Rocks” - those things that are really fundamental to your happiness - what is your why? From there, you can start to build the how - instead of lose 20lbs this year or 3lbs per month - maybe your goals become: walk ½ mile or play 20 min outside (without stopping) with my kids 3x per week - without a why, it’s hard to stick with any of the changes that you need to make.
My suggestion for the New Year’s resolutions is - pick just one, and plan it out. What are the baby steps, what are the obstacles, what can you do to be more successful in achieving those steps. By focusing on a single area of change, you have a better chance of being successful in making that change. Alternatively, instead of big sweeping changes over the new year - what are the little things you can do right now? Instead of “giving up soda” maybe just drink 2 more glasses of water every day. Instead of “run a marathon” maybe just walk 15 min every day. Even little changes add up - that one more serving of veggies each day, 5 min of meditation, or even just starting each day with the thought that “today is going to be a great day!” can cascade into longer lasting changes that really can change your life for the better.
What is your favorite way to implement changes in your life?
For more detailed information on these concepts I recommend the following books:
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg