Year after year, many people don’t keep their New Year’s resolutions and their failures cause them an immense amount of frustration. Every year people are faced with the same dilemma. Making a New Year’s resolution is supposed to be fun and exciting, but more often than not the process turns into an additional stressor, headache and hassle, often abandoned after only a few weeks.
The lack of success occurs because most people approach their resolutions incorrectly. But with just a few adjustments to their approach, they could easily accomplish their goals.
The first mistake is that many people focus too much energy on what they don’t want, such as smoking or overeating. So, they make a resolution to cut the habit, and then everyday becomes an inner battle of resisting temptation. This creates internal struggle and inner conflicts – which is unsustainable in the long-term. You cannot win a battle against yourself. Your beliefs and behaviors have to be in alignment with what you want to achieve. So here is the first adjustment to your thinking about your resolution: focus on what you do want and do not focus on what you do not want. What do you want to achieve by December 31, 2017?
The second adjustment is to visualize the outcome you want. Transform the intangible into the tangible. Practice visualizing your goal already realized (i.e. imagine yourself spending more quality time with your children or visiting the tropical island you saved for). Make this a daily habit, and return to your vision whenever you feel discouraged. Make daily progress which is consistent with the attainment of the goal, and remember that the key is progress, not perfection.
The next step is to replace the habit you are trying to get rid of with a new habit. You cannot actually quit a habit, it can only be replaced. Recognize the trigger for the old habit, and instead of reaching for that cigarette or candy, with your heightened sense of self-awareness, perform an activity that is pleasing to you and is consistent with the goal you are trying to attain. Remember, you must replace it with something that you enjoy, otherwise it continues to be a battle of the will. Also, make sure that the new habit is moving you closure to your outcome. Make certain your outcome is compelling so that you can solidify the new habit formation.
Make your resolution the result, NOT the ritual. Many of us get caught up in the day-to-day activity, when in fact, it is the result we are after. For example, if your goal is to lose 15 pounds, don’t just set a goal of running one mile every day. Instead, it is more effective and enjoyable to incorporate running, swimming, biking, or walking. This will allow you to be more flexible in your approach and enjoy the process. If you are not enjoying the process, then the change won’t be permanent. For a habit to stick, there must be a sense of reward, or enjoyment.
Remember to remember, and leverage your legwork. To avoid distractions, keep your resolution in front of you by presetting alarms to exercise, posting your weight loss goal on your refrigerator or wearing a wristband with your goal. This is effective in many different ways. First, by writing down your goal, it further solidifies it in your mind. Secondly, by posting it and being reminded by it, it will redirect your focus towards activities that are performed in the attainment of your goal. Also, creating a list of your “Why” will help prevent you forgetting about the reward you seek, especially during the lag time between the initiation of new habit and when results start to become apparent. Remember to celebrate your successes along the way and don’t forget that reaching your goals is going to be a marathon, not a sprint.