Here we are one week in to the New Year. How has it been for you so far?
Perhaps you started the year with the best of intentions only to find yourself wanting at the end of the week. If you fall into averages then 75% of you are still on track. 25% of you have already failed and by all estimates only 8% will make it stick all the way to the end of the year.
Wanting to change is a wonderful thing. Whether that means losing weight, quitting smoking, stopping drinking, or just being a better parent. Whatever the goal, “resolution”, there are ways you can ensure you stick to, or get back on track.
First, a fun fact. You can't handle resolutions. That is, speaking strictly from a cognitive perspective, it's almost impossible. See, the same part of your brain that handles short term memory and decision making is the same part of the brain that manages your resolutions. So what does that mean? Basically, on December 31st you set some lofty aspirations for yourself. Then on January 1st , despite your best intentions, when offered a chocolate glazed, Boston filled doughnut, that resolution fell by the way side. It's not all your fault. Setting those resolutions took up a lot of space and energy in your brain. That made your powers of resisting the sugary sweet delight more challenging.
When we break this challenge down a bit it makes it a bit easier to overcome this pre-wired instinct.
The challenge isn't really with setting the resolution. It's more in that we typically set these resolutions in conjunction with many others. Example, rather than saying, “I will loose 20lbs in the next 12 months by eating cleaner, exercising three times a week and measuring success as losing 2 lbs a month”, we say “This year I am going to lose weight, stop drinking, stop smoking and look sexy as hell naked.”
In case you haven't figured it out, it's better to go with the first example. Breaking that lofty goal into small bite sized doable pieces will be easier for your brain to manage and thus keep you on track in the long run, (ie. You're more likely to end up in the 8%).
Here are five things you can do to stay on track:
Start with one thing
You may want to accomplish everything and that's fine, hold on to that. But before you begin on that journey pick one thing then zero in your efforts on that.
Once you've started experiencing success there, you'll be able to add more on.
Example resolution-instead of a resolution of quitting smoking, losing weight and quitting drinking ask yourself who you want to be and narrow it down to that, which of those resolutions is most important to start with. Maybe it's to quit drinking because when you drink you smoke more and binge eat. So if you quit drinking you'll be less likely to smoke anyway and you won't eat as much.
Break it down into bite sized pieces
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step” (Lao Tzu)This is so true. Take that one goal and start thinking about it like this-What does the person who already achieved that look like? What do they do every day? What is one thing I can do to become that person? What are the steps beyond that one thing that will continuously move me forward?
It's the little things that will make up the whole. Each day, think about that goal, resolution, you want to achieve and decide on two or three things you can do that day which will take you closer to being that person, or reaching that goal
Example resolution-quit smoking. Broken down: A Non-smoker does not have a cigarette with their coffee in the morning. Then do that, be that person for that day.
Use social pressure to your advantage. Tell everyone you can about your goals and make it as public as possible. This has a two fold effect, one when you achieve your stated outcome you will feel fantastic and two if you slip up, others will hold you accountable.
Often a byproduct of this is that you'll be giving others the courage they need to start on their own journey. Imagine that, you could be the catalyst to social change!
Be your own cheerleader
When you make small strides day after day it will lead to big outcomes. You may not see it right away but you're on your way. This means it is of paramount importance to pat yourself on the back and celebrate the little things.
Example-Your goal is to quit drinking and you chose to stay home on a Saturday night instead of going out with your friends. If you would normally spend $50 on a night out, do something nice for yourself with that money. Put it in savings or blow it on something you really want.
Track track track
Finally, track your progress. As I said before, most often changes come in small baby steps and can be hard to notice off the bat. When you track your progress over time you'll have a reference to look back on and that may be just what you need to keep going.
Example-You can use the notes function of your phone and each day, before you go to sleep mark down one sentence explaining what you did to meet your goal. How did you feel today? Did you lose a pound? Did you smoke one less cigarette? Write it down.
All of this takes practice.
And, all of this takes time.
If you're not where you want to be right now, that's okay. Simply:
“Go confidently in the directions of your dreams and endeavors.” (Thoreau)