How many of New Year’s resolutions will have dissolved into thin air, wishful thinking, self-resentment and guilt ridden returns to old patterns by the end of the first week of 2020? 50%, 75%, 90% perhaps? How many of your own have never stuck? It’s called a resolution for a reason – because it needs some resolve to be integrated into a life.
Resolutions fail and we do break our own promises (funny enough most of us more often than those to other people) due to a few reasons. Firstly – we disregard our nature as creatures of habit. It’s not enough to just decide to quit a habit. Your biology is working against you and the neural circuitry is already in place, the pathway has been formed and if left unfilled with other things it will result in cravings, mood swings, and ultimately emotional turmoil that will make you go back on your original promise. The pathway can’t be severed as if it never existed. The trick is to substitute the bad habit with a good one.
Secondly – we take a huge bite, more than we can chew. It’s impossible to change everything in a day and work on 20 things at the same time. You’ll inevitably burn out trying to stick to all of them and fold and crumble like a dry leaf under the pressure. Choose a couple which are most important to you and focus on these first. It might be completely silly to someone looking from the outside how small the first step has to be for you, but accomplish that and then up the ante and continue doing so.
Thirdly – we somehow believe we’ll do what we tell ourselves to do which is a lie. A known default pattern is far easier than doing something new and you will get tested, repeatedly. We don’t do what we said we will most of the time. Instead of getting angry at ourselves how about this time we show some compassion as we would to a kid learning something new because this is what is happening when you’re changing. You have no answers yet, you’re in unexplored territory and are figuring it out.
Fourth reason is the one that kills a lot of resolutions right at the get go. We decide what we’re going to do differently but we don’t specify WHY. WHY is one of the most powerful motivators, yet we keep it fuzzy and blurry because we want to leave some room for a way out if (and when) it gets too hard. It will. WHY demands from you to think it through, to envision the pitfalls beforehand and deal with them by pure power of will and rationalization, by delaying gratification because the overarching goal contained in the WHY is more important. If any of these components cited above are missing the resolution will crumble.
Start with WHY and then work outwards. Realize it is a habit, an already automated go to process that will take a lot of self-reflection to recognize its triggers and stop yourself at exactly the right moment. Make it the sole goal or one of a handful and take it day by day. Be kind to yourself if you backslide and get right back up on that horse. Don’t flog yourself for straying. You’re human, mistakes are inevitable. And say that WHY, the reason behind it, write it down, read it every morning and evening. Don’t just say you want to lose weight or stop smoking because you want to be healthier. Sure, that is true but it is to low resolution. A better way would be to list specific emotion provoking reasons such as – I want to be able to run around with my kid without getting exhausted or out of breath. Now this is a WHY. You don’t just decide to start saying “No” to things you don’t want to do in order to be more assertive. That’s also too fuzzy and too opened to interpretation. The real WHY is the need to respect yourself and your time more and you never ever want to be pushed to the point where you agreed to a hundred things, and now you’re buried under obligations you didn’t want and it is destroying your soul as you fake smile your way through them being unauthentic.
This year focus on reasons and not only resolutions. The percentage of failed goals will plummet. We promise. Because with a WHY things get important enough and are appropriately ingrained into all levels of personality. Start with WHY and may you have a happy and healthy new year ahead.