The New Year is finally here; a new year a new outlook on life and a fresh start. Many of us make resolutions for things we are going to change at the beginning of the year, perhaps lose weight, save money, quit smoking, change a relationship. You really mean it when you say it. So why then are resolutions broken so quickly? Why is it so hard to stay on track and implement changes that will only be good for you?
Because change is a process and often a difficult one. The process of change starts with an idea, usually motivated by pleasure seeking or pain avoidance such as feeling good about losing those final 10 pounds or eliminating the shame and frustration from spending too much money all the time. Change is a great idea. The problem isn’t coming up with an idea, it’s implementing it and then sticking with it.
Implementation can be a difficult part of the ‘new-year-new-me’ process because often we don’t have a plan. Instead we jump in with an idea, or several, but no steps to follow. This creates a state of deprivation and frustration once you inevitably fail. Failure occurs not because you will never quit smoking but because you haven’t devised a manageable plan with measurable steps to follow in the pursuit of accomplishing your goal. This is called a set-up for failure and guarantees you won’t succeed. An idea without a plan is really just a thought. You need a plan.
Another resolution breaker is trying to change a long-standing lifestyle patterns in a short period of time. It took a long time to gain those pounds, get into debt, or invest in unhealthy relationships. It will take some time to learn new patterns, practice new habits, and make changes. Expecting change to come quickly, even if you want it very badly, is another set-up for failure. Pace yourself, follow your plan, and most importantly, expect to slip-up and repeat an old, undesired behaviour on the road to reaching your goal.
In order to make lasting lifestyle changes you need to understand why you’re hoping to do so the first place. As long as your current lifestyle benefits you in some way, you will be resistant to change, be it consciously or subconsciously. It can be hard to understand how smoking, eating junk food, or staying in a bad relationship may benefit you, but in many ways, they may well be. Maybe smoking is a stress relief, eating junk food is really emotional eating to cope with sadness or boredom, and maybe it feels more secure to be in a relationship rather than alone. Don’t just stop your current habits cold turkey, without thinking about it, instead, reflect on why the behaviors may be occurring and resistant to change, and replace them with healthier options such as deep breathing, yoga, learning to cope with sadness effectively, and how to enjoy your own company.
So you have a great idea for some new years changes, a plan with bite-size steps to follow, reasonable expectations for yourself, and you’re starting to see results – now what? Maintenance. The goal is long term, positive lasting change. Maintenance is the final step in the process of change, continuing new healthy patterns and lifestyle choices. It is about practice and continuing to develop new habits you’ve implemented as well as managing slip-ups that are part of the journey. Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes habit.
If you have made new years resolutions this year or would like to make a change in your life, create a goal and a plan with small achievable steps, replace current behaviour with healthy alternatives, give yourself some time, and practice, and above all, know that change takes time – be patient and generous with yourself.
We invite you to join us in filling out this ‘SMART goals’ chart in order to create an implementation plan for yourself and track your progress as you move towards achieving one of your goals for 2015… We will be checking up on you in our next post before the end of the month. Best of luck, we know you can do it!
Click to download our SMART Goals Worksheet: SMART-Goals-Checkpoint-Worksheet.