New Year’s resolutions.
We all make them.
We all break them.
Making a New Year’s resolution is a great way to make positive changes in your life, whether it’s going to the gym, eating healthier, saving money, or losing weight. But, it’s rare you’ll keep and succeed at those resolutions for an entire year. According to studies, approximately 80-90% of resolutions fail by the second week of February, so the odds are against you.
For me it’s more a matter of looking back on the last year and seeing what worked, what didn’t, and what could have been improved. Like taking inventory. We could all look at our behaviors and life patterns and decide if they still fit.
What worked at 20 years old certainly didn’t at 30. Each decade, my priorities and needs changed. I was a singe mom at 35. So clearly my perspective was different as I struggled to raise my daughter alone while providing full time medical care and dealing with dozens of spinal surgeries that resulted in chronic pain.
At 50, my daughter graduated high school and moved to college. A transition many parents go through. It was a powerful time, filled with adjustments and opportunity for us both. My unqualified focus was no longer on a child at home but rather on encouraging a young adult to spread her wings. And on a mom able to look at new ways to fill her free time. Sure we had growing pains, but it was a necessary transition.
Now that she’s a grown woman, living on her own, my priorities and interests provide far different options. Ones that no longer keep her at the forefront every minute of the day. I’m back to being on my own and loving it.
Life is a perpetual and constant array of changes. Without them we would stagnate and wither away. No matter the age, no matter the challenges, it’s what we choose to do with those changes that will make all the difference. We can mope and whine at the progression of time, or embrace it. Seeing opportunities as new and exciting as opposed to frightening and overwhelming situations to be tolerated. Most of us will vacillate between both, depending on the moment.
New Year’s resolutions can act as a barometer, helping us to see what direction we want to move in. But the primary reason they fail so quickly is the lofty, incredible goals we try to set.
For many, New Year’s resolutions not only don’t work but they can actually make matters worse. Most people live within their comfort zone because it’s what they are used to. We might be telling ourselves we want something different from our past, but history plays back by default, and we get the same results. Overreaching sets up defeat from the beginning. This process results in setting too many expectations and creating unrealistic goals. We end up with a long list of trying to do everything at once, relying on our emotions to keep us motivated until we achieve them.
So, what should you do instead of making New Year’s resolutions?
Tackle just one habit that will ultimately create the most transformation in your life. What would it feel like to be 30 pounds slimmer by years end? Having set up and maintained an exercise program weekly? Learned to take time for yourself?
Making just one small change in your daily repetitive routine is a crucial step to alleviating the resistance that often comes with shedding the old and transitioning to the new.
Remember the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing and expecting different results? Why try to deal with a dozen changes? All wonderful aspirations, but unlikely to survive the test of time. Instead look at where you’ve been and decide where you want to go. What would you like to look back on this coming New Year’s Eve knowing you achieved? One success is worth a dozen missed attempts, since they just make us feel like failures instead of empowering us for what we can accomplish. We all want to do better but starting with a multitude of end points is just another way to sabotage ourselves, again.
So stop, take a breath and pick one. Just focus on that. Once successful add another one. Then another. Eventually your new path will be filled with optimism and confidence.
Real change takes time, effort and patience. According to research it takes about 66 days (yes, I said 66) to completely break an old habit, and it can take much longer to master and transition to a new one. While you are working hard to incorporate this new pattern of action into your life you are also creating a new routine for your subconscious to follow. That’s when this response becomes your new habit. But to stay motivated, it is important to celebrate even the smallest improvements.
Remember the serenity prayer:
God, grant me the serenity,
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Or this wonderful poem:
We are creatures of habit. That’s why New Year’s resolutions fail. So this year, take a deep breath and applaud your desire to improve while setting up the best possibility for success. Fortunately, not getting the resolutions perfect from day one isn’t the point. Regardless of any steps back, each new day brings another opportunity to move forward.
So what will you chose this year?