Why Most People Have Stopped Making New Year's Resolutions
When you talk about New Year's resolutions, most people chuckle and say they don't bother with them anymore. Probably because they know in their heart of hearts that there have just been too many years where the best-laid plans have completely fallen flat. The resolution is abandoned usually within 2-3 weeks, and you are left feeling dejected or, worse yet, guilty that another year is here and you once again did not follow through on your big plans to better your life.
One of my patients told me last year that their resolution to go to the gym four days a week after work was curtailed because there were no parking spots in the lot and they did not want to have to walk too far to get there. If they had only waited until the third week of January they likely could have parked right by the door.
One of the reasons people don't follow through on their resolutions is that change is hard. Keeping consistent with a new commitment is difficult, and it is just plain easier to not do it. Whether at New Year's or any other time of the year, goal setting is much easier than goal achieving.
So how can we stack the cards in our favor? How can we make it more likely that we will be consistent with the changes we set forth to make and actually see a lasting change in our life? One of the keys is in the way we think about our goals and the language we use to describe them.
How to Increase Your Goal Follow Through
Most of the obstacles to following through with a resolution or a goal aren't external, they're internal factors. The reality is that life will always get in the way of our best-laid plans. The realities of being tired and overstressed after a busy day at the office make going to the gym after work really hard to do. Whatever our goal or resolution is, we need to really see ourselves achieving it, we need to believe we can, we need to take small consistent steps and lean into the goal by starting slow and doing something that moves us in that direction.
We can help ourselves believe we can do it and increase our chance of making those small daily steps in the right direction by thinking of the goal or resolution as if it has already occurred. If you can get your subconscious mind programmed to follow through you will achieve great things this year.
To improve your chances of following through on your resolutions, just change the way you phrase the goal. Instead of writing (and you must write them down to be effective) "I need to" or "I have to," write "I am..."
For example, instead of thinking, "I have to lose 20 pounds," write down "I am at my ideal weight of 130 pounds, I can fit in my clothes and I feel healthy."
Whatever you desire must be stated in the positive and present tense. You have to be able to see yourself where you want to be so that you believe it is possible. If you want to be at a healthy weight or have a certain level of financial success, you must truly believe that you can achieve it in order to take the necessary steps to get to that point.
While some may have abandoned the practice of making New Year's resolutions, I still believe it's an ideal time to evaluate your last year and see what you can change to make the next year better. If you find yourself off track by Feb. 1, you can re-evaluate again. Our goals and life circumstances are constantly changing, and while Jan. 1 is a great time to make a resolution, it isn't the only time we can use this tip.
How to Program Your Brain to Help You Reach Your Goals
In fact, I take time to write my top 10 goals out every single morning in a journal. This helps trigger the reticular activating system (RAS) in your brain to help notice the ways in which you can achieve them. This part of your brain acts as a filter. What you focus on will be noticed. So, if your goals are front and center, you are much more likely to notice ways you can move toward them. It starts every day with focusing on what you truly want. While I might not be able to work on every single one of my goals on a daily basis, this ritual helps me focus on what I can do each day to move me closer to my goals.
Often times we have a big goal we want to achieve but haven't put enough thought into what it will take to get there. To counteract this, write down statements that relate to your overall goals. Wanting to lose weight isn't enough, you also need to change your eating and exercise habits.
Write down statements like "I eat healthy, nutritious foods so I can be energetic, lose weight and live longer. I walk three times a week because I feel better after I do it, and it provides a mental and physical break to my day."
Put Your Resolutions to the Test
All goals should follow the SMART acronym. We are much more likely to achieve our goals if they follow the SMART principle.
S -- Specific. Don't just say I want to lose weight, say "I am 130 pounds by June 30, 2013."
M -- Measurable. They have to be something that you can measure your progress in. A resolution to be healthy isn't measurable, but aiming to eat 8+ servings of fruits and vegetables a day is.
A -- Attainable. Although you want to reach for the stars, if your goal is too unrealistic it can be deflating mentally. An attainable, realistic goal makes it much more likely that you'll actually pursue it. And once you achieve that initial goal, you can upgrade your goal to something you might have never thought possible before.
R -- Relevant. Make sure your goals are relevant to you and your life. Think about your values and what is really important to you.
T -- Timeline. There has to be a timeline. For example, you can't just have an open-ended goal that you want to be wealthy at some point in the future. You need a specific amount in mind with a deadline attached.
By following these simple tips to write your resolutions, 2013 may just be your best year ever. What resolutions are you pursuing this year?
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