What is your New Year’s resolution? That seems to be a universal question early each January. There is something about changing the calendar that encourages us to change ourselves. The year ahead seems to hold unlimited possibilities–in fact statistics tell us that 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, usually having to do with some form of self improvement, whether its being kinder, becoming more patient or less procrastinating, getting organized, or the ubiquitous losing weight. That’s the good news. The bad news is only about 8% of these optimists actually achieve their intended goals. What happens along the way through the year? Why so little success for these healthy or noble objectives?
Despite our earnest efforts, there are forces (and excuses) that sabotage our resolutions. What can we do (other than give up and wait until 2019?) How do we stay the course when temptations to do otherwise are lurking around every corner?
The first suggestion is to write down your resolution in concrete terms. Let’s say you want to have your workspace less cluttered. What does that mean? Does it mean that only what you are currently working on should be allowed on your desk? Does it mean totally clearing your desk of all papers before you leave in the evening? Be specific! Vague goals lead to vague results!
Ask yourself why you desire to bring about this change. Is it to be healthier, to get along better with co-workers, to be less frustrated? Envision those results and imagine how that would feel. Is it something you truly want, or is it to achieve someone else’s vision of who you should be? New habits tend to be formed more readily when you do it for yourself, and not for others.
It also helps to tell others about your intentions. It will make you feel more accountable for your actions, and others can remind you of what you are trying to achieve. There’s a certain “face saving” aspect of letting others know about the “new you” that is to come.
Prepare for success. My daughter embraces something called the “Whole 30” diet plan to eliminate toxins and inflammatory foods from her eating habits the first month of the year, especially after all the holiday imbibing. On December 31, she rids her cupboards and refrigerator of all foods restricted by the diet, and then grocery shops for what it requires. She rereads all the benefits of eating this way, and by January 1st, she is in the right frame of mind and has what she needs to succeed–and she usually does!
However, prepare for setbacks. So you’ve been doing great at being more patient, but driving home you find yourself in a fit of road rage. Oops, you blew it–I guess being patient is not an achievable goal for you. Wrong!Bad habits tend to rear their not-so-pretty heads no matter what you do. Brush it off and start again. The same goes for weight loss. You give in to a piece of banana cream pie, and so your diet goes out the window, at least until next Monday–and its only Tuesday afternoon! Try to see each meal as a new beginning point, or you’ll be starting all over again every Monday for 52 weeks! Don’t confuse a setback with a sabotage. Every day is a new day, just as each meal is a new opportunity regain your focus.
Most importantly, make your resolutions realistic. Chances are you will not lose 80 pounds, but can you become trimmer and therefore healthier through exercise and awareness of your eating habits? Absolutely! You may never have the patience of a saint, but can you become less irritated by those around you? You bet!
Finally, be kind to yourself no matter what your progress-or lack of. We tend to generous when it comes to negative self criticism, but stingy with our “atta-boys” (or girls, as the case may be). Progress in reaching a goal is not always linear, but is always reward-able. Be your own best cheerleader, and as Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never give up.” An improved you is out there waiting, if you give wings to what you desire to achieve. Happy 2018!