New Year’s resolutions are commonplace, but their success is not. The vast majority of people don’t achieve their resolution for the New Year. How come? Success may hinge between what you want and what you understand and are ready to tackle. For example, the most common New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight and to exercise more. The folks who make those resolutions want those things but may not have enough insight into what leads them to eat poorly or too much and not exercise more. For most lifestyle changes, it takes more than a resolve to substitute with healthier habits. It usually takes a combination of reflection, insight, support, self understanding, honesty, skills and a plan.
The consequences of an unsuccessful New Year’s Resolution are often feelings of failure or sometimes giving up on the goal. If someone sets out to change January 1st and hasn’t done well after a few weeks, they may become self critical and feel incapable or incompetent. They may just “settle” with where they are as a means to not feel worse. They slip back into status quo and turn away from goals that may otherwise enrich their lives. Try not to fall into this trap!
This year, consider changing the way you approach your resolution. Avoid relying on just will power and good thoughts. Instead, spend some time with yourself to really prepare yourself for change, health and success. Below is an outline and approach I suggest to help you be successful.
Reflect and Understand
Why do you do what you do? If change is difficult, what leads you to do what you do? For example, if you want to exercise more, what leads you to be more sedentary? Is it time? Not enjoying exercise? Not wanting to exercise alone? Not accepting your body as it is now so wanting to avoid using it? There could be many reasons. But, really take a look and explore the history of the lifestyle habit you’re trying to change and also assess what is reinforcing it in the present time.
Be Honest with Yourself
Before setting out on January 1st with your resolution, be honest with yourself if now is a really good time to tackle changing it. Do you honestly want to do the work involved with this change? Can the work required realistically be incorporated into your life as it is right now? Are you mentally and psychologically ready to let go of the old, and work for the new?
One of the biggest detriments to a successful resolution is not having support for change. Regardless of your New Year’s resolution, support is very important. Old habits die hard and left to your own thoughts and patterns, you will likely be engaging in old ways before you know it. Support comes in many forms and can be comprised of friends, groups working toward the same goal, online groups working toward the same goal, co-workers and/or family. Be open about what you’re striving for so you can get feedback and encouragement. If you are not encouraged or supported by a particular person or group, the more reason to have other sources of support and consider disclosing less of your plan with the group that doesn’t support you.
Have Skills and a Plan
You wouldn’t consider building something without tools or running a race without training, so be diligent to approach your resolution with skills and tools! Will power and daydreaming aren’t enough to materialize change so prepare yourself for the success you want. For example, if you want to eat healthier, are you prepared? Do you know what it means to eat healthier? Do you have a kitchen stocked with better food? Recipes on hand you can make? Time carved out to make them? What will you do for lunches at work when you normally grab fast food? What about when friends ask you out? Whatever your goal, make sure you have everything you need and that you know how to use what you have!
So, whatever your resolution is this year, I hope you consider the above outline and I wish you success. If you would like some support sorting through some of the issues above to help better prepare you, feel free to contact me with any questions. Most of all, I wish you a health and happiness for 2013!
Sylvia Flanagan, MFT is a San Diego therapist with a private practice in Mission Valley. For more information about San Diego Therapy, feel free to call or email her.
Office hours are Monday through Thursday 9:00 to 6:00.