How often have you made a New Year’s resolution only to have it fail by February? You are definitely not alone. The concept of a New Year’s resolution sets you up to fail. Consider this, between Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s; we are bombarded with food, food, food, drink, excessive spending and stress. Resolving to make change after six weeks of this madness would set anyone up for failure. It is the Fat Tuesday before Lent. We load ourselves up with unhealthy behaviors in preparation for the ultimate sacrifice. We then tell ourselves that our lives will be different next year.
Why is it, then, that we find ourselves in the same boat year after year? Simply, we fail because we put so much pressure on ourselves to change everything on that magical date January 1st. We are conditioned for the easy fix, the magic bullet, the pill that will forever change our lives.
While this all sounds fatalistic, we are not without hope! Start planning now for the changes you would like to make, it will set you up for success. Here are some guidelines to help you along:
Set a SMARTS goal:
Pick 1 specific goal to accomplish. If you want to quit smoking, lose weight and save more money, you will likely become overwhelmed and give up.
Make your goal measurable. When you make a measurable goal, you know when you’ve accomplished it and it builds confidence that you can continue accomplishing your goals.
Recognize that real change takes time. So often, we want to do things as quickly as possible. If your goal, for example, is to lose weight, don’t set a goal of losing 50 pounds and feel discouraged when you have only lost 2 in the first two weeks. Setting an attainable and realistic goal will set you up for success. Start with small goals that will add up over time. This is what really contributes to long-term change.
Set up rewards for small changes you make on the road to accomplishing your larger goals. Setting external motivators can be incredibly helpful when we are first trying to make changes. Remind yourself of the payoff when you accomplish your goals.
Keep track of your progress. This can serve as a visual reminder that you are successful.
Get support! Tell other people about your goals or find someone to do it with you.
We become frustrated when the changes we want to make are more difficult to accomplish than we had anticipated. We overload ourselves with so many changes or unrealistic goals that we become discouraged. Recognize that there will be bumps in the road. Don’t give up when you hit one. If your goal is weight loss, challenge the all or nothing thinking and recognize that any changes you do make will be progress toward your goal. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip. Use that as feedback on what you can do to avoid the obstacle next time. Research shows that it can take as long as two months to make new changes a habit. Give yourself time and be patient!