It’s February and not only is your home not organized, but your copy of Marie Kondo’s book is hopelessly lost. You’ve paid $80 so far for your new gym membership, which means you’ve paid $40 per workout that you’ve actually done. Not only haven’t you called your mom once a week, but you wonder if “thought about calling mom” should count. You aren’t coming close to your five servings of vegetables per day goal, even including ketchup and pickles.
Gosh, it’s almost like a date that comes at the end of a holiday season (that often leaves us exhausted and broke) may not be the best time to make a bunch of major life changes all at once! Welcome to the resolutions flame out. It’s not so much that your resolutions crashed and burned, it’s more like they just never got off the ground in the first place. But there is hope. We can right this ride.
First of all, ditch the guilt. You just didn’t know what you didn’t know. It’s like a kid who puts on a cape and jumps off a roof — he didn’t know any better, and he shouldn’t feel guilty about it, but he needs to make different choices moving forward.
The big problem with the resolutions flame out is how often it discourages people from trying to make positive life changes, and that’s a shame. Instead of heading down a resolutions shame spiral that lasts until next year, let’s regroup and do this in a way that makes sense.
Pick One, Only One
I saw a Facebook post where someone listed, in detail, their 32 (not kidding, 32) resolutions. Three weeks later they posted about day drinking while crying about their complete failure. Of course, you can do what you want, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that 32 is way too many resolutions. I would suggest you choose one thing to change at a time.
Pick Something You’re In Control Of
We can’t always control the outcome of our behaviors, but we can control the behaviors themselves. For example, though we know that movement can support our health, we don’t control what happens to our bodies when we start a movement program, so instead of making body size manipulation the goal, we can make doing the movement the goal.
Create Habits, Not Just a Goal
It’s one thing to have a goal; it’s quite another to do the things on a daily/weekly/monthly basis that will make sure you actually reach that goal. Spend some time thinking about what it would actually take — on a daily, weekly, monthly, etc. basis to reach your goal. If it seems overwhelming then re-think your goal and bite off a smaller piece.
For many people, it helps a lot to have someone, or something, to be accountable to. This may take the form of a friend or coach who you check in with on a regular basis, a blog, or even a Facebook group. Be careful with one on one mutual check-ins (where the person you are checking in with is also checking in with you about their goals) because if your accountability partner fails, it may ruin the accountability relationship.
Be On A Journey
Realize that this isn’t likely a straight line from point A to point B. Life will get in the way; you may decide that your plan was wildly unrealistic, or that you wildly undershot the goal. Celebrate the path you are on, however wobbly that path may be. Once you’ve got one goal either accomplished or at least totally under control, you can pick another goal and then lather, rinse, repeat.
Build From Your Successes
If you have many goals, I suggest you list them in order from easiest to most difficult and start with the easiest. Celebrate every small victory along the way, and use the confidence you gain from the smaller goals you accomplish to help you tackle the bigger goals.
It Happened To Me
In my former life doing business consulting, I wanted to write a fun book to help business owners create administrative systems and processes that supported them. I think it was a New Year’s Resolution of mine for four years running: Write a book. Five years later I had some notes and ideas, but no book.
Stan Tyler is a powerful coach and a dear friend of mine. He started running a 21-Day Program in which participants pick one goal, create a plan to reach it (including daily habits) and then check in with each other daily for accountability. The program was based on many of the points that I’ve just discussed, as well as research that suggests that it takes 21 days to create a habit.
Twenty-one days later, I had the first draft of my book. I don’t think I ever would have gotten it done if I hadn’t taken a structured approach.
Set goals and make changes, but set yourself up for success. And remember — self-improvement and achievement are worthy goals all year long, not just on the first day.