It’s that time of year again when many of us are thinking about making our New Year’s resolutions. How many of us actually keep them, though? According to this data, about 45 percent of Americans made New Year’s resolutions in 2015, with losing weight being at the top of the list, followed by getting organized, spending less/saving more, and getting fit and healthy. Unfortunately only 64 percent kept to their resolutions more than a month and only 46 percent lasted past six months.
Some reasons commonly given for not keeping our resolutions are:
We lose motivation after the initial excitement wears off
We set too many goals and get overwhelmed
The goal was too big or unrealistic
We didn’t have enough time
We didn’t have enough support
These are definitely worthy reasons, but there’s other possible reasons too.
What Do You Really Want?
I think a reason many of us don’t keep our New Year’s resolutions isn’t because we weren’t committed to them or are lazy, it’s because we didn’t take the time to think about what we really want first. Something like going a diet or working out after the Holidays, are things people feel they “should” be doing, but in reality it might not be something that’s really that important to them.
Ask WHY You Want to Make This New Year’s Resolution
Often the reason “why” wasn’t strong enough. It’s the “why” behind our goals that ultimately motivates us when we feel like quitting.
When you ask yourself why you want to lose weight, for example, the first answer may be “I want to fit into my jeans.” If you ask it again, your next answer may be something like “Because I want to attract a mate,” or “I don’t want to have a heart attack like my dad did.” If you keep digging, you may find that what you really want isn’t about losing weight at all.
If your goal really is to lose weight, instead of pledging to lose 25 pounds, break it into a series of smaller specific goals, like “I want to lose 2 pounds this month,” so there’s less chance of getting derailed and discouraged. Also, making small adjustments like cutting out sugar and adding more green vegetables to your plate are easier than starting a drastic diet and can lead to big changes over time.
Have a Vision
Goals have a lot better chance of succeeding when they’re aligned with your values and lead you towards your vision. It’s not enough to imagine you’ll be making a certain amount of money, have the perfect spouse, etc., your vision needs to be very clear and cover all areas of your life. You want to picture yourself in this vision: how you’re feeling, what you’re doing, where you’re living, how you’re creating/contributing, who’s in the vision with you, etc. You want to be excited about it.
Create a Plan and Take Action
Just as important, you want to have a plan take consistent action towards your vision. The goals you set help create habits and new habits help rewire your brain, but it takes time for them to stick. (See this article if you’re interested in learning more on how to create new habits to help keep to your New Year’s resolutions.)
Connect with your vision every day, preferably first thing in the morning (many people like to write in a journal), and take steps towards it, however small.
I believe there is such a thing as “manifesting” what you want, as I have experienced it myself, but I realize this is a bit “woo woo” for a lot of people. Regardless, just thinking about your vision and putting your intention out there will help keep it in your mind and help you move towards it.
Watch for Patterns of Resistance
Another reason we don’t follow through with our goals is that something called “resistance” can creep in and sabotage our efforts, without us even knowing it. These patterns are things like making excuses, feeling stuck, hiding, procrastinating, being busy but getting nothing done, and thinking things have to be perfect before taking action.
There’s usually a fear of some sort underlying patterns of resistance. We’re programmed to keep ourselves safe, so anything that gets us out of our comfort zone can bring them up. Being aware of them and getting to the bottom of the fear behind them is the key.
If it doesn’t feel uncomfortable, you’re not growing.
Using myself as an example, I had a lot of fears about being visible going into the coaching business. I didn’t like social media and putting my face all over my website seemed more than a bit narcissistic. You have to do it, though, as people need to get to know you before they want to work with you. Working with a mentor helped me become aware of my patterns of resistance and keep to my goals; therefore, I highly recommend working with a coach or mentor.
If you find yourself trying to make something work and it’s clearly not, don’t beat yourself up. Be flexible and consider reevaluating your goal. Was it something that was really doable in the first place?
Alternatively, throw out the New Year’s resolutions. Yes, it’s good to want to grow and change, but it gives us more things to do, which can be stressful; forcing ourselves to change isn’t easy. Like this blog post suggests, take time to process what you did well the previous year and accept yourself for who you are right now.
I had a great 2016 and am planning on having an even better 2017. How about you? How are you planning to have an amazing 2017?