“Oh, the pressure…. What’ll I say when they ask me? I haven’t a clue. I’d better come up with something. It had better sound sensible.”
Sound familiar? If these are the kinds of thoughts you have around January 1st, then welcome to the great mass of us who struggle with New Year resolutions. We like the idea of them – new year, new start – a chance to make a positive change in our lives. The hard part though, is sticking to them. We’re bombarded with advice, from well-intentioned relatives and friends, talk shows, social media, or just that little inner voice nagging away in our heads. Mainly though, the vast majority of us don’t stick to our new year resolutions simply because we don’t have a compelling enough reason.
How do you know if you fall into that category? The tell-tale signs are often in the way we describe our resolutions. The giveaway words: I should… I ought to….. I think… I’ll try… These words indicate our motivation is shaky.
If I lost that stone every time I made it a New Year’s resolution, I’d have shed my entire body weight by now. If I stuck it out, I’d be a polyglot marathon runner with a big nest egg, relaxing in my very tidy drawing room, reviewing the new edition of my latest published work.
We start off all gung ho, full of enthusiasm. And then things get a bit tricky. We miss the exercise class or eat a fish and chips. Having broken the promise, we tend to take the ‘in for a penny, in for a pound approach’. Many of us will have given up by January 15th, and more by Feb 1st.
I’m not trying to deflate you with this. I’d rather take the pressure off. Why not simply have a goal? Don’t tie it to New Year at all. What’s the endgame for you? Instead of “I should….lose weight, get fit, stop procrastinating, delegate more, manage my time, give up smoking, etc, think about what success looks like. How would I look, feel or think if I achieved my goal? What’s in it for ME?
I don’t really want to lose a stone. What I really DO want, is to feel fabulous. I want to put on the red dress in my wardrobe that I’ve only worn once because it’s just a bit too tight around the midriff. I want to put it on and go out to dinner knowing I look great. (Yes my reward includes eating food.) I will do this by Easter, and I know how I’m going to do it. I haven’t gone on a diet, but I am conscious of what I’m eating and drinking, and adjusting the intake accordingly. I have a walking buddy, and we keep each other exercising regularly. When one feels like wimping out, the other keeps us both on the road. This goal is not a New Year’s resolution. We started in October. Christmas was a challenge, (a bit of a hiccup actually), but we adjusted our schedules and kept going. I’m making progress.
This time I will lose that stone because the pull of how I will feel is much more compelling than the notion of calorie counting or pounding a treadmill. When we focus on negative things about ourselves we are drawn to them, and that makes New Year resolutions harder to keep. It’s not that we are too lazy or too stupid to achieve these ambitions. Rather, it’s that we haven’t framed them in a way that calls to us strongly enough. We don’t really believe in them. We don’t really believe in ourselves.
What’s wrong with having a goal that’s realistic, but doesn’t set the bar too low? One that brings progress to just one area of our lives – not something that requires a magic wand or a winning lotto ticket. If you could change one thing that holds you back, what would it be?
To tell or not to tell? Should I keep it to myself, or let all and sundry know? Personally, I tend to tell only one or two relevant people. I avoid the saboteurs who make me feel like a failure, and tell those who keep me on track and positive.
My final bit of advice comes straight from Alcoholics Anonymous – “One day at a time. Forget January 1st, do it just for today”