So we all do it…make New Years Resolutions and then fall of the wheel! We have good intentions when we make them. We want to feel better about ourselves and do better for ourselves and the New Year seems like the perfect time to start. There is nothing like a fresh start in the New Year. Unfortunately, even with the best intentions it is a challenge to stick to and accomplish the goals we set. If you fall into this category, don’t worry you are not alone. Research suggests that approximately half of all Americans make New Year’s Resolutions yet only 8% actually achieve them (Forbes Magazine, www.forbes.com). So, don’t beat yourself up for not accomplishing your goal last year, continue reading this article for tips that may assist you as you navigate your way towards becoming the better version of yourself!
Why do we have a hard time sticking to our goals?
To understand why we have a hard time sticking to and accomplishing our goals, we first need to look at the life cycle of our New Year’s Resolution or any goal we make, I call this “The Hamster Wheel”.
We struggle in achieving our goals because we go about it the wrong way. Some of the common mistakes that we make when we set goals are: they are too big, we get discourage by failures/setbacks and look at change in a linear fashion. Our biggest mistake is making goals that are way too big and not realistic for us to achieve in the time frame that we give ourselves. Then, we get discouraged when we fail or are set back and we don’t want to continue. Also, change is hard and we look at change in a linear fashion, which is not how change works, change is holistic and we go through cycles.
How can we get off this hamster wheel and actually stick to our goals and become the better version of ourselves that we desire?
At first, I wasn’t sure and this was an enigma that I personally was challenged by; but through research I found some ways to help people like us, who desperately want to change but have trouble with staying focused and committed. Through all of my research, I was able to compile a list of 7 simple steps to apply to assist. I will be applying these steps on my journey to become a better me and my hope is that these steps also help you on your better you journey as well.
1. Create Alternatives: Don’t just try to eradicate something completely from your life, gradually wean yourself by finding alternatives to replace an old habit with a good habit. For example, if you are trying to lose weight and you want to stop eating cake, don’t just prevent yourself from eating cake completely because when you are overly tempted to eat cake you will binge and start the downward cycle of letting go of your goal. Instead, slowly replace cake with something healthier that satisfies the same sweetness of cake. Instead of regular white flour cake, try vegan cake or a smoothie or a banana with peanut butter and honey. Your body and mind will be happy.
2. Be SMART: Most people fail at accomplishing their goals because their goals are poorly defined. Here is how to be Smart and set SMART goals.
- Specific: the goal should clearly outline the action that you’re going to take rather than the end result that you want. If you want to become a yogi, saying “I want to practice yoga more often” is too broad, but saying “I will practice yoga 1-3 times a week” is more specific.
- Measurable: set goals that can be measured over time so that you are able to track your progress. For example, if you want to stop smoking, your goal could be to limit yourself to 2 cigarettes a day instead of 3 and then to 1 cigarette instead of 2 and keep track of your progress. When you start to see that you are making progress it will encourage you to keep going.
- Achievable: Don’t overdue trying to change or do too many things at once. Limit your list to 1-3 bigger goals (Lose Weight, Have a positive Attitude, get a new job) and then break those down into smaller goals. For example, if you want to lose 50lbs, then you can break that down into smaller monthly goals: 10lbs per month over 5 months or 5lbs per month over 10 months.
- Relevant: make it something you really want; that fits into your values; not what you think others want or what others have expressed they want for you. Don’t get organized because you are trying to compete with a friend, get organized because you want to have a clutter free space, if that is important to you.
- Time-Bound: Set specific timeframes and put it in your schedule/calendar (get an organizer/calendar, or use your phone and/or computer calendar and make sure they are sync). If you want to learn something new, schedule time in your daily/weekly/monthly schedule to work towards that goal and set a deadline for yourself. I aim to practice my new skill 15 minutes a day until it becomes a habit.
3. Write it down: Write down the goal and visualize it regularly. According to Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, writing and visualizing are effective tools for fulfilling a goal because they fix it firmly in the subconscious. Similar to affirmations, write your goals down on post-it notes and place them in places in the house you visit daily, like the bathroom mirror, the refrigerator door, the front door, the mirror in your room. Or make it your computer and/or phone screen saver.
4. It takes a village: Even though you may want to bare the grunt of your transformation alone, it’s tough without support. Having someone support you and hold you accountable can be a powerful tool. Making a public commitment adds motivation. Ideally, you need 2 people: 1 person to be your coach (tough love) and 1 person to be your cheerleader (empathy/compassion); sometimes you are blessed to have 2 different people, sometimes 1 person can be both, sometimes you have just one and that’s ok, but if you don’t have 1 supportive ally, then you might need to change your resolution to finding a support system, because we all need one. So, reach out to those who are close to you, join a support group, start to network and build a support group of people who embody the coach and cheerleader characteristics.
5. Be Patient & Forgive yourself: Remember that you are human and built to be imperfect. There will come a time in your betterment journey that you will be tempted to resort back to old ways and there will come a time where that temptation is so strong that you give in. Forgive yourself and be patient, Egypt was not built in day, greatness takes time. Progress is never linear, some people will see rapid gains only to hit resistance later in their efforts and others initial progress may be painfully slow but then they suddenly achieve rapid breakthroughs. Making lasting change takes time. Don’t beat yourself up, we all endure those rollercoasters and what you do when you fall is not give up or in but dust yourself off, give yourself a big hug, encourage yourself, call your accountability partner and get back on the horse.
6. March to your own beat: You don’t have to start on New Year’s, set your own date. The great thing about being free to choose and decide, is that you are free to choose and decide whenever you want your betterment journey to start. You can have it start on New Year’s, or you can wait for your Bday, or you can wait until an important date in your life. When you freely choose the date in which you start, that date has significance and you are more motivated and inspired to change.
7. Reward yourself: Because your goals are measureable you are able to track your progress. In addition, to tracking you need to reward your progress (Psychology Today, www.psychologytoday.com). Treat yourself, you deserve it, you have been working hard. Make sure your reward is in alignment with your betterment journey not sabotaging it. Your reward should not be to indulge in whatever the bad habit that you are trying to improve, so don’t reward yourself with cake loaded with sugar and carbs when you are trying to lose weight, instead treat yourself to a pedicure, a movie, a new workout outfit or fitness tennis shoes.
In conclusion, having goals are important! According to Psychology Today, “when people have goals to guide them, they are happier and achieve more than they would without having them. Achieving a goal produces dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure. The dopamine also activates neural circuity that makes you eager to pursue new challenges” (Psychology Today, www.psychologytoday.com). So, having goals and achieving them can improve your health and well-being. Set those goals and take it one step at a time, before you know it you will be that better version of yourself! I wish you all the best in your better you journey! Peace, Love & Happiness! Namaste! ©
Statistic Brain Research Institute-www.statisticebrain.com