Of all the resolutions we make to start the new year, more than half involve becoming healthier: losing weight, eating better, or adhering to specific diet, quitting [insert bad habit]. And while much is made of how few people achieve their goals, what of those who get it right? The people who drop a dress size, adopt a healthy new routine, eliminate a specific toxic behavior? What constitutes the difference between those who succeed and those who do not? The answer lies not in the resolutions we make, but in how we go about realizing life changes that determines success.
If you made resolutions this year, think about the process you employed to make them. The real challenge with resolutions is that the way we make them oftentimes sets us up for failure. According to Psychology Today, our expectations of what we’ll be able to accomplish in the future isn’t achievable. The “false hope syndrome” means a resolution is both unrealistic and out of alignment with a person’s internal view of him- or herself, and reflects the unproductive nature of making positive (but false) affirmations. Studies have shown that when a person makes positive affirmations about him- or herself they don’t really believe, the positive affirmations not only don’t work, they can be damaging to your self-esteem.
So how do we make resolutions that stick, and life changes that last? If you’re not sure what works for you, consider the following suggestions:
- Focus on one resolution, and make it realistic. Determine the specific parameters and timeframe of your goal. Then, create a strategy by choosing the steps you’ll take. Make a commitment to start, and keep track of your progress by journaling (either written, or through an online or smart phone application), or working with a coach or accountability partner.
- Replace an old habit with a new one, or associate a specific trigger with a different behavior. Once you become aware of your triggers and the resultant behavior, retrain yourself to react in a healthy way, such as replacing emotional overeating with taking a short walk, or switching the nightly martini with a cup of delicious herbal tea.
- Tailor your resolution to the “Golden Rule of Habit Change,” which states that every habit has three components: the cue (or a trigger for an automatic behavior to start), a routine (the behavior itself) and a reward (which is how our brain learns to remember this pattern for the future).
- Learn to recognize your triggers. Does boredom drive you straight to the fridge? Does a drink magically appear in your hand at the end of each stressful day? Being mindful of emotional reactions can help you eliminate those unconscious behaviors.
- Take small steps. Manageable and duplicatable – every day.
- Celebrate accomplishments – even the smallest as a sign you’re on the right path.
Finally – and most importantly – if you fail, start over. Embrace your commitment to your goal and get back in the saddle as soon as possible after you’ve fallen out. By taking the right steps and having a committed and proactive attitude, this will be the year you accomplish your resolutions!