The beginning of a new year typically has all of us thinking about changes or
improvements that we want to make to our lives. Maybe you have been
contemplating a change for awhile and want to start the New Year fresh or
perhaps the holiday season forced you to recognize some habits or behaviors
that are holding you back. Regardless, there is a right way and a wrong way to
go about change, especially if you want changes to stick.
The celebration of the New Year is the oldest of all holidays. It
was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. More formal
celebration of the tradition of the New Year Resolution dates to 153 B.C. when Janus,
a mythical king of early Rome was placed at the head of the calendar. Janus,
thought to be able to look back on past events and look forward to the future
and the New Year, became the ancient symbol for resolution and change.
As we all know, making the resolve to change, is often not
enough. To be successful with your resolutions, you need to go about them the
right way. Some important aspects of being successful with your resolutions for
a Plan- A well formulated plan will outline what to do and the specific,
detailed steps required to complete the goal. Write down your resolution and
plan to commit yourself to the plan; this means outlining the exact steps that
would be required to make your desired change. Real change does not happen
overnight and it usually does not happen in one big step. A well thought
through plan, broken down into manageable smaller steps that are realistic will
help you reach your larger goal.
Flexible- Don’t expect perfection; Instead expect that your plan can change and
will. Be realistic and plan ahead for what barriers will have to be overcome to
keep your desired change in place long term. Making a “pro and con” list could
reveal some of the obstacles that you are likely to run into while attempting
your new behavior. And talking changes through with friends and family will
help you anticipate difficulties to change and will provide you with support
for rough hurdles during change.
Yourself- Celebrate each small step toward success by keeping track of your
progress frequently and treating yourself to something that you enjoy at each
successful step. Take each day one at a time and focus on the positive steps
each day. You will experience setbacks but focusing on the failures will only
tempt you to give up. Instead, find even the smallest increments of progress
and reward yourself for those. Few people are motivated to change behavior by
the threat of punishment!
to IT!- Experts say that it takes
about 21 days to develop a new habit. If your resolution is slipping or losing
steam, keep trying. Many times significant change requires an adjustment period
so attempting and failing a few times first is expected. View setbacks as
lessons for growth by modifying your detailed plan to handle the setback and
keep pushing forward for the next success.
Despite all these
good intentions, many New Year Resolutions fail for the same reasons. Avoid
these pitfalls if you are looking to make permanent change:
1. Don’t let the pressure of New Year’s Eve excitement
push you to proclaim a plan for change that you don’t really want. Steer your
life in the direction that you want rather than giving in to external pressure
you feel you should live up to. (For example, Don’t feel pressure to lose
weight quickly because of a big event this year, instead make a plan for a
healthy change in your life style that will benefit you before and long after
2. Don’t confuse homeostasis for ‘time to quit’. Plan
for resistance to change; Our bodies like to keep things habitual. Change will
throw off your homeostasis- what your system wants to be stable and normal- and
you will have to persevere for change to stick as the new normal.
3. Don’t set unrealistic plans or expectations.
One step at a time and one change at a time. Do the homework to find out how to
make your change from people who have successfully made it themselves. Why
start from scratch if others could help you be successful?
4. Don’t let temporary failure or mistakes lead
to giving up completely. Predict your potential pitfalls and plan for how to
handle the stumbles. You will not be successful without a few pitfalls, and
without a plan for the low points these pitfalls could do you in. The more
detailed your plan for change is, the more likely you are to take each required
5. Don’t live the same life and expect something
different to happen. To be able to change habits or behaviors, you may have to
change parts of your daily environment to better support your new habit. Tempting
yourself with the old routines (restaurants, bars, shopping, or peers) is
likely to break down your willpower quickly.
If you started January with a bang and you are
fading fast, consider revamping your plan for a fresh start- Resolutions are
not limited to January 1. And finally, consider involving a professional for
some guidance and accountability. A trainer, therapist, nutritionist, financial
planner, etc. could be a wise investment if it allows you to meet the long term
goal that is important to you.