WE’RE MORE THAN HALFWAY THROUGH JANUARY; LET’S CHECK IN ON THOSE RESOLUTIONS WE MADE AT THE START OF THE YEAR.
What changes have you made?
That’s OK. You’re not alone! For many, New Year’s resolutions are designed to fail.
Why? We’re surrounded by challenges and distractions in November and December, and unprepared to make long-term change in the New Year!
After a year of hard work, we look at the holidays as a time to reward ourselves and indulge without feelings of guilt (and deservedly so!). We drink, eat, and celebrate for a solid two (plus) weeks—while also trying to relax and decompress without obligation and expectation.
Before we know it, January 1st rears its ugly head and says: “Hey, you! Party’s over! Get your life together! Get back to work, and get yourself back in the gym FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!”
(Ugh…January, you are SUCH a buzzkill!).
Poof goes the cheerful tunes, the treats, and the reprieve…and we’re back on the grind, going zero to 100 (REAL quick).
Suddenly, we find ourselves making resolutions and pledging to be better versions of our former selves, while still battling the same bad habits we’ve had all along (plus a few extra holiday pounds)!
So, what can you do? Are your resolutions doomed to fail year after year? Is it even possible to find the motivation to stick to our resolutions, break bad habits, and successfully change?
It is, I promise. But you must be prepared to take on a new approach (and stop making excuses)!
Let me explain.
CREATE A GAME PLAN FOR CHANGE
1. Be honest with yourself
In order to make room for change, you must first admit that there are areas of your life that you’d like to change. No more joking about how you never go to the gym or acting like your sweet tooth isn’t a problem! If it’s affecting your self-esteem or holding you back in other areas of your life, you owe it to yourself to be honest about that and commit to making the change.
Identify 1-2 specific (and realistic) things that could use improvement in your life, and visualize making that change. It will help to write down the pros and cons of making the change, and write down your goals—with an actual pen and paper. These steps will help commit your mind to the change.Example: I want to get 3-4 days of regular exercise.
Pros: Feel stronger, feel better in my clothes, and feel better about myself!
Cons: It’s one more thing to fit into my week.
2. Do your research
This is an important step that often gets skipped, as many people attempt to make change by moving straight into action (ESPECIALLY when making New Years Resolutions). Instead, begin gathering information and helpful resources related to the habit or area of your life that you wish to change.
As part of this step, it’s also important to figure out how you will create a successful environment for change in your personal and professional life. What sort of preparation and organization will be necessary? What barriers typically keep you from being consistent? What keeps you motivated? Finish by using your research and insights to map out an effective action plan for change.
Example: Begin by thinking about the types of exercise you’ve most enjoyed in the past (not anything you forced yourself to do). Interested in yoga? Research the benefits of continued practice, and look up top-rated studios in your area that offer classes at a good time before or after work. Scour LivingSocial and Groupon for deals, and see if you can recruit a friend to hold you accountable. In order to make it to these classes, figure out a sensible plan for prepping your meals so that you’re properly fueled throughout the day and won’t end up skipping class because you’re famished. It’s also a good idea to ensure that your home space is clean and organized, and to prepare your exercise equipment the night before.
3. Ready, set, GO
The shortest of all the “Stages of Change”, moving to action means you’ve fully come to terms with what must be changed, and you are willing to adjust your behavior and follow the plan you’ve mapped out in stage two.
Be aware that you are at the greatest risk for relapse at this stage, so being successful means being willing to accept support, rewarding yourself for small achievements, and consistently reaffirming your commitment to change.
Example: You’ve picked a yoga studio, you’ve paid for two months, you’ve attended your first class with a friend, and you are documenting your progress along the way. You’ve also booked a pedicure appointment to reward yourself after the first month of classes!
4. Maintain (and reap the rewards!)
Motivation follows action. If you’re sticking to your plan, you will begin to experience the benefits (improved health, happiness, productivity). Consistency will allow you to actually see and feel the rewards of your plan—and it’ll be MUCH easier to stick with it!
Maintenance is achieved once you’ve successfully overcome your bad habit, and have adjusted your lifestyle to allow for a new pattern of behavior.
This stage requires consistency, planning, and awareness—and can take 3-6 months without detours. You’ve experienced the rewards of changing your bad habit and you’re adept at identifying and avoiding situations that would lead to inconsistencies and relapse (you know your triggers best!).
Example: At this point, you’re feeling better in your clothes and experiencing a heightened sense of clarity. You’ve realized that morning classes work best with your schedule, and you’ve been consistent for four months. You look forward to these sessions, and they’ve become a regular part of your personal routine!
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Not every change needs to be monumental, but it should be realistic. Want 2015 to be the best year yet? Focus on change that will create meaning and add happiness to your life!
Photo: Urban Safari Photography