How many people out there make New Year’s Resolutions, only to slip up and resume their old habits within days, weeks, or sometimes much sooner? Has that happened to you? If so, how solid was your plan to help you succeed?
Yes, you really do need a plan in order to break old habits and successfully form new ones. Without getting organized, your chances of failure are just about 100%! That means that the likelihood that you will succeed are about as slim as the likelihood of your seeing a rare African swallow carrying a coconut.
In my practice, I see people who come in with the idea that January 1st will be the perfect time to stop smoking, lose weight, end a bad relationship, change jobs, move to a new town or make any other major life change.… The aspirations are endless. Don’t get me wrong. I do believe that January 1st is as good a time as any to initiate positive life changes and those changes listed above are admiral goals for many people. I think the foolish aspect lies in the typical approach to reaching for and achieving the desired success.
First, most people tend to expect too much when they form a resolution. Let’s face it: If you’ve been smoking a carton of non-filter Camel cigarettes for 30 years, it’s hardly likely that on January 1 you will magically go (and stay) cold turkey…. Or, if you’ve been carrying an adult goat around your waistline for 10 years, it is highly unlikely that you will become vegetarian by the next day or hit the gym 5 days a week and join a cycling club and stick to it. Let’s face it, most people start off with the greatest intentions, then soon realize that their lofty goals were quickly abandoned at the temptation of an All You Can Eat Buffet and/or the urge for “just one” quick smoke.
Over the years, I have identified three main reasons that people do not accomplish their New Year’s Resolutions.
First, people tend to bite off more than they can chew (Please excuse the pun). If you are going to succeed in losing weight or conquering your smoking habit, build your chances for success by starting with a step-by-step plan.
Start in small increments. Chart your progress. If you smoke a pack a day, for example, start by smoking one cigarette less per day. Set up a chart where you can note what time of day you are most tempted, with whom you are more likely to smoke, and what factors might trigger your desire for a cigarette and how you feel when the craving strikes. Learn about yourself and your reactions so you can plan how to change those habits. Talk to your counselor or to someone you can trust to hold you accountable as well.
Sometimes we all need to regroup. That’s why you will do better if you have someone to keep you accountable, to encourage and support you. That person needs to be someone who cares about you and understands that changing personal habits takes time. You will see more forward steps than backward steps as time passes. Baby steps do develop into giant steps.
Perhaps you are someone who wants to lose weight. Ignore those fad diets that come and go. If this is your area of need, don’t fall for the latest craze by going on a fad diet. Simply, chart what you are eating on a daily basis and make modest changes each meal, then before you know it, you will be making healthier choices.
Second, do not do it alone. Birds of a feather do flock together. Everyone has a friend, maybe two, who struggle with the same issues. Get such a friend involved, share your goals with this someone you trust and who shares your conviction to change. Support and hold one another accountable. Research suggests people who work collaboratively are more likely to succeed.
Lastly, be realistic regarding how long it will take for new habits to develop; realize that things are not going to change overnight. On average, it takes a person approximately 66 days to make significant lifestyle changes. The more realistic you can be regarding how long it will take for small changes to become lifelong habits, the more psychological endurance you will develop to accomplish your goals. Don’t be like the fool who rushes in because he wants to experience immediate success with a New Year’s Resolution.
Anyone who is planning to make a New Year’s Resolution, remember three things:
1) Start Slow and take realistic steps
2) Find a friend to help and
3) Plan for a marathon (not a sprint) for making lifestyle changes.
Be wise concerning your New Year’s Resolution and you will succeed beyond your wildest dreams. It’s a commitment that will pay lifelong dividends!
I wish you well, my friends.