As the year comes to an end, it signals the beginning of a new one. Many people look at this as a metaphor for change. What would you like to change in the coming year? Are you going to make “resolutions” like everyone else? Have you made resolutions in the past, only to find that you didn’t or couldn’t achieve them? Been there, done that. It doesn’t work. This year, I resolve not to make any resolutions.
We all start out the year with the best intentions. Lose weight. Manage stress better. Exercise more. Save money. Improve our relationships. Sound familiar?
So why, by February 1st, have we slipped back into our old habits?
When you make a resolution, it’s usually a very large, over-reaching goal. Lose 30 pounds. How can you be expected to lose 30 pounds as quickly as you want to, especially when it didn’t get put on overnight? Big goals with no game plan equals big failure. And when we fail, we beat ourselves up over it. After many years of setting up unattainable resolutions, and failing to achieve them, we’ve labeled ourselves as failures and thus have little hope for actually succeeding when we set out to try again. We expect to fail.
Another reason we are doomed to failure is that we are very impatient. We want results and we want it NOW! That’s normal for a society of instant gratification. So, waiting for results is very difficult.
The solution? Take it slowly, be patient, and break those lofty goals into smaller, more achievable goals. Try our “Goal A Day” challenge.
You want to make changes that will last. This year will be different. You will succeed. Here are the tools you need:
- Give yourself specific directions. Vague resolutions like “Lose weight” are doomed for failure. How are you going to do it? How many pounds? Over what time period? Do not give yourself too many options. Set very focused goals, like “I will eat breakfast everyday,” “Walk 20 minutes at lunchtime everyday,” or “Only one glass of wine at dinner.”
- Give yourself inspiration. If your goal is to increase your strength, then find a picture of yourself when you were in better shape and tape it to the refrigerator as motivation. Make the inspiration reasonable – don’t put a picture of an elite athlete as your screen saver or you will set yourself up for frustration.
- Get yourself and keep yourself motivated. Take a look at the larger goal (Losing weight). Now break it down into little, attainable goals (bring lunch to work everyday, drink 8 oz. water first thing in the morning, have produce at every mini meal)
- Make your environments supportive of your goals. Your home and work/school are the two environments that you spend the most time in, so make sure they support the healthy changes you are trying to make. Get rid of your trigger foods and stock the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry full of fruit, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, beans, and lean protein. If you know you always crave sweets at 3 p.m., then have a healthy snack of some sweet berries and a protein, like Greek yogurt, to satisfy your craving and keep your hunger in check. Other environments, like social, travel, and commuting are also situations in which you can make changes to keep you successful. If you know you’re going out for dinner, look at the restaurant menu on-line before you go out and decide what you’ll be ordering. Also, having a light and healthy snack before you go out to eat or to a party will help you from making a poor food decision or overeating.
Remember, change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that takes time. You may occasionally fail or have a set-back. That’s ok and you should even expect that to happen. It’s how you deal with that set-back. Accept it, own it, figure out why it happened, and what you can do to prevent it from happening again in the future. By taking the time to assess your progress – what’s working and what’s not – you will be able to make the necessary changes to allow you to be successful in achieving your health and wellness goals.