Tis the Season—for New Year’s Resolutions. These are our new or renewed goals and commitments to eating less, exercising more, spending less time in front of our devices and more time with our families, cleaning out our closets and setting up a system so they stay uncluttered. So many goals—so much frustration.
As a health coach, I have seen this time and time again. Smokers set their quit date on Jan. 1. People join a gym and proclaim they will get there at least 3 times a week—starting Jan. 1.
But 92% of us will go back to old habits by February. We start…and stop. Then start again…and throw up our hands—until the next year.
And why is that? A new year, a new way, right? Well…no.
Here are reasons why most of us fail.
· First of all, sustained change is hard!
· We truly believe we will be different come January 1.
· We see change as an effort that has a beginning, middle and an end.
· We set unrealistic goals for ourselves.
· We see slips as failures and we beat ourselves up for them.
· We don’t adequately plan for the changes we want to make.
So, let’s take these expectations, habits, beliefs and look at them: one-by-one.
Change is hard. Yes. It is. And many of us have not really examined WHY we want to make this change. Most of us have a thought that we SHOULD make it. And without a why, we are unlikely to be successful.
So, examine what could happen if you do not make this change in a year or 5 years. AND think about your life as specifically as you can if you WERE to make this change. What would you be able to do that you have a hard time or can’t do now? How would this affect your loved ones and your relationship with them? Specifically, how would you feel? What would your life look like?
The time you take to getting very specific and tangible about your motivators will make a big difference when you are struggling and want to quit.
Things will be different in the New Year. No, you will likely be the same you. And the reasons why it has been hard for you to make the changes you would like will still be there. So, start with that premise and work from a place of reality. You will be the same you and your life will likely look pretty much the same between Dec. 31 and January 1. When you face this head on, you will be able to handle what is and plan for a different outcome.
Change has a beginning, middle and an end. When you can wrap your head around the fact that change is an ONGOING PROCESS rather than a discrete effort, you can stop believing that if you “fail” to be successful in this effort of change, you have epically failed. You can then reframe your struggles as part of the change process. Struggles are then seen as learning opportunities rather than failures. And you will truly realize that change is very rarely linear.
Unrealistic goals. So many of us want to be able to say, “we are done. We are where we want to be”. As a result, we set up goals that are out of the gate way too big. We have the expectation that we SHOULD be able to exercise 4-5 times a week at the beginning. And, so, we make it as difficult as possible to create change that is sustainable. Because something will always happen in our lives that throws us off track.
The key to successful change is to START SMALL and make it EASY. Because if it is too hard, it will be that much harder to succeed.
For an example, I have worked with clients on bringing their lunch to work rather than stopping at a restaurant or for fast food. We might start out with the goal for bringing lunch to work at once or twice a week. We take a look at the steps that must be made in order to be successful—making a grocery list, going grocery shopping, prepping food that is satisfying but easily prepared.
Seeing slips as failures. When we do not follow through on our goals to our expectation, how many of us make these failures about our own short-comings? How many of us believe that we are “weak” or “failures”?
We beat ourselves up for our struggles when we need to be seeing these slips as NORMAL. Because they are part of the process of change. Research has shown that those of us who can accept that slips are part of the change process, and an opportunity for learning, are more likely to persevere when things get tough.
No plan=no success. How many of us would love to magically just be able to make a change? To go back to that example of the hypothetical client who wants to bring lunches to work, how successful would this person be if he or she did not think about what food to buy, so did not make a list, did not schedule in a time to go grocery shopping and left prepping and bagging lunch to the last minute, because there was no planned time to make the food?
Change is ongoing. If it feels good to imagine yourself starting fresh come January 1, great! Just know that you can still understand that you are in the process of change and will always be AND have the start of a New Year be a kick in the pants to get going. The journey towards better health is filled with ruts, obstacles, disappointments, but incredible rewards! TO YOUR HEALTH!
Author Bio: Sharon Burris-Brown is a stress and mindfulness coach who specializes in helping busy professionals and business leaders release stress and become more mindful and productive leaders. To find out more you can visit her Peace and Ease Coaching site and join her Free Facebook Group for support and information. You can schedule a call with Sharon right here.
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Yours in health,