We hear this a lot at Insights! And it is very frustrating when your intentions and commitment are solid (you really ARE going to exercise regularly in 2012) but then that “thing” happened at work and now you find yourself mid-January exactly where you were in late December . . . . back on the couch, holding a bag of chips. So, what to do? Why can’t you just be more disciplined?
The answer to this question is — well, there are many answers. “Stick-to-itiveness” (sure, it’s a real word!) is based on several factors including your DNA (yes, some people are genetically predisposed to self-discipline), ability to focus (ruling out any behavioral challenges such as ADD (click here for more information), your environment, and your ability to roll with schedule interruptions. While some of these factors are not so easily changed, they can still be improved upon.
To get started, we recommend taking these steps:
1. Incorporate joy.
Whether you are trying to lose weight, stop emotional eating or spending, or improve your tempestuous relationship with your brother, focus on the joy that will result from your efforts. You chose this resolution because you believe it will bring you happiness. Losing weight because you are (in your words) “fat” is not joyful; doing so because it will allow you to ride a bike with your daughter is.
Rewards are great, too–just be sure your reward doesn’t sabotage your efforts. A warm bath with your favorite candle scent is a joyful, positive reinforcement for avoiding excessive spending; going online to shop is not.
2. Have a plan (and a Plan B).
Studies have shown that both writing down our goals (or typing them) and sharing them with a friend increase our likelihood of achieving those goals by about 33%. That’s huge! There is a significant difference between wanting something (a dream) and planning for it (a goal), and whether you actually write that something down may be the deciding factor.
But then, life happens and your best-laid plans are tossed to the wind. Your boss needs you to stay late tonight and that means you won’t be going to the gym after all. It’s times like this that a Plan B is so important. If you can’t exercise tonight, then you will get up twenty minutes earlier tomorrow morning and do a workout video. Which brings us to our next tip…
3. Avoid all-or-nothing thinking.
It’s time to get friendly with the gray zone! Many people who abandon their goals do so because they feel they must be perfect in pursuing them. Well, life is not perfect and unless you are extremely disciplined (and let’s face it, if you are — you probably aren’t reading this article), there will be times when you slack off. The important thing to remember is that your goal is not about perfection, but consistency.
4. Find a support group.
New Year’s resolutions and goals in general are difficult enough with support, let alone without it. Find a friend or group experiencing a similar issue that will encourage you to reach your destination. Whether you are struggling with weight loss or addiction, it is highly beneficial to give and receive both practical and emotional support from a person or group of people who have been there. Click here for a list of support groups.
5. Know when to seek professional help.
If you have set a goal for yourself to, say, stop drinking, and find that no matter how emotionally committed you are to that goal, you are still struggling with it — it’s time to seek professional help. Addiction is a serious medical condition that needs professional attention. Click here for an alcohol/drug self-assessment. For more information on compulsive behavior, visit here.
Though your New Year’s Resolutions may have already met some bumps in the road, follow these simple tips and soon you will be right back on track!