Everyday is a New Year’s Resolution
On New Year’s Eve the clock strikes the last tones of midnight. The ball in Times Square flashes 2014. We will sip the last golden drops of champagne from our glass, bubbles tickling our noses. Our laughter, our smiles and our hearts bursting with the hope and promise of a new year. We’ll resolve in this moment of hopeful exuberance to improve our lives, to extend the happiness we feel in those first moments of 2014.
Many of us will make resolutions to lose weight, exercise more, stop smoking, go to church every Sunday, spend more time with our children, improve our relationships with others- a spouse or a boss, improve our lives in ways meaningful to us. We make these resolutions fully intending to keep them for the whole year. But by February we’ve slipped. We aren’t going to the gym every day. We get stressed, smoke one cigarette deciding we can’t quit. We miss Church too tired from Saturday night’s fun. Our kids get bored with family night, so we skip it. We get in a big fight with our boss or spouse deciding if they’re unwilling to change why make the effort? Then 2015 comes nearer and we make the same resolutions, with virtually the same results.
My personal belief toward why many of us fail to fulfill our New Year’s Resolutions is that we’re afraid. A New Year’s resolution is us committing to a change, making promises we can’t keep. Change is scary. Change is daunting. Change is… well life changing. We’re comfortable, we’re secure, and often we’re blissfully ignorant to why change is good. In those first moments of 2014 we’re hopeful that change will make us happier. But often the things we promise to change are habits that serve a need far deeper than we’re willing to examine. For example, we may want to quit smoking, because we know it’s bad for our health, and we’ve tried before but it never really stuck. For many people trying to change a bad habit fails because the habit fulfills a need they don’t recognize. If we know smoking is bad for us physically, what we often don’t recognize is how smoking is good for us emotionally. In the physical realm there is the nicotine, which provides a powerful stimulant. In the emotional realm the social aspect of smoking with other smokers, the stress release of having to leave your desk to go smoke, not to mention the ritual of lighting a cigarette is very soothing for some people. Unless you examine and find a replacement for those rewards, you’re not going to feel comfortable quitting. It’s the same with many other things we resolve to change in the New Year.
So how do we make New Year’s Resolutions that last? Here are five tips for lasting change:
- Be specific about change- It isn’t enough to say, I want to change *fill in blank*. Have a specific plan for how you will implement the change and face the setbacks along the way.
- Be consistent- Researchers say that doing something consistently for one week will form a habit. Once a habit is formed not doing it makes you feel uncomfortable.
- Be accepting of failure- We all “fall off the wagon”, the important thing to realize is failure is not permanent. 12 step programs will tell you, it’s one day at a time. If you fail today, you have the next day, hour, minute, or second to do better.
- Be supported- Change doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Rely on others to hold you accountable, support you or give you advice ONLY if they’ve been through something similar. Surround yourself with positive, successful people and you will be too.
- Be rewarded for changes- Don’t wait until you’ve reached your end to reward yourself, set milestones and give yourself a reward for reaching each one. The more often you celebrate the changes you’re making the more likely you’ll be to want to continue.
In the interest of practicing what I preach, I’m going to spend 2014 changing my life. As many of you are aware, I’m beginning the new year on a new path. I’m ending a 16 year marriage in the hopes of reconnecting with myself. I’m calling it “Defying Gravity”, and it’s become a personal blog about attracting what I deserve into my life. I’m starting with two books as inspiration, “E-2” (e-squared) by Pam Grout and “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown. Both books talk about being open and vulnerable in effecting real change. Once a month I’ll update you here, and I’d love to have you join me on the journey. Share your personal journey with me here or on my blog and I may include you in future articles.