Has Anyone Seen My New Year’s Resolution?
February normally brings a lot of things: shorter days, colder weather, a longing for spring and forgotten resolutions. We make them with the best of intentions but changing behavior is hard. Most of us have tried – more than a few times – only to be left back in the same situation we were before the attempt. That’s normally what happens with our resolutions. We formulate an idea that we know would enhance our health, our situation or our lives, and we try to implement the change only to find that we lapse back into the same behavior.
Why is change so hard? We all have heard that no one likes change (odd that we like holidays, vacations and variety). It’s an odd predicament: we want to change, we know we should, but we so easily slip back to doing what we have done.
The problem is that most of us don’t approach behavior change like we would approach any other problem we face. We don’t adequately plan, don’t develop an execution plan and we don’t plan for failure. Planning for failure is part of every good plan because we can’t succeed 100% of the time.
We normally make huge plans to change without ever stopping to think that all habits began with very small steps. We also assume that by the end of tomorrow, we will have our new habit well-defined and implemented. Change takes time and should be approached with small steps. We all like the feeling of being successful, but if our resolution is too big, the odds of accomplishing the entire issue is slim. Smaller goals are easier to achieve and reinforce the feeling of positive progress that is essential to change. Certainly, no one likes failure – just the thought can make one cringe. Unfortunately, failure is part of life and real change can only be obtained by dealing with it. In most cases, failure makes us quit completely and actually reinforces a mindset that we can’t succeed. Intuitively, we all know we will not be successful at everything we try – especially on the first attempt (an excellent Major League baseball player fails to get a hit well over 60 percent of the time).
So how do we make positive changes in our behavior?
There are several steps that most experts agree must be present to achieve the change we set out to get:
- Decide on a realistic overall goal and an equally reasonable timeframe to accomplish that goal.
- Set smaller achievable goals that all lead to the overall goal.
- Surround yourself with a support group. Tell your friends what you are trying to accomplish and ask for their help. Health coaches do an excellent job at this!
- Plan for failure. You will fail and if you have a pre-determined plan to ‘get back in the saddle’ a small failure won’t end your effort.
- Reward yourself along the way. Celebrate your successes!
Change does take persistent effort and with these tools can be successfully implemented. It might be time to rekindle those almost forgotten resolutions and give them another shot!
Denny Porr, Ph.D.
Vice President of Health and Wellness