Just eighteen days ago many of us made New Year’s resolutions for 2020, and some of us even made long-term resolutions for the decade ahead of us. Unfortunately, various statistics reflect that less than 25% of people stay committed to their resolutions past the end of January, and only about 8% of people end up actually accomplishing their resolutions. To help you accomplish your visions for the year and decade ahead, here are some reasons why people fall short of their resolutions and what you can do to be an 8-percenter. Furthermore, these are strategies you can actually use for any goal or objective you set in your future, not just resolutions – because it doesn’t have to be the first of the year, the first of the month, or a Monday to start a new goal, you can start and re-start at anytime!
Some of the most common resolutions are to lose weight and get fit, quit smoking cigarettes, quit drinking alcohol or moderate drinking alcohol, eat healthier, save money, make more money, spend more time with family, travel more and be less stressed. With all of these changes and any others that might be on your plate, one important thing to keep in mind is that we cannot think our way into making a change, we can only act our way into making a change. As Pablo Picasso once said, “Action is the fundamental key to all success.” If you are not taking action on your goals, don’t expect changes to take place.
In addition to taking action, it is also important to plan, so start planning and follow through with action. For example, as mentioned, a common goal is to stop drinking alcohol or reduce the amount of alcohol you were drinking. In fact, it is so common that the movement of “Dry January” has grown for people to go dry the first month of the year. Many of these people find that not drinking alcohol is much more difficult than they may have imagined it to be. All social events, family functions, and business get-togethers usually revolve around alcohol (and food). It is also very common to unwind from a long day and stressful work week by having a couple drinks of alcohol.
As such, it is imperative to plan if you want to succeed. For example, a plan to not drink alcohol at a social function might involve going to a place where there would be something else to do aside from drinking alcohol, such as choosing a restaurant or café over a bar or club. Or it might involve having a planned excuse as to why you aren’t drinking, and also having a non-alcoholic beverage so that you aren’t being pestered as to why you aren’t drinking alcohol and constantly being offered an alcoholic beverage. Taking action might involve removing yourself from triggering environments and situations, and also might involve getting alcohol out of your home. Regardless of what the goal is, those who plan are much more likely to succeed.
It is also important to not expect a new year to be a catalyst for sweeping life change. Rather than focusing on drastic changes that need to take place, focus on small practical lifestyle changes that you can make on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis. These small changes will incrementally add up over time and lead to something that is not only attainable, but more importantly is also sustainable. Many of us overwhelm ourselves with unrealistic goals, and subsequently give up after a week or two of realizing we fall short of attaining them, and that they might be impossible for us. For example, if getting in better physical shape and being physically active is your goal, don’t expect to go from not working out to working out 5 days per week. While working out 5 days per week is a practical and admirable goal long-term, start with a smaller goal such as 1 day per week, and maybe only 10 minutes at a time to start. Many like to use the acronym SMART for setting goals. SMART goals are ones that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. Ultimately you will have to determine what works for you, but the idea here is to be practical, not overwhelm yourself, and work your way to success.
Furthermore, in addition to making small changes, it is also important to remember that change takes time. If you are overweight it is probably because you developed a habit of overeating or eating poorly, a habit which developed over time. Or if you drink too much alcohol or are addicted to smoking cigarettes, these are habits that took time to develop. Conversely, stopping unwanted behaviors and developing healthy habits will also take time. Progress is often not linear, don’t allow setbacks to cause you to quit on your goals. Recognize that change takes time, and that you are in this for a lifetime of change.
When such setbacks happen, don’t beat yourself up. Most successful people had many failures when they started before they became successful. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team and was told he wasn’t a good basketball player. He went on to play 15 seasons for the NBA as arguably the best and most influential player in history. J.K. Rowling was rejected by 12 major publishers before she found a small publisher a year later to publish her book, “Harry Potter.” Steve Jobs was left devastated at the age of 30 after being removed from the company he started, only to go on to be brought back in by that company to be a visionary and revolutionist and bring Apple to the success that it is today. These are just a few powerful examples of the importance of not giving up, and not beating yourself up when you have failures or setbacks.
Additionally, people often stop working on their goals because they are not seeing progress. This is why it is very important to track your progress in various ways, and to check-in and make adjustments when needed. Let’s take weight loss as an example. Maybe you feel you are eating clean and working out consistently but are not reaching your goal of weight loss. The number on the scale is not going down, and maybe it is even going up. Well, don’t rely solely on the number on a scale. Have other ways of tracking progress such as body measurements, body fat percentage, how much weight you are lifting in the gym, how your clothes fit, and how you look and feel mentally and physically. Yes, it is true that what you are doing may not be working and that you may indeed need to make adjustments to your eating plan and fitness routine, but the point here is to try to have various ways of tracking progress and to look at the big picture. When you recognize progress, don’t forget to reward yourself in a healthy way and take a moment to take pride in your achievement, no matter how small.
It is also important to learn to ask for help when it is needed. Getting support is not a sign of weakness, but rather shows that you have the humility to accept that you may not have all the answers (none of us do). Help may come from loved ones or may come from professional sources such as dietitians, nutritionists, fitness trainers, financial advisers, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, life coaches, etc. There are a plethora of professionals out there ready to serve and support you in times of need.
Lastly, as mental health professionals, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of taking care of your mental health. Your mental health must take priority over everything, for if you are not your best self you will not be able to be the best version of you for your loved ones, nor will you be able to devote the time or energy to your desired goals. If you struggle with any mental health issues such as sadness, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, low self-esteem, low self-worth or other mental health issue, seek out professional help in your area today and begin your journey towards healing. Cheers to a successful 2020, a successful decade, and a thriving life!
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