Each year, millions of people make New Year’s Resolutions, and yet 80% “fail” by the second week in February. This is not news to us; most people have vowed at the beginning of the year to make positive changes in their lives, only to revert back to their old ways.
Not maintaining these changes can instill guilt and shame in many. This is when that inner critic creeps in. It may tell them they are “lazy,” “inept,” “destined to be like that” or “lack motivation.” At least that is what people might think and what may keep them off track to succeed.
In my clinical opinion, after working with clients for over 20 years, I have found it is something else entirely.
For some reason, people are not talking about this single obstacle to making positive changes.
And yet, when you overcome this one factor, everything changes. Not only are you able to achieve your resolutions, but you can do so with much less stress, without that inner critic berating you.
Want to know that this determinant is?
I am going to tell you that in a bit (I promise), but first, let’s look at what resolutions people tend to make.
Research reported on the website Statista found the most common New Year’s Resolution in 2018 was to save money, reported by 53% of respondents. That was followed by 43% who were committing to “Lose weight or get in shape,” 25% who wanted “have more sex,” 24% who wanted to travel more and 23% hoped to “read more books.”
Other investigations find different priorities. For example, according to another study, here are the top ten resolutions for last year:
Lose Weight/Healthier Eating
Better Financial Decisions
Do More Exciting Things
Spend More Time with Family/Close Friends
Work Out More Often
Learn Something New On My Own
Do More Good Deeds For Others
Find The Love Of My Life
So what change or changes are you hoping to make this year? Are any of these in your list?
Well, regardless of your answer, here is the fascinating truth! There is one underlying factor that squashes New Year’s Resolutions, and you probably don’t even realize it is controlling you.
What is it? Perfectionism.
Now, perfectionism is so much more than having a neat junk drawer or liking everything on your desk to be perfectly situated (and not one degree off!). In the way I define perfectionism, it is an all-or-nothing mentality: something is perfect OR a failure; something is right OR everything else is wrong; you do something perfectly or forget even trying.
Now, some people don’t view themselves as perfectionists, so let’s see if you can relate to any of these perfectionistic tendencies when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions.
Do any of these sound familiar?
You resolve to go to the gym 5 days a week. You miss 1 day and think, “I have no time to exercise.” So you give up.
Despite proclaiming you are giving up sweets, you find yourself eating a cookie. Your reaction? “Well, I already messed up my diet, might as well eat the rest of the plate.”
You love your partner and really want to have a happy relationship. You have promised yourself (and your partner) that you will control your stress better so those little disagreements will not evolve into arguments. But then the craziness of life settles in, and you find yourself reverting back to your resentful ways. You conclude “we are destined to be unhappy.”
This is THE year you are finally going to get a hold of your finances. You know how important it is to build up your credit and start saving. You establish a budget and stick with it for a while, but then something comes up. Friends ask you to join them on a cool vacation, you fall in love… with a pair of shoes that you know will bring you everlasting joy, you decide you can’t actually give up your daily Venti coffee with three shots of expresso. So the budget gets deleted and you feel guilty (albeit energetic thanks to your coffee).
Can you relate to any of these?
Can you see the perfectionism in them? All-or-nothing. Perfect-or-failure. Perfect-or-forget it.
While rationally the concept of “I had one cookie and screwed up my diet, so I might as well eat the rest of the plate,” makes no sense, many of us can relate to it. In fact, when my book Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love was released, I was interviewed on The Today Show
The producers who were working on the segment took the quiz in the book. Despite four of them denying they were perfectionists, all five admitted to this perfectionistic cookie experience.
So what can you do?
Ditch the perfectionism and be Better Than Perfect.
Being Better Than Perfect means you drop the all-or-nothing, perfect-or-failure, perfect-or-forget-it mentality. You work towards your resolutions, and if you revert back to old ways, you don’t give up.
Here are five ways you can be Better Than Perfect to help you achieve your New Year’s Resolutions:
Take small steps
“I am going to exercise every day, give up sugar and not drink alcohol” may be a lofty goal for some (or many). So why not start with something more manageable? “I will exercise three times a week for at least 20 minutes,” for example. Then schedule those workouts in your calendar. You can add in no sugar and booze once you’ve folded in regular exercise.
It’s not failure; it’s data
Rather than beat yourself up for reverting back to your old ways, use this experience (or these experiences) as opportunities to learn. If you came home from work and shoved half of the pantry’s contents into your mouth, as yourself “why”? Was it because you had not eaten lunch and you were starving? If so, make sure you bring a healthy lunch to work. Was it because you were so stressed out? If so, take steps to address your stress in a more healthy and helpful way, such as going for a walk at the end of your day.
Messing up (or “failing”) does not make you a failure. Don’t tie your self-worth into the achievement of your goals. That 15 minutes of binge eating you did does not define you. You are an amazing individual who is worth fighting for. Accept your mistakes, believe in yourself and move forward.
Focus on your “why”
During a workshop I was giving, a member of the audience was talking about how hard it was for her to stay on her diet. “I just love cheese and hate to give it up.”
My recommendation? Focus on what you want (to have a healthier body, to have more energy, to feel better) instead of what you will miss. That will help motivate you to stay on track.
Have an accountability partner
“I will just start tomorrow” may be an excuse you can give yourself when you don’t want to honor your resolution, but would you be as willing to put it off if you had someone to whom you were reporting? Having an accountability partner, whether it be a friend, colleague, family member or coach, can be a great way to keep yourself on track.
Make 2019 your best year yet! Choose a change or changes you would like to make and use the Better Than Perfect strategies to make and maintain your resolutions.
Want some more tips on how to keep your New Year’s Resolutions? Check out this interview I did on The Today Show about this topic: