Welcome to Week 2 of the New Year!
How are those New Year’s resolutions coming along?
According to research by Strava, a social network for athletes, January 12 has earned the title of “Quitter’s Day.” After analyzing 31.5 million data entries from people around the world, the network found this January date is when most people report they have failed in their resolutions.
Why is it so tough to stick with your resolutions? Here are three of the top reasons:
Your goals are too lofty
“I will lose 75 pounds.”
“I will go to the gym every day.”
“I will not eat any sugar.”
“I will read a book every week.”
“I will stop smoking forever.”
“I will stop buying clothes.”
Resolutions tend to be HUGE. Rather than saying, “I will go to the gym once per week, since I have never consistently gone,” people often make proclamations that they will exercise every day. Instead of, “I will eat at least one vegetable during dinner at least three times per week (when no vegetables, aside from fried potatoes, have been consumed for years), the resolution is, “I will only eat healthy foods — no fried, processed or sugary items.”
Such goals are a colossal jump from the norm, which makes them especially hard to consistently follow.
Perfectionism interferes with progress
We are a perfectionistic, all-or-nothing society. Something is perfect, OR it’s a failure. You do something perfectly OR forget it. Either we stick to our resolutions “perfectly,” or else we have failed. And if we have failed, why bother to keep trying?
This perfectionistic thinking can present as any of the following:
“I had one cookie and messed up my diet; I might as well have the entire plate.”
“I missed my workout today; I have no time to work out. I am destined to have this body.”
“I vowed off alcohol, but then had a tough day and went to happy hour with a friend. I am back to my previous drinking regimen.”
Any of those sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so.
This kind of perfectionism interferes with your progress.
Fear of failing stops even trying
Early in my career as a psychologist, I worked with a client who had suffered from anxiety for years. When I told her about the proven benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), she said, “Yeah, but what if it doesn’t work for me?” When I asked her what she had to lose (I meant that the “side effects” of CBT are rather positive, such as better sleep, less stress and improved relationships), she shared, “If it doesn’t work, then I feel like a failure. And that is worse than just being anxious.”
The fear of failure can prevent even trying: in resolutions and in life.
So, is all hope lost for making positive changes? Certainly not. Try these three tips to help keep you on the right road:
Realize that “relapse” is simply part of the process
In their seminal work, Drs. Prochaska & DiClemente developed a model they called, “Stages of Change,” which refers to the steps someone goes through to make a shift. These include six stages — from “pre-contemplative” (“I am not even thinking about changing”) — to
“Maintenance” (“I made the change, and it is part of my everyday life now”). “Relapse” is part of that model.
Going back to old ways is very common, and it does not mean you are destined to not change. Instead, use the experience to help you move forward.
I have a saying: It’s not failure; it’s data.
When you relapse, instead of thinking, “I am a failure,” ask yourself why this happened.
If you eat something you later regret, was it because you had starved yourself all day? Or, was it because you were overwhelmed with stress and trying to soothe yourself? Whatever the reason, once you identify it, find ways to make healthier choices next time, such as bringing snacks to work or going for a walk when you are stressed out.
Focus on your “why”
Why do you want to make this change? Sure, you might not completely enjoy the process, but what is your reasoning for the resolution? Write out as many reasons as you can. And don’t consider just the obvious ones.
In my book Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love, I ask readers to go through an exercise that looks at why they want to make a change, exploring these seven aspects of their lives:
So, for example, a healthier diet would certainly benefit you physically, but it also can have a positive impact on your psychological wellness (with a healthier body, you feel happier); relationships (you are serving as a positive role model for your children); work (you will have more energy to focus); and financial well-being (you save money because you are not eating out as much)…
Look at all seven of these areas to help cultivate your “why.” Then review it daily.
Get support as you make this change. It will help! Research shows when you have a workout buddy, for example, you are 22 percent more active.
Having an accountability partner, whether it’s a friend, neighbor, family member or coach, can help you stay on track.
When I work with coaching clients, we really explore what worked in the past and what did not so that we can develop an individualized plan to make and sustain desired changes.
Drop the formal resolutions and start making positive progress toward your goals. You are worth it!