New Year brings new hopes and goals for all of us. This symbolic celebration gives us an opportunity to start anew. We feel enthusiastic about our new resolutions, well, at least for the first couple of weeks. And what happens next?
They start getting forgotten and stored away in the dusty parts of our memory brain regions. Why is that?
Too often what makes us give up our new resolutions is the unreasonable goals that we might set up for ourselves in the first place, like exercising 2 hours a day, every day. The higher the expectations we set and the smaller the room we allow for changing our approach to achieving the goal, the greater the chance that we will forsake our new year’s resolutions before February rolls in.
The key element here is while you might start off with your plan A (doing as much exercise as possible a week), you always need to have back up plans. This creates a fail-proof success. Just like an acrobat who is training to walk on a tight robe sets up a number of safety nets to prevent a dramatic fall, you are setting up a safety net for your plan if the first strategy does not work out.
This approach works on a variety things in life, from starting a business to identifying a study strategy for exams.
Studies show that it takes a number of weeks to establish a new habit or to quit an old one. During those first few weeks you are taking time to experiment with a number of strategies to help achieve your goal. It takes time to personalize your plan to your lifestyle and to your fluctuating energy levels. And often we might need to involve our creative side to identify the strategy that might work best for us.
For example, Susan, a busy executive, mom of two girls 6 and 10, set out to change her diet to include healthy foods and less take away. Her initial strategy was to cook dinner every night but she soon realized that proved more challenging than she thought. She was too tired to cook after work and felt that it took attention away from her daughters. She decided that she will aim instead to have 4 nights of the week where she would have home cooked dinners: 2 weekend nights and 2 school nights. For the dinners during the weekend Susan found some fun and healthy recipes online and got her daughters involved in the preparation and cooking. She also prepared 2 weekday meals on Sunday night in advance. For the other 3 nights of the week she found 3 places/restaurants that offered healthy take out choices for her and her daughters. Susan felt comfortable with this plan as it was achievable and fun.
As we can see from this story, the key to Susan’s success is her detailed and concrete strategy. She has re-assessed her initial strategy and came up with a new plan that provided a clear structure and took into account her challenges and her lifestyle. She also took steps to gain competency in the healthy eating by researching what meals are healthy, identifying fun recipes for her family to do and finding nearby restaurants with healthy options for take away. Gaining competency, by researching what other people have tried can often help us personalize our plan right from the start, and feel more confident and supported in our first steps.
More tips and strategies for how to make your New Year resolutions successful, coming shortly in part II.
By Viktoria Ivanova