January 1st, if not National Hangover Day, is also the day most people decide to make a New Year resolution, typically related to changing a negative behavior, and more than likely related to improving one’s’ health. For most of us, this year long resolution ends up lasting about a month long…if you’re lucky!
So why doesn’t it stick? Why do most of us fail?
Research shows it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to change a habit. The length of time varies for each individual. So much for that 21-day myth!
How do you know where you fall in that range of 18 to 254 days? Think back to your previous attempts at kicking a habit. Maybe you tried to change a poor sleeping routine, quit smoking, eat out less often, sit less, or anything in between. What happened?
Here are a few classic habit-change scenarios:
The “Black and White” Thinker-
- They dream up the new goal or resolution months ahead of time and plan every detail to make sure the experience is perfect. They tell everyone they know and maybe even announce the change on social media. Things go well for a brief period of time and then BAM– something happens, typically an unexpected stressor. They fall off track, feel completely embarrassed and ashamed, and then rapidly go back to their old ways.
The Half-Ass Attempter-
- They make the new goal or resolution maybe a few days ahead of time, but fail to put too much thought into it. They don’t develop a worthwhile plan and instead use the “wing-it” method. Much like the plan itself, they don’t typically put much effort into making the change and therefore don’t really care about its success. Typically the attempt falls short even after a few days. The theory is, “If I don’t really try then I don’t really fail.”
- They can typically stick with the new goal or resolution, but the actual goal or resolution is the problem…it failed to make any significant difference in the person’s’ life. It may be something like, “I won’t drink Kool-Aid with my dinner” (…but they can drink soda!) or, “I will go to the gym 3-days per week” (…but sit in the sauna and socialize by the water fountain). You get the point. The goal is set and technically accomplished, but the bar is not high enough or specific enough to make any real impact on anything!
There may be a few other scenarios, and feel free to describe your own experience in case I missed you, but the point is, most of us cannot seriously make a worthwhile resolution with a solid plan of action and stick with it for an entire year. So the purpose of my article today is to tell you how you can pick up your boot straps and continue moving forward despite any setbacks.
Please take a moment to thoughtfully answer the following questions:
Are you satisfied with your current state of being?
If not, what area of your life (i.e. health, wealth, relationships, professional, appearance, etc.) would you like to change?
Within that area of your life, what specifically would you like to see improved?
What steps do you need to take in order to see improvement in this area of your life?
Take ONE of these steps as your new resolution…or basically a short term goal to create positive action, moving you closer to where and who you want to be. After one of these steps is successfully accomplished, move on to the next step, and then the next step, and eventually you will see desired change in your life.
Sounds too simple, right?
The major downfall is not creating the plan, but rather sticking to it.
For improved consistency with incorporating a change try the following:
Make sure the change is realistic.
- Do not make a goal to run a sub-4-hour marathon if you can barely walk a mile. Instead, a more realistic change would be improving the speed of your mile from 17-minutes to 15-minutes, or walking 2 miles instead of 1 mile.
Formally write down the change.
- I like to use a private journal, but you can write it on a sticky note and post it on your dresser, create a document on your computer, or make a note in your phone. Try using the website: www.stickk.com to make your goals more concrete.
Tell other people about the change.
- You can mention it in passing to friends and family, post it as a Facebook status, or even blog about it.
Implement rewards for sticking with the change.
- Reward motivates better than punishment. A reward can be buying a new pair of shoes, going out to your favorite restaurant, or even an at-home spa day with some friends. With something special to look forward to, you are more likely to feel excited about the new goal.
Break the change down into baby steps.
- Accomplishing something is better than nothing, and it helps to build self-efficacy. If the big-picture goal is to find a new job, then the baby steps to get there could include editing your resume, talking to others in the field, buy a new interview suit, take an online course in that topic, etc. These baby steps seem much more practical to achieve and will lead you closer to the ultimate goal.
Hold yourself accountable to the change by checking in regularly.
- Keep a log to track your sleep each night if you are working on improving sleep patterns. Use the myfitnesspal application if you want to stick to a low calorie diet. Accountability can also come from others so consider hiring a coach or asking a friend to be your “accountabilibuddy” if needed.
No matter the date of the year, you can always move forward and decide to be the best version of you. I encourage you to set goals that improve your life and your health. If you need more assistance with this process make an appointment with me, your new health coach. We will work together, overcoming barriers and challenges, to reach the new and improved you!