Resolutions for 2011 - Know What You're Up Against
It’s that time of the year when we reflect on the past 12 months and make resolutions for the next 365 days. We feel inspired to exercise, to slim down. We make proclamations to be more loving to family and to show more kindness to strangers. We vow to be better listeners. The reality is that few of us will sustain the motivation to work on our goals. According to surveys, 80-92% of New Year’s resolutions fail. Why is it that people can't keep to their resolve?
Consider how resolutions are made. Generally people don’t think about making resolutions until the last minute. They tend to react on New Year’s Eve, frequently after some cocktails. A lot of wishin’ and hopin’ but rarely much serious planning. Many people trying to lose weight, for example, think it’s enough to stick a picture of a model on the fridge or fantasize about being slimmer. If you are going to make any appreciable progress on your goals in 2011, it’s important to know what the obstacles will be.
Changing behavior is hard work. In fact, it can be a painstaking, labor-intensive undertaking. Human nature is to resist change. We are wired to seek homeostasis, our system’s need to regulate its internal environment and to maintain a stable, constant condition. Change for the better or change for the worse - no difference. What you’re up against is the “keep-things-the-way-they-are” syndrome, even if they’re not very good. Remember that it’s normal to feel uncomfortable in the midst of change, but do it anyway.
Change takes time. Remember, you didn’t develop habits overnight. Many of the most successful techniques involve making a plan and helping yourself stick to it. Other helpful strategies include making only one resolution at a time and viewing occasional lapses as just temporary setbacks. What you’re up against is our “immediate-gratification” world. We expect things to happen fast. Remember that overnight success generally takes about 10 years!
The motivation to change has to come from within. One of the most important things to know before making a change is your readiness. Identify why the change is important to you and the positive impact it will have on you in the long run. By identifying the “what’s-in-it-for-me” benefits, you’re more likely to find real value in the process of change. What you’re up against is that no amount of bribing or being reasoned with by others will be enough to successfully steer you towards an improved business or personal life. The buck stops with you, so stop doing it for someone else. If it’s not really important to you, you won’t do it.
Preparation is key. Resolutions are easy to make, easy to break. If you want to stick with them, you have to develop a plan, preferably by breaking down your goal into small, manageable steps. Focus on the outcome and the specific actions that you will take to get your there. Determine how and when you will measure your progress. What you’re up against is making goal setting a priority and setting aside the time to do the planning.
Persistence pays off. A long-term study by the University of Washington found that only 40% of people who stick to their #1 resolution did it on the first try. The rest had to try multiple times; 17% finally reached their goal after more than six attempts. What you’re up against is the tendency to believe you don’t have willpower, when in reality it takes discipline and resiliency.
Your thinking is key. The power of thoughts cannot be underestimated. Consider a study done with Olympic skiers who were trained to visualize themselves in a downhill race. Monitored with biofeedback, they emitted electrical impulses in the same muscles while sitting in a recliner chair as they would if they were speeding through the gates of a real competition. Your mind has incredible power. Tap into it by seeing yourself accomplishing your goal and feeling the pride of achievement. What you’re up against is self-limiting emotions and thoughts.
Get support. Yes, you are the only one who can make the change - but support from others is important. Self-sufficiency is a great quality but when it comes to making behavioral change you need encouragement. Have an accountability partner, a coach, someone who will help you face the challenges with courage and confidence. What you’re up against is a tendency to go it alone. Don’t.
Celebrate success along the way. Congratulate yourself for small achievements. You are making changes that will culminate into a different way of being. But change is hard work and takes time, so be realistic. Progress comes in small increments moving from minor modifications to noticeable differences. What you’re up against is discounting small but significant successes then losing motivation to keep at it. Take notice and pat yourself on the back.
My wish is that you establish one or two (no more) meaningful goals and practice them with intentionality and diligence. May you have patience with yourself and pride in your efforts. And may all your days be merry and bright, at the holidays and throughout 2011.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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