It’s the end of January and I Already Failed My New Year’s Resolutions
So, you already failed on most of your goals projected for the New Year, and we haven’t even closed January yet. You have been cheating yourself with a few cigarettes and some bedtime ice cream. You feel repulsed by the honesty of your scale, you never made it to the gym this week, and you missed the enrollment deadline for the creative writing course you have been promising yourself for years—Yikes!.
You are probably beginning to experience a range of unpleasant feelings including disappointment, frustration, anger, and sadness. You might even feel envious as you compare yourself with others who you perceive to have a better handle on things than you do. You begin to focus on all of your negative aspects, and the qualities you lack, such as how unattractive or unintelligent you are.These thoughts and feelings begin to overwhelm you only to bring you back again to feeling unmotivated to make the changes you wish to make in your life.
At this time you might consider accepting the fact that “your plan didn’t work out." Now that you have finally accepted this somewhat brutal reality you can begin modifying the process of attaining your goals.
New Year’s resolutions sound great, but the reality is that they tend to be unrealistic in many aspects. When listing our resolutions, we tend to give ourselves a short timeline to change habits and behaviors that we have been practicing for a long time. You applied the same concept of “practice makes perfect” when it came to forming your old habits and behaviors-- you have practiced them until they became second nature to you. The same principle applies to changes we want to make. In other words, it's going to be a process. So, what should you do?
Begin With Real Expectations
If you expect different results, try doing things differently. If you do things they way you have always done them, then everything will be the way they always have been. If year after year, you consistently fail on your resolutions, you most likely have been consistently creating unrealistic expectations on unrealistic timelines.
Try giving yourself a time frame during which you will develop a new habit, rather than setting a strict start date on which you plan to be a totally changed person. For example, consider gradually implementing exercise to your weekly routine so that you allow for the new habit to naturally develop.
Going from zero exercise to hitting the gym five days a week at 6am, is a nice thought, but it is unrealistic. Scheduling one or two workouts a week, however, is much more likely to happen, and then you can build from there. If deep down you know that even that seems far fetched, then just start walking! For a person who does not do any exercise, 20 - 30 minutes of daily walking will go a long way. Do that consistently for a while and see what happens. Once you get in the rhythm of moving everyday, you can take it up a notch, and start to incorporate strength training or more fast paced cardio.
You did not get where you are today overnight, and so you cannot expect to get where you want to go overnight.
Account For All Variables in Your Current Lifestyle When Designing Your New Goals
Changes do not occur in isolation. Anything you bring in or out of the context of your life will impact other aspects of your life, and may involve both pleasant and unpleasant experiences and outcomes. When trying to change some aspect of your life, you need to be prepared to deal with whatever barriers your current lifestyle, has in place that will keep you from getting where you want to go.
One of the greatest barriers our lifestyles put in the way of change, is TIME. Begin by assessing your time situation to create realistic time slots for you to implement your goals in your weekly schedule. If your resolution is to workout everyday after work, but in reality, your schedule after work is already too full, then you are setting yourself up to fail from the beginning. If you are serious about your goals, it may mean that you need to sacrifice the extra hour of sleep in the morning to fit in your workout. Or you may need to have a discussion with your partner about alternating cooking duties each night so you have more time after work.
Set Realistic Goals and Break Them Up Into Smaller Goals
Take some time to write down your goals. Again, have realistic expectations of yourself, your schedule, and the nature of the goal when determining what you expect to achieve and by when. Now you need to break them all up into long-term, weekly, and daily goals.
Your weekly and daily goals should include the steps needed to achieve your long-term goals. For example, breaking down the process of enrolling in the creative writing course into manageable stages. The idea here is to gradually plug these steps in your daily/weekly planner, until you arrive on the first day of the creative writing class (your long-term goal).
If Your Goals Get Derailed
Now you are feeling proud of yourself in how well you are able to sustain your commitment to your goals until one day you have particularly trying day at work, and you skip your daily goals. Next thing you know, two weeks has passed and you haven’t returned to the gym. It is okay to become derailed sometimes. Have self-compassion. Are you tolerant and forgiving when other people mess up? Apply the same act of kindness to yourself. Say to yourself the same things you would tell your best friend who got derailed from their goals, “it’s OK!”. Slip ups happen! Give yourself the same chance. Now that you’ve done that go back to your list of goals and your planner and make the adjustments necessary to gradually put yourself back on course.
Don’t forget to periodically reevaluate if you are staying on the path of attaining your goals. This could prevent slipping off your path, and ensuring that your plan continues to serve you. For example, you might come across some extra free time in the near future, and that would be a great time to increase the number of times per week that you exercise, rather than letting that time slip under the radar.
Don’t forget to acknowledge your daily and weekly accomplishments related to your goals! Like you would praise others for their accomplishments, do the same to yourself. You, better then anyone, know how much hard work, focus and dedication has been needed to get this far!
-Nubia Santos MS, M.ED, LMHC, CST