Ever had a hard time making your New Year’s resolution stick? If so, you’re not alone. Around this time of year, it’s not uncommon to hear others talking about making a fresh start on health/wellness, career, mindfulness, etc. Yet more often than not, it seems these lofty goals have fizzled by mid-February.
So, what goes wrong?
Is a resolution a waste of time that inevitably ends up failing? No, not really. Taking a moment to create a fresh start for oneself is never a waste of time. In my experience, failure often stems from the frequently overly ambitious goals we set for ourselves. Luckily, there is a fairly easy fix!
Consider someone making a fitness resolution. For an individual not working out weekly, a new commitment of just 3 days a week is actually a major change to one’s routine and lifestyle. But for most of us, 3 days per week doesn’t seem “enough” in that moment of sheer determination to completely reinvent oneself.
Instead, many of us tend to gravitate more to the extreme. We may decide that 5-6 days per week is both necessary and reasonable. In reality, such a drastic change to one’s routine typically turns out to be difficult to maintain. This is especially true when we factor in full-time careers, school, children, family obligations, etc. So, when our goals are unreasonable, we’ve created something that is not sustainable.
The magic of “habits”
The simple reality is that no major changes ever take hold in one’s life unless allowed to become a habit. There are differing opinions out there as to how long that really takes. However, many sources seem to agree that it’s more than 1 month. Many claim that it could be as long as 2-3 months.
So, if you go all-out 5 days per week, you may max out the honeymoon stage of your life change before a habit officially forms. It’s not impossible to create the habit after the honeymoon is over, but it certainly does take a lot more discipline. What often ends up happening is that frustration and stress set in and we end up abandoning our resolution altogether—until the following New Year, at least.
Let’s try another approach
A more reasonable approach could be to ease into a new life change more gradually. In the case of the gym, let’s try 3-4 days per week and see how it works. Have fun; enjoy the honeymoon stage. Let your new lifestyle become habit before you lose your steam. Once it’s habit, everything comes easier. And if 3-4 days per week is a cinch, you can always add more days!
In any event, that’s just one example. The same concept really applies to any big change. Ambition and zeal are good things; they get the fire started. But if the fire burns too hard and too fast, it burns up all the fuel within a short period of time. So, whether you’re looking to get back into shape, find a brilliant new career, or simply become a more positive person in the New Year, just focus on baby steps. They’ll get you to your goal.
Endless Do-Over Opportunities!
And if you have a set-back, you can always regroup and try again. There’s no rule that obligates you to get it right the first time. And there’s no rule saying you have to wait for a new year to have a fresh start. Every day is a new day and a chance to make positive change in your life.
Written by Adam Lafield