Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net/Whether it's the start of 2015, or any day, resolutions are best kept with just a few things to commit to - one of them is understanding you're human
At some point or another, many of us make ‘resolutions’. These are goals we individualise and most importantly, we decide we will be committed to make these happen, change these habits, and make change.
It is not difficult per say to change a habit, but it requires 1. Time 2. Patience 3. Consistency 4. Realistic goals 5. Strategies to get back on track when we deviate from our resolutions 6. Self-reward.
1 Time: It takes 3 months to change a habit, according to scientific studies. That may be the ‘difficult’ bit, accepting it’s not just going to be a few days of ‘doing the right thing’. However, the great news is that this time pays off. After this dedication, the mind goes on autopilot and your committed action will be taking place as a matter of course. For example, if you goal is to exercise regularly, you won’t have to check it off on a to-do list. You’ll just find yourself putting on your sandshoes and be out that door!
2 In the first week it may all seem great and easy. However, as the 3 months wear on, you may wonder if it’s worth it, and may find yourself making excuses not to stick to your resolution. It is worth it! Otherwise you wouldn’t have chosen it as a goal (however, having said that read under “realistic goals” for further thoughts about whether a goal is wise).
3. We can’t just do our goal for a week, and then have a week off. HOWEVER, studies show one or two days or even three of slipping from our goal will not mean we have to start from day one again. Also you don’t have to be ‘perfect’ with your goal – see under ‘realistic goals’.
4. An important thing to remember is not to have too many resolutions that you are trying to concrete in the first place. Perhaps five new habits, if these are small, or three if they are large. Think about your other commitments that are always going to be present, that aren’t individual goals as such, but duties you must perform, such as taking the kids to school, or work commitments. This is absolutely vital because it if you find yourself setting yourself unrealistic targets you will simply give up because you will feel stressed. It is better to make fewer habits and consolidate them, then aim for almost total change all at once in other areas of your life, and find yourself struggling to maintain the desired devotion to all of them.
5. There are going to be times when we slip in the actions that constitute our commitment change. For example, we may be feeling upset because of a fight with a friend, illness, or other people enter our lives and without knowing it, we don’t keep our commitments because it is not compatible to our relationship with them. We may just be down one day, and think it’s not worth it. We may not feel we can be bothered. That’s another reason to change habits slowly and make them realistic – so they aren’t hard to do. I’ll give a specific example. If you want to exercise regularly, and have worked your way up to 30 minutes brisk walking and you have one of those times that compromises your feeling that you desire to commit to your resolution, just do ten minutes. Be gentle with yourself. Know that slips are going to happen – rarely do resolutions run a perfect path. Expecting that they will is dangerous and almost predicts failure in long-term commitments. You will stray from the path at some point – however, you must not see this as failure and give up. This is so important. Some people are “all-or-nothing” thinkers. They might have ‘healthy eating’ as a resolution, but miss the bigger picture of what that is. They may even consume a whole tub of icecream. No you won’t have to go back to day one, but do get on track the next day, **do make sure most of your diet is healthy, and perhaps even allow one treat day per week. Importantly examine the trigger for your behaviour, and personally I have been keeping a journal of commitments for 2 months now, and I find this helpful to know what situations may lead me to stumble. Therefore I can think of strategies to avoid myself finding myself in these situations again.
6. This might sound childish, like it would only work for kids, and downright silly. However, I have been giving myself ‘stickers’ that say ‘wow’ or ‘great work’ etc for each resolution I have stuck to each day. I think why this is reinforcing - it’s like you are realising as you place each sticker that you are capable, and have successfully been so, of carrying out your resolutions each day. If you don’t do it, a journal is also a great way to make a note of what’s going on for you that you don’t. One of my habits is watering the garden. But if it’s rained, then if I mention it, I won’t look back and think “I failed”. I can see why. Another one of my commitments is ‘regular exercise’. However, yesterday I twisted my ankle, and I note this in my commitment journal. Or you can reinforce yourself with say a dollar toward something special for each habit per day successfully fulfilled. At the end of the three months, buy yourself something special. However, a journal is needed to mark the time, or note it on a calender.
At the end of the 90 days, if you have more habits you wish to change, you may wish to take note that you are still committed to your old ones by making notes, but hopefully you will find they are on autopilot now. Add in one or two more, while keeping up the old. It’s like mixing in flour to make a cake. You don’t pour it all in at once, you pour bits at a time to solidify and bind the mixture. In the same way you cement your goals gradually.
Important notes: 1. Be gentle with yourself
2. Keep trying (when you're ready), don't give up
3. Keep smiling