We’ve all been there – after an indulgent weekend, we set ourselves new resolutions effective from Monday for strict eating and daily exercise. By Wednesday our muscles are aching and all we can think about is the food we’ve sworn off, and by Friday we’ve decided we’ll never stick to it so why bother.
The trouble is, we’ve tried to do too much too fast. People can’t change their habitual behaviour or lifestyle overnight; as humans, we change slowly over time. So, it’s no surprise that by mid-January the new year motivation and momentum has worn off and we’re already feeling frustrated that we’ve fallen off our resolution wagon.
According to a recent life survey, only 15% of resolution makers follow through with their grand plans, because the idea of “new year, new me” is just piling on far too much pressure.
We expect that as the year changes and we get a clean slate, all of a sudden, our personalities, lifestyle and energy will allow us to do the things we usually avoid, procrastinate or simply don’t enjoy. The truth is, we’re still the same person when the clock strikes midnight and it takes more than a new number on the calendar to change our behaviour.
Reaching goals takes hard work, accountability and most important of all, giving ourselves space and grace to occasionally fail and pick ourselves back up. It’s too easy to give up altogether when we realise we’ve been inconsistent.
If we’ve decided to improve our mental health by meditating every day and then we find ourselves too busy to check in for a couple of days in a row, it’s natural to feel like you’ve already failed at your “every day” plan and see it as the end of the road. If you just hop back on when you’re ready, two weeks from now you’ll forget you ever took two days off. Progress is progress regardless of breaks.
Factor failure and inconsistency into your planning. It’s natural to set timetables as a way of monitoring progress, but life isn’t that predictable, so don’t be too hard on yourself when you find a couple of weekly tickboxes left unticked. Remember why you started and take a moment to look at how far you’ve come.
Although it may sound a little too conceptual, manifestation and visualization can work. Our subconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between daydreaming and reality, so when we imagine achieving goals, telling friends, being there in the moment and living the life we’ve hoped for, our brains get very excited.
Instead of just thinking of where you want to be and then feeling hopeless at the gap in between your current situation and your goal, visualising allows you to see the end result and imagine how you got there, working backwards through the milestones ahead. Keep a journal and evaluate all of the steps you’ve identified on your route to success. Update regularly on your journey to see how far you’ve come and realign your vision along the way.
Many choose to monitor their progress through social media, and although that can be a great way to stay accountable (your friends are invested in your journey and they’ll notice if you stop), it can also draw you into a toxic mindset. Your goals are for you and not to impress others, and similarly, you need to bear this in mind when you see others apparently “smashing” their resolutions on social media.
Everyone’s journey, starting point and daily life are different so although you might have the same goal, your progress isn’t comparable. So, if you’re finding yourself feeling deflated that you’re not living up to social media ideals, it’s time to re-curate your following list. Fill your feed with content that inspires you and brings you joy; you’ll be amazed how much more positive you feel.
One of the key things that is going to keep you going on your resolutions is a pinch of positivity and truly wanting the end result. It’s perfectly natural to want a challenge and something to work towards, but choosing something you actually love doing is going to be the difference between succeeding (with the natural occasional blip!) or writing off your temporary fixation and moving onto the next.
If you hate running and have always hated running, you’re probably not going to stick to a schedule of running five days a week. If you’ve always loved painting but feel like you’re spending too much time at your screen instead, it’s feasible that this might be an easier transition to make. When you love the time you spend on your goals and resolutions, “can’t be bothered” rarely comes into it.
Kirsty Hulse is an author, life coach and motivational speaker.