Pressure To Make Some Resolutions
Pressure To Make Some Resolutions
Dear Tacit,

With the New Year fast approaching, I am really aware of the things I have yet to accomplish in my life.  I am feeling pressure to make some resolutions, but I know I won’t keep them (and that just makes me feel even worse).  How can I bring in the New Year without feeling so disappointed right away?

Signed: Pressure to Make Some Resolutions

Dear Pressure to Make Some Resolutions,

New Year’s resolutions can be a terrific way to self-motivate, for some people.  And they can be an absolute trigger for guilt, disappointment and/or depression, for others.  Research shows us that an overwhelming 80-90% of all New Year’s resolutions that are made are also broken before February rolls around.  So, please know that you are not alone in your pattern of behaviours!

What can be useful about the end of a current year and the start of a new one is the opportunity for self-reflection.   New Year’s encourages us to turn inward and to evaluate how much we have accomplished in the past 365 days.  But we sometimes have a tendency to focus on what we have NOT yet achieved, rather than highlighting the triumphs and successes of our last year.  And this sets the tone for the promises we make to ourselves for the year ahead.  Typically, these promises are built upon a foundation of failure (what we did not do).  But success comes when we build upon our strengths and capabilities instead.

This time, when you look back on the past year of your life, perhaps make a list of the challenges you have overcome and the strengths that you had to draw upon during the various crisis moments you experienced.  Add to this list all of the moments when you remember shining brightly and feeling confident or proud of yourself (even just a little).  Then add the obvious growth moments and the times when you dug deep or didn’t run away from something you really didn’t want to do (no matter how it turned out).  Make sure you also consider the mistakes you made but ONLY through the lens of the learning and the self awareness that you gleaned from these moments (as they are your strengths).  This is the list to use when you consider the potential changes you hope to make in the upcoming year. Use it to figure out where and how you want to keep the momentum growing.

When you do make new commitments to yourself about things you would like to do differently, get really specific.  Planning to get healthier or to lose weight or to stop a bad habit is far too general and often leads directly towards an inability to achieve the end result. Dig deeper and hone in on each piece of that generalized vision you have imagined.  There are likely multiple goals that you are trying to incorporate all at once, and that can easily get overwhelming and exhausting.  Use the SMART strategy (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound) to be sure each small goal is identified and realistically successful.

Remember too that it takes time to make real changes.  Evidence based research (from the University College of London) tells us that creating new neural pathways in our brains (which is essential for the formation of any new habit) requires a repeated firing of these pathways at least 66 times (and up to 254 times in some situations).  The idea that you “should” be well established in a new habit within a 21-day period is just not realistic.  And set-backs are a healthy and necessary part of any permanent change.  So expect slips and have a little patience with yourself.

Make your goal assessment a daily thing.  Set the expectation each morning, and review the results each evening.  Make changes as you think they are necessary, at any point in the process.  Focus on how much success you have had each day (or how close you came to achieving that goal) rather than drowning in any setbacks you might experience.  If you feel that you did backslide, look for the learning and use it wisely.  That becomes a huge (and unexpected/new) success you can embrace!  (There are some fantastic videos on YouTube that highlight the value of making mistakes, if you need a little more understanding of how and why it is so critically important to embrace failures as strengths.)

Find someone to help cheer you on.  It’s more fun to work on a goal with another person by your side.  And it helps to hold you more accountable.  Watch the self-talk that happens in your head!  Whatever is being said needs to come from a kind and understanding voice.  Instead of being a critical bully and attacking yourself for whatever happens, be your own cheerleader instead.  And find friends who will also be supportive and encouraging.

Lastly, remember that it’s okay to not make any resolutions, especially on New Years Day.  If you decide to make some changes in your life, you can start your journey on ANY day that you wish.  And if your path towards that goal is forged in a healthy and strengths-based fashion, you can absolutely be successful!

Take care!

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