Some of us on New Year’s Day will look at our situations and ourselves and decide that now is the time to make a promise to change. For many, unfortunately, it will be a repetition of last year’s resolutions followed by an honest effort, not meeting expectations, guilt, and then rationalization. So why bother each year with this self-inflecting painful journey?
Whether you want to get healthier, lose weight, earn a promotion, or change jobs, the first step is to realize that you need or want to change. How many people never reach that first awareness? But having that awakening is no guarantee of success! To move from where we are to where we want to be may require some degree of honest introspection, education, help from others, and realistic expectations.
I am going to start with the last one first. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals in a short period of time. Some have taken years to weave their web and now they want to magically undo it in a few months. To begin untangling the web, approach the change as a process that you “will try” to do rather than “I will do;” this is a much healthier approach. Often this leads only to guilt and that leads to nowhere. There is a rule on changing a habit that it can take a month or longer to break the paradigm and establish a new one. Be patient and be prepared to commit to new plan as you resist the urge to fall back into the broken paradigm or unhealthy habit.
Introspection is a good beginning point, as it will help you understand where you are: how you got there, why haven’t you succeeded in the past, and what do you need to move forward. An honest evaluation can be the toughest thing to do. I often ask my clients to ask people that they know and trust to give them a list of their weaknesses and strengths, keeping in mind that some will be perceptions and not the reality. “Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals in a short period of time” For some, this is a difficult exercise, but without this fundamental understanding, how can they move forward? Sometimes this knowledge is used to shake hands with your fears and weaknesses, reevaluate expectations or direction, and to gain the skills needed to grow and change. For example, to change a bad habit the first thing that is needed is to discover the cue that starts the chain of events that lead to the outcome you want to change. Many work on the activity but not the reason why it started.
One of the last mistakes is trying to do all of this alone. I have said this before: independence is great, but interdependence is better! Sometimes it just takes a friend to encourage us to make changes; often we may need a larger fan club, a dedicated mentor or coach, or in some certain circumstances a professionally trained counselor.
So why bother to make resolutions? The New Year can symbolize a new beginning and with beginnings come hope and hope is a critical ingredient to change. This year, I challenge you to back that resolution up with all the other ingredients that I have discussed and try to succeed to get closer to your promise. Here’s hoping you do!