Seeking to Improve
It’s that time of the year again…the beloved or dreaded New Year’s resolutions. It all depends on how you see them, love them or hate them, between December 26th and January 7th, they are a huge topic of our national conversation. And though in reality, each second is another opportunity to enact change to who you were the second before, the new year marks a distinctly fresh marker to actively seek to improve.
While many seek things like giving more compliments, spending more time with family, reading more, or gossiping less, health, diet, and increased activity seem to routinely find their way to the top of the list.
According to Forbes.com, less than 25% of people stay committed to their resolutions for longer than 30 days. While only 8% accomplish them.
So how do we stick to our resolutions? How do we become one of the 8%? Well, no one can make us stick to them, but here are some things we can do to give us a greater chance at it.
Goals > Resolutions
What may sound like semantics really isn’t. A goal is a greater target than a resolution. For starters, resolutions have a negative connotation the moment the word is said. Most of the time they bring up negative self images and negative self talk. As well, on their own, resolutions lack specificity and can seem open ended. Goals are much more defined, have tasks, milestones, and a date by which they will be accomplished. This “simple” switch can make all the difference.
Only Bite What You Can Chew
Once we’ve left the resolution at the New Year’s Eve party, setting tangible goals, deadlines, and the steps to reach our change goals by the deadline are the easy part. For most of us, the mental part of actually doing it is the hard part. One of the first steps is to listen to our parents saying, “don’t bite off more than you can chew.”
Yes, we all understand that one. However, we all don’t practice it all the time. When it comes to life, it is generally better to start small…to set a series of small goals that are reachable as opposed to setting one massive goal that seems insurmountable. For most, it’s easier to approach losing 5 pounds at a time than it is to stare down losing 50 all at once. Each small goal reached increases confidence, strengthens resolve, and empowers us to go get the next one.
One Foot In Front of the Other
It sounds silly, but reaching our change goals requires change. Change in attitudes, change in our thinking, change in our behaviors, and changing our habits. Often, our habits are influenced by multiples of these. Changing habits requires changing attitudes, thinking, and behaviors. As the song from the old Claymation Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer said, “Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the door.”
We should think of changing our habits in the same way…one step at a time. Just as the previously mentioned “bite/chew” concept, we will become overwhelmed if we try to make wholesale changes to our habits. A good way to look at this is to start by changing the words we use in our self talk. This will then help to change our thoughts. Our changing thoughts will lead to changed behaviors, and our changed behaviors will help change our habits. Simply put: Words -> Thoughts -> Behaviors -> Habits. Start at the beginning to more easily make changes.
Fire Your Own Worst Critic
If you’re anything like the majority, we’re our own worst critic. Well here are two words for that person, “You’re fired!” That’s right. In order to give yourself a better chance at sticking to your change goals, you must give yourself a little leeway and allow yourself to be human. As humans, we all fall down. Most of us fall many times. It’s most important that we get back up more than we fall. Remember from the previous section, the words we use in our own minds matter. They are at the foundation of our habits. Be kinder to ourselves and accept we are like everyone else…human.
Let’s Taco ’bout It
Ok, maybe the food pun wasn’t the best…but what pun is the best? Seriously though, talking about our goals and the underlying attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors has multiple benefits that help us succeed.
1. Talking about an issue helps us understand it and work through it better and deeper.
2. Talking about it proves we’re not alone and helps us find empathy and support.
3. Talking about it helps us be accountable to ourselves
Finally, Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
Making such important changes in our lives can be intimidating when faced alone. It’s not uncommon that we try to face things first on our own and only resort to seeking assistance when absolutely necessary. Wouldn’t it be better to have help, support, advice, and a sympathetic ear through the hard parts right from the beginning? Whether from a professional, a co-worker, or a family member, having the right support can only make it more likely we reach our goals.
It may seem like a lot, and generally changing our behavior isn’t easy, but following these simple tips will go a long way in helping us reach our goals, change our thoughts, behaviors, habits, and in redefining ourselves.