The start of the New Year is often the perfect time to turn a new page in our life, which is why so many people make New Year's resolutions. The most common ones are weight loss, exercise, stopping smoking, better money management and debt reduction, but why do so many people have a hard time keeping their resolutions?
The first two weeks usually go along perfect, however by February people are falling back into old habits and by the following December most people are back where they started or even further behind. Why is this happening?
Often people make resolutions that are significantly unrealistic and out of alignment with their internal view of themselves. People make resolutions as a way of motivating themselves, however they are actually not ready to change their habits, especially bad habits. Those goals and expectations are unrealistic and people fail to achieve them.
The other aspect of failed resolutions lies in the cause and effect relationship. You may think that if you lose weight, or reduce your debts, or exercise more, your entire life will change, and when it doesn't, you may get discouraged and then you revert back to old behaviors.
Also, when we set goals, we are taught to make them specific, measurable and time-bound. It turns out that those characteristics are precisely the reasons goals can backfire, our behavior is narrowly focused and we often do not see other ways of achieving the same result.
Making resolutions work involves changing behaviors—and in order to change a behavior, you have to change your thinking and rewire your brain. . Behavior is created by thinking patterns based on our memories and because our brains have the ability to generalise we fall in to old behaviour anytime we are faced with a new choice or a decision. It also feels safer to take the road you know than to embark a new journey, even though it may make you unwell.
We also know from a number of Neurology studies that trying to change that default thinking by "not trying to do it," in effect just strengthens it. Change requires creating new neural pathways from new thinking.
So how to achieve your goals?
Set realistic goals, make sure that they align with your values. I ask my clients what could you loose in order to achieve your goal? It could be, a specific relationship, I will not have enough free time to spend with people I love, I could be perceived as a bad person and because every behaviour has a positive intention, I could loose the security that being overweight gives me, I will not be able to stay calm or be focused that smoking or biting my nails gives me, etc… This may show you yet another smaller goal to work on in order to achieve the bigger one, just a thought…
Step by step, make it realistic, change is made by taking one step at the time. I always ask my clients, what would you would like to change today that will take you a step closer to achieving your goal? Maybe you just need to make a phonecall or send an email or it may turn out that today you need to do something that is not so obviously connected to the specific goal you had in mind. One of my clients realised that she needs to overcome a belief that she had about herself, created in her childhood. That specific session we worked on changing emotions connected to memories that have produced that belief and took her a big step closer to achieving her goal.
Be mindful, learn how to recognise and change your internal emotional states. Notice your thoughts and feelings that may be stopping you to achieve your goal and change them. When I work with my clients I teach them how to notice those feelings and thoughts and how to change them. For example where is that feeling in your body, in what direction it is moving and than I teach them how to change it. Also with thoughts, what is making you think: I cant do it everybody else can but I'm useless, Im not good enough, I will always be fat, Im stupid, etc. Notice is it a voice that you hear or a picture in your mind that you are seeing and change it by changing colours, moving it in representational space around you, changing sounds, etc. I also teach my clients number of techniques that will help them to instantly reduce intensity of or stop the feeling from escalating so that than they can change it easier.
And finally, don't take yourself so seriously. Have fun and laugh at yourself when you slip, feeling bad about it, judging and criticising yourself will just make it harder to achieve your goal. Tap yourself on the shoulder and keep going. I teach my clients to visualise a picture of themselves achieving every single step at the time. Research has shown when people visualise themselves how they want to look and feel when they have achieved the goal (remember small step at the time) it increases their success rate of achieving it and also when they to embody that vision, like a high jumper preparing for a jump, success rate is 30% higher.
Remember to celebrate all those little milestones, good emotions will generate endorphins and other feel good chemicals that will help you to get over some ruff times. And, in this way you are creating new powerful positive memories that your brain is now generalising and using to create new behaviours that will help you to achieve your goals!
With love, Mira