My New Year’s Resolution: to not make any New Year’s Resolutions

And please don’t take that to mean I think I’m perfect.  I don’t.  I could probably use just as much improvement as the next gal.  But this time of year makes me BATTY!!  As I am one to have on the news at night, or to read a paper here and there, all I seem to be hearing/seeing is stuff about New Year’s resolutions: making them, breaking them, what you should/shouldn’t be changing/eating/thinking/doing/spending…

It’s exhausting, overwhelming and more often than not, sets us up for failure just by the core concept in itself.  Resolving to change one’s behaviour(s) because there’s a new calendar on the wall emphasizes that what is important is the time of year, not the need for the change itself.  And don’t get me wrong, I think taking a hard look at how you’re spending this finite amount of time here on earth is crucially important.  I do it myself, sometimes to such an extent that I end up not being able to see straight (friends and family will support this statement).  But the motivation for long-lasting change will not come from 01/01/____ staring you in the face (a possibly tired, hung-over face at that).

So, how does someone actually do something about making a change stick?  Well, this one blog post isn’t going to do it 100% (or maybe it will.  Wouldn’t that be neat? :)).  But as I tell people everytime I am in a workplace facilitating, before you can make any long-lasting lifestyle change you need to first figure out what got you into your current state.  I’m talkin’ some self-reflection here people! (I hear gasps escaping your mouths…some of you hate this kinda stuff!)  But seriously, before you can make a solid new home in Place B, you first need to understand how you got to be the person you are in Place A. 

Let me explain using the most famous resolution of all as an example.  I’m saying that before you are able to lose those pesky 20 pounds, you need to first understand what caused them to set up shop on your waistline in the first place.  Do you eat too much at each meal?  If yes, then are you aware of why you do?  Do you eat the wrong foods?  Maybe you don’t even know if they are the right or wrong foods.  Are you physically active?  If no, then what in your life is causing you to not move what yo’ momma gave you?  And on…

Another thing I always suggest to people before they try to incorporate new behaviours in their life, is get a very clear idea what life in Place B will look like.  Get crazy specific.  Know it inside and out – what will you look like?, what will you feel like?, how will you spend your time?, how will this new behaviour affect your relationships? and WRITE IT DOWN!  Some of you will recognize this as vision work, but I don’t want you to get freaked out by this term.  Think of it more as defining the giant carrot at the end of the stick when the going gets tough.  Plus, when you close your eyes and imagine yourself living permanently in Place B, it will give your brain a taste of what this feels like, which also helps to facilitate change.  

After you grasp what you want, and what areas need change, the next is the HOW.  How are you going to go about this?  And don’t get overwhelmed here.  It’s key to do things nice and slowly.  We’re all like wee mice in the end – we respond to positive reinforcement.  You want to set yourself up for success here, not failure.  So figure out 1 or 2 things you would like to work on first and get researching if you don’t have the knowledge at your fingertips.  There are also a multitude of experts out there, ready and willing to help you out when you aren’t sure where to start.

Once you know the specific targets you are aiming for it’s time to get the goal setting going!  And I’m sure a number of you have heard of SMART goals…and maybe are rolling your eyes, but they are crucial when it comes time to make changes.  They work so well because they force you to be methodical and really clear about how and what you’re going to do.  I am not going to go into detail about these types of goals because this post is already an essay…for more, have a spin here:

And going with the mice theme, set up mini rewards as you go.  Remember, real, lasting change can take up to 6 months to fully take place.  Keep your motivation up by the little prizes you win along the way.  And also, don’t be shy to reevaluate your goals.  Maybe they were too lofty, maybe as time has gone on they aren’t applicable or relevant anymore, maybe you’re a rock star and you unknowingly set your targets too low.  Nothing is set in stone, and this is YOUR life, do what works best for you. 

If you find that after all of these steps you are still struggling, investigate what services your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) offers, or look into hiring a Wellness or Life Coach.  We know the stats say that people are more successful when they work with someone else and/or have to be accountable to someone.  We’re all human (ie not perfect) and need a little help sometimes.  And really, if were perfect, then what in the heck would those news people have to talk about for 3 weeks every January?? 

Good luck!

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