Accountable: How can you actually stick to those resolutions this year?
As the end of 2016 approaches and the frenzy of the holiday season subsides, many people begin to ponder the coming year and what bad habits they’d like to break. According to Statistic Brain, approximately 45 percent of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions.
Those unofficial promises range from vows to lose weight, stop smoking, and become more financially savvy to increasing physical activity, getting organized, and finding a life partner. The site reports that unfortunately only about eight percent of those resolution-makers actually follow through and achieve their goals.
So what is the secret of their success? What does that handful of people know that might help others stick to their promises?
Keeping New Year’s resolutions
According to Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, author, The Self-Aware Parent, New Year’s resolutions are “a process, not a quick choice.” She indicates that they “require time, commitment and moments of anxiety.” And choosing your most challenging issue will, most likely, increase anxiety levels.
To better your chance of sticking with your New Year’s resolutions, Walfish suggests choosing one major one or a few smaller ones. “Too many biggies will likely overwhelm you. More than one little resolution gives you several opportunities to prevail and feel successful,” she says, adding that creating a reasonable plan can act as a guideline. “In other words, if you want to lose weight, don’t decide to go on a juice fast for a month. You will certainly become too hungry, tired, and cranky, and fail.”
Dealing with the unexpected
Also, Walfish suggests planning for “what if’s.” She says, “Know ahead of time how you will deal with falling off the wagon. For instance, if you cheat on your diet, plan how to get back on as quickly as possible. Most people feel one failure is a total loss and they give up.”
Walfish emphasizes that broken resolutions should not cause bad feelings. She explains that the unconscious mind stores desires, wishes, wants, and needs. “That means it doesn’t matter what you think you want, the truth of your underlying wants and needs will always happen,” she says. “So, you may think you want to lose weight when, in fact, what you really want is the cozy, warm, comfort of food. Take a painful, open look within and discover your own truth. Nurture and respect it.”
Breaking habits effectively
In addition to Walfish’s suggestions, Tina B. Tessina, PhD, psychotherapist, and author of It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction, recommends having a little “understanding, a plan and motivation” to break bad habits successfully and permanently.
“First, understand what the bad habit is doing for you. Do you use smoking as a reward for getting something done, as a diet aid, or as a way to take a break? Do you eat to comfort yourself or when you’re bored or angry? Do you use dysfunctional relationships as a way to avoid responsibility?” she says. “Plan to replace the habit with something healthier — a new reward, healthier food or a better relationship with yourself. Instead of saying ‘I’m going to lose 40 pounds,’ say: ‘I resolve to make some positive changes in my eating and exercising habits.’”
Staying on track
Furthermore, Tessina encourages people to celebrate small accomplishments and move past any setbacks. “Instead of pressuring yourself, keep up your motivation with celebration and appreciation. Motivation comes from celebration and appreciation, and if you make the resolution easy to accomplish, you’ll have more successes to celebrate and you’ll be able to appreciate your accomplishment,” she says. “Celebrate each small accomplishment toward your goal and appreciate yourself for being willing to change, and you’ll find your energy stays high.”
On a more practical note, award-winning author, motivational speaker, transformational wellness coach, Staci Boyer opts for journaling as a stay-on-track tool. “We set resolutions, goals, and promises, then create an imaginary timeline of January,” she says. “There is no way we can do ten new things in January and be successful.”
Rather, Boyer suggests writing your promises for yourself in list form in a journal. Pick only one for each month in your preferred order or priority and write the month next to it, she says. Organize the goals by giving each promise its own page. “Break each promise down into at least four action steps and one accountability factor, such as taking photos, checking in with a friend or coach, setting up a reward system of a treat meal, or retail purchase, etcetera,” Boyer says. “Now, set a realistic completion percentage that you know you will be okay with at the end of the year. For example, if you set 12 goals and achieved six, will you be happy with fifty percent?”
One of the most important thoughts to keep in mind when making resolutions, according to Boyer, is to work towards “your own excellence.” She asserts, “Do not try to chase someone else’s definition of perfection. Be better than your own yesterday.”
And for those who choose to forgo the task of making New Year’s resolutions, you aren’t alone. StatisticBrain.com reports that 38 percent of Americans absolutely never make New Year’s resolutions. Walfish points out that “it’s perfectly okay to not make New Year’s resolutions, with the caveat and understanding that you are not a loser or failure for not doing so. My main message is to acknowledge, validate, and accept yourselves —flaws and all!”