Escape the burden of failed New Year’s resolutions

Set yourself up for success: have a phenomenal 2016 by using a different strategy

Happy belated New Year!

Most of us are sick already of hearing the over-used phrase. It sounds so, old. We’re deep into the second week of January, and reality is setting in. The festivities and vacation time with friends and family is something of the past, it is but a fond memory. We are back in the salt mines. For many of us it is what it is: another day, another dollar. For those who have retired it may be another grim year with bleak prospects—empty days filled with blandness and solitude.

courtesy: stocksnap.io

courtesy: stocksnap.io

 

For most of us 2016 will simply be: the same old, same old.

I can burden you with the disheartening statistics of how many people make New Year’s resolutions, set new goals, only to quit in the first two weeks. Those who didn’t, quit within the first month, (and it is many). Less than 10% persevere till December 25th. It’s downright depressing.

The logical response to these facts is: Exactly! That’s why I don’t make resolutions. It’s discouraging if I can’t keep them. My solution is simple:

  • No resolutions.
  • No goals.
  • No disappointment.
  • I save myself a lot of heartache, avoiding days filled with self-flagellation.

Right? Perhaps not.

 

For a time, I believed playing it “safe,” in order to avoid failing or disillusionment was a smart move. But over the years, I have learned this is counter-productive. In the long run it catches up with one. The human body was made to be active, not sit still the whole day, less it becomes sick and develop multitudes of chronic diseases. So also are our minds, souls and emotions: we need to set goals to continue to grow, challenge ourselves, develop and excel.

Yes, we have to learn to achieve those goals.

And, the body, the mind and the soul need to be bolstered.

We all know the more popular and common New Year’s goals:

  • Become fitter/become healthier
  • Lose weight
  • Quit smoking
  • Save more/Get out of debt
  • Improve productivity at work/get the promotion
  • Become financially independent
  • Spent more time with the family
  • Restore relationships
  • Get more sleep
  • Become happier/more content
  • Read more

These are all laudable goals.

We make these resolutions every year and and we break them every year. Why?

Let’s look at why we fail:

  • Too many goals
  • Unrealistic goals
  • Too vague goals
  • We set ourselves up for failure
  • We’re not serious
  • It has become a habit to make them and then to break them
  • There are no consequences
  • There are legitimate barriers
  • It is too easy
  • We do not commit
  • We don’t keep/make ourselves accountable
  • We follow the same recipe every year—and fail every year
  • We don’t believe it can work
  • We’re not willing to challenge ourselves
  • We hide behind the fact that we’re human
  • We believe giving up is an option

 

 

 

What then, can we do to increase our chances of achieving success?

  1. Choose one goal. Yes: ONE GOAL.
  2. Be realistic. (This doesn’t mean you cannot dream big.)
  3. It must be achievable. Don’t start too big, too ambitious. Experience small wins, then dream on and go bigger.
  4. Write it down. Be specific. (In the 1956 film, The Ten Commandments, Pharaoh famously said, “So let it be written, so let it be done.”)
  5. Set a deadline. You need a timeline. With out a deadline, your dream will remain just that: a dream. You need to turn your goals into achievements.
  6. Make yourself accountable. You need an accountability-partner. Otherwise it remains your little secret and is easily forgotten. (A friend/spouse/child, sibling, trainer or life coach.)
  7. Identify legitimate barriers. e.g.: no time. Take steps to overcome the barriers. Learn how to “create” time.
  8. Challenge yourself. Be brave. Decide: quitting is not an option.
  9. Do one thing every day. Yes: ONE THING, EVERY DAY.
  10. Believe you can. Our beliefs about ourselves and our abilities, set the boundaries on what we accomplish.

 

 

Practical examples of how to succeed at specific goals:

  1. Become fitter:

  • Choose one thing: e.g.: walking
  • Write it down. Be specific.
  • Start with a 10-minute walk. (20 minutes if you’re fitter and stronger.)
  • Appropriate clothing and shoes can only help
  • Do it every day: for 7 days.
  • Add 5 minutes per day in week 2
  • Add 5 minutes per day in week 3
  • Once you reach 30 minutes of walking per day, decrease to 5 times per week, for 30 minutes
  • Now increase your pace
  • Have a safe indoor locale where you can do your daily walking in inclement weather
  • Involve (recruit) an exercise-buddy. This will increase your long term success.
  • The social aspect of exercise is vital. Consider joining a walking group.
  • Once you’ve tasted success with the above, add resistance (strength) exercises to your routine, twice a week. (more detail in a previous post)
  • Becoming fitter and healthier, can improve your sex-life.
  • You will discover as you become fitter, you feel better. It’s because regular exercise keeps the body and the brain healthy.

 

  1. Lose weight:

  • Decide how much
  • Write it down
  • Start with a food log. Keep a log of EVERYTHING you eat over a 24-hour period. Write down what, how much, when, where. Do this at least once a week.
  • Weigh yourself daily. Write it down
  • Eat breakfast. Healthy choices.
  • Make it a team-effort. The chances of success are bigger if everyone in the household joins the endeavor.
  • Learn to eat water-based vegetable soups. It will help with satiety. It’s the first course.
  • Learn to eat salads with healthy-fat dressings. (Virgin olive oil/Canola/ Avocado.) Avoid low-fat dressings. It lessens the bio-availability of nutrients.
  • Sit when you eat. At a table. Don’t eat in front of the TV, or your computer!
  • Drink a glass of water before each meal. (Two may even be better.)
  • Begin with a gradual walking program. See # 1, above.

 

  1. Quit smoking:

  • Make the decision
  • Write it down
  • Learn how habits work. Learn how to break the habit loop: the cue, the reward and the routine. The routine has to be changed.
  • You have to re-learn a life without nicotine. It is possible.
  • Smoking cessation programs can be effective: Do your homework. Certain gyms, clinics or hospitals have programs
  • Programs such as: “EX,” can be worthwhile. They recommend: (i) re-learn the habit (ii) re-learn addiction (iii) re-learn support.
  • Long term success rests on a support system.
  • Find a replacement activity for the nicotine. Exercise can be very effective.
  • Exercise fights the urge to smoke, since it smoothly increases dopamine and lowers anxiety, tension and stress levels.
  • My recommendation: do your homework and join a gym. A gym can provide most of the above. (A gym-membership is often less than 30 – 40 % of the cost of cigarettes per month.)
  • Your family doctor can provide you with nicotine or nicotine-free prescriptions. Combine this with the above recommendations.

 

  1. Get more sleep:

  • Set a new sensible deadline: say 11 p.m.
  • Write it down
  • Work back 30 minutes: at 10:30 p.m. you have to be done with your day
  • Unwind by reading for 20 – 25 minutes
  • Spend 5-10 minutes on recalling, and writing down, 3 worthwhile things of your day
  • No fluids/no caffeine, 2 hours prior to the new bedtime
  • No exercise within 2 hours of bedtime
  • The only exception to exercise: a healthy sex-life is conducive to good sleep
  • If there’s any possibility you may have sleep apnea, get a sleep study and treatment if indicated. It can sometimes mean a difference between life and death.
  • A short powernap (20 minutes) during the day, before 5 p.m., can help you be more productive. Help you get things done by 10:30 p.m.

 

  1. Find more time:

  • Learn to say no. It’s difficult, but necessary: SAY NO.
  • Learn to make a to-do list for every day. Write it down. (Enter into your planner.)
  • Keep your to-do list short
  • Differentiate between important tasks and crucial ones.
  • Do the crucial ones.
  • Define the priorities in your life: family, work, sport, leisure. Take a hard look at each one.
  • Take a powernap (20 minutes.) During middle of your day: before 5 p.m.
  • Become sensitive of time-stealers: e.g. TV, surfing the net, checking emails several times a day. Limit screen time.
  • Remain realistic. Aim for small wins. Winning back 30 minutes a day can soon lead to 60 minutes every day, on most days.
  • You will get more done. This will make you more focused.

 

The path leading to not breaking your resolution(s), to staying the course:

  1. It will require effort. Yes, hard work. Often, day after day.
  2. Decide: quitting is not an option. You’re not going to try, you’re going to do.
  3. Set yourself up to succeed:
  • choose one goal
  • do at least one thing every day to get you closer to the goal
  • write it down
  • share it
  • believe you can. This directly influences your ability.
  1. Accountability-partner. Never underestimate the power of group support.
  2. Some days will not be easy. Lean on your partner. Lean on your group.
  3. The reward: the victory will be sweet! It will be awesome!
  4. By succeeding in ONE aspect of your life, you can open the gate to become successful in changing others, causing a chain reaction. It will spill over.

 

 

Do you want another grim year with bleak prospects—empty days filled with blandness and indifference? Do you want another year of: the same old, same old?

You can change that.

Every person counts. You count.

You are important.

“Every day we should hear a least one little song,

read one good poem

see one exquisite picture,

and, if possible,

speak a few sensible words.”

Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

 

Every day is a new day. The possibilities are endless.

It’s a choice.

You can.

So take that first step. Write it down. Commit.

 

Have a phenomenal 2016!

 

 

Question: What is one thing, one goal, you are going to pursue in 2016?

 

References:

  1. Driven. Daniel H. Pink.
  2. Quora – Inc.com http://bit.ly/1RpB2Fj
  3. Michael Hyatt. Shave 10 hours off your workweek.
  4. The new psychology of success. Carol S. Dweck.
  5. Spark. John J. Ratey.
  6. The EX Plan. http://www.becomeanex.org/ (Accessed Nov 29, 2015)
  7. The Power of Habit. Charles Duhigg.
  8. Chef MDs Big Book of Culinary Medicine. John La Puma.

 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “Escape the burden of failed New Year’s resolutions

  1. Great examples and good plans to following through with one’s commitment to change:) Don’t forget to celebrate success- in a healthy way of course!

    • Hi Lorena,

      Indeed, I didn’t touch on the crucial aspect of reward, of celebrating achievement, once the goal has been reached!
      It can become a secondary goal: the affirmation of a job well done. Reinforcing and cementing a new habit, and increasing chances of sticking with the program.
      And, it doesn’t need to be super expensive: such as a proper pair of exercise shoes, or a new smaller-size piece of clothing, or a short weekend get away or even only a long cherished new book.

      Thank you.

      Danie

    • Hi Wim,
      Thank you!
      Time. It’s one of the things I struggle with most: running out of it by the end of the day.
      So, as for this morning: keep my to do list short-(ish). Critical items at the top.
      One of which has to be: move me closer to my goal(s.)
      Have a phenomenal 2016!
      Danie