It’s that time again. Not time to get your oil changed, though you should probably check that too. No, it’s time to push the reset button and take all of the pain, frustration, stress, and difficulties from this past year and put them behind you. It’s time to start fresh because it’s going to be a brand new year and this will be the year you lose 10 pounds. Or, at least, you hope it will.
What is it about the “New Year” that makes people want such drastic lifestyle changes? And better yet, how can we stick to these resolutions we pledge each January? Eileen Mansfield, a certified professional coach, says we actually shouldn’t stick to New Year’s resolutions. Better yet, she suggests not making them at all.
When we make New Year’s resolutions, we set ourselves up for these incredibly high and unrealistic expectations, and place deadlines on them. When we discover that these expectations are insurmountable and unattainable, we often give up after only a few weeks. So, what begins as an act of trying to do something good for ourselves becomes this monkey of disappointment on our backs that we can’t shake off, “which has the opposite effect of what [we] were hoping for in the first place,” says Mansfield.
According to StatisticBrain.com, only 9.2 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions actually stick to them. Mansfield believes this is because resolutions aren’t actually lifestyle changes. Rather, they’re fads, and eventually, fads fade. Because resolutions often evoke a zero to 100 mentality, like telling ourselves, “I’m going to eat whatever I want during the holidays,” then saying, “I’m not going to eat at all” a few weeks later, they don’t necessarily lead toward lasting change.
So, what’s the answer? There’s not just one. In order to really enact positive lifestyle changes, Mansfield believes that we first have to understand and follow these three points.
1. Start Small
It’s easy to picture our ultimate end goal. It’s getting there that’s the hard part. We’re creatures of habit, and in order to change our routines, we have to implement change slowly and steadily. Mansfield suggests for us to zero in on “positive movement” and baby steps. Whatever it is you’re looking to accomplish or change, find a positive way to go about it and take small steps to get there. Trying to take on too much, too quickly can result in frustration, impulsive regression, and feeling overwhelmed.
2. Remember, Progress Isn’t Linear
At some point in life, everyone reaches a plateau and it’s easy to feel discouraged by that. But if you were to track progress on a chart, you probably won’t come across a linear line. The line will likely have ups and downs that lead to an overall forward progression. So, it’s important to remember that even if we plateau or fall behind, it doesn’t erase the progress we’ve already made, and it doesn’t mean we can’t continue to make progress.
3. Think Positive
“Create new patterns of thinking,” says Mansfield. This could mean going for a walk, indulging in meditation, or writing in a journal: Whatever helps you to remember and focus on the things that are going well in your life. When you think negatively, you vibrate at a lower energy level and tend to attract the same type of energy you emit, which makes it easier for things to go wrong, says Mansfield. Instead, shift your focus toward positive thinking by participating in whichever activity that allows you to do that.
As a Reminder
Whatever New Year’s resolution you’re thinking of setting for yourself, let us suggest an alternative. Don’t start this journey in January. Don’t put a deadline on yourself. Set small, manageable goals and avoid looking at end goal expectations that may make your objectives seem impossible. It is okay to take baby steps. It is okay to fall back, too. Just be persistent. So long as you find things that can help you focus on what’s working, as opposed to what’s not, you’ll be able to create a lifestyle change that’ll last.