I think it’s pretty safe to say that we’ve all been there at some point in our lives. The clock strikes midnight on January 1, and we magically decide that we are now going to do “the thing.” Or we’re going to stop doing “the thing.” We jump out of bed ready to start. And, for most of us, by February 1 we have abandoned the effort.
One of the reasons is that New Year’s is really just a day on the calendar for most of us. It’s not a time of year where changes happen naturally. Making a resolution when our kids go back to school, or we are back from summer vacation and are rested and relaxed are examples of more natural seasonal times to make a change. There isn’t much difference between December 31 and January 1 if we really think about it.
As a behavior analyst, I have spent most of my adult life working with adults and children on behavior change. It’s never an easy process, and it takes patience and diligence. Knowing that and following these three simple steps, and in this order, will ensure your success as you move forward with your resolution for this year.
Vague resolutions are doomed to failure as are those that are phrased by stating the thing we want to STOP doing versus the thing we want to BE doing.
Take a look at the area that you want to change and come up with one specific goal in that area that you’d like to start with. Here are a few examples to get your wheels turning:
This is imperative to your overall success. As a behaviorist, I cannot stress this enough. Particularly for the goals that require more time to see results – which are most.
As you set your goal or make your resolution, identify exactly how you are going to reward yourself at the same time. Doing this will help you to look forward to the task, which might not always be something enjoyable.
I have been working on creating the habit for myself of walking every day. Each morning after I walk, I stop in the new little convenience store that just opened up near us and treat myself to a flavored sparkling water. It’s a small treat but I feel rewarded, and it gives me something to look forward to after my walk.
Your reward needs to be something that will motivate you on the days you don’t feel like following through. Don’t minimize the importance of this step.
Treat it like you would any other appointment. Set aside time each day to work on it and put it on your calendar. Don’t put it on the back burner. It was important enough for you to think about it and want to do it.
We need to make ourselves as much of a priority as we make everyone else.
Keep in mind as you move forward with any sort of change or growth that there might come some anxiety or pushback internally. This is very normal. Our brains are wired to see any change as dangerous, and we often begin to feel uncomfortable or have a desire to go back to the status quo.
If this happens, feel the feelings, but keep on moving forward with your resolution. The discomfort that you’re feeling is a sign that you’re growing.
Happy New Year, Everyone!
Have you made New Year’s resolutions before? Kept them? Not kept them? Are you planning to make any this year?