“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot
Around this time every year, at least 40% of us who made 2017 resolutions will already have hung them out to dry. But with a little patience, commitment, and long-term thinking, you can be poised to reinstate your New Year’s resolutions without waiting until 2018. After all, why waste a perfectly good 11 months?
It doesn’t matter if your resolutions were to quit smoking. Be kinder. Lose 20 pounds. Read more books. Exercise more. Meditate daily. Sleep longer. Or learn a new language. Because all of these resolutions have one feature in common: They require that you change at least one habit—and most likely, many more.
So, if you’re ready to revisit your resolutions with a renewed vigor, let’s explore a few of the key features of habit formation.
Habits take a long time to form
In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, researchers determined that if you want to set your expectations appropriately, it will probably take you anywhere from two to eight months to build a new behavior into your life. So you’ll have to embrace a longer timeline if you’re looking for lasting change. It may be tempting to buy into the “Lose 20 pounds in 21 days” hype, but if you’re truly looking for sustained change, you’ll need to embrace the process and commit to making small, incremental improvements, rather than forcing yourself to make huge, unsustainable changes that will ultimately end in defeat.
Make your goals tangible and specific
You have to be able to measure your goals, and those goals must be specific. As you go from week to week, measure your progress. This helps hold you accountable, and also provides feedback to help motivate you and help you tweak your actions. For example, instead of resolving to meditate daily, commit to meditating for five minutes, first thing in the morning, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Having a specific time and date helps hold you accountable. And as each week goes by, you can add either time or frequency, or both. The key is to provide yourself with measurable, attainable building blocks towards your overall goal.
Would you believe that exercising patience might be even more critical to your success than exercising your body? This may seem like lot to ask, but here’s my best advice: Focus on your behavior, not the outcome. Most of you have undoubtedly experienced setbacks in reaching your goals. This is to be expected. Progress is rarely linear, and if you give up at the mere scent of a setback, you are doomed to fail.
Here’s part of the recipe for success: Stay focused on the behaviors you set out for yourself. Keep in mind that you can’t be responsible for the weight on the scale. You can only be responsible for your actions in pursuit of that goal. So stay focused on what you can control, and the rest will follow.
Avoid the Fathead Syndrome
Are you an “all or nothing” thinker? Do you ever think, “Well, I might as well eat this carton of ice cream since I already ate those French fries?” And then does everything go downhill from there, and you find yourself eating out of control the rest of the week because you’re going to start again on Monday? I call that the “fathead syndrome”— when you undermine your weight loss efforts because you ate 300 calories you weren’t intending to, and then eat non-stop for the rest of the week. Try to remember that part of your journey towards success is to address your “fathead” thinking, and not see everything in terms of black and white. Sometimes it’s ok to embrace the gray!
Consider partnering with a coach
Certified health and wellness coaches are trained in behavior change methodology and partner with you to help you outgrow your challenges, address your struggles, and leverage your strengths. Since many of you may not be familiar with health and wellness coaching, I invite anyone who is interested to “chat” with me on email or the phone without charge. My goal is to help you learn more about the coaching process, and to answer any questions you may have.
To learn more about the benefits of coaching, and for contact information, just visit my website page on coaching at: www.sculptyourhealth.com/why-hire-a-coach/