Resolutions are great, but planning and taking action win the day.
Sometimes, despite your best intentions, you just can't stick to your New Year's resolutions, let's face it, though - we often make them with a wink and a nod, recognizing that traditionally they don't stick.
Even if you've been thinking about them for months and have developed a concrete plan of action, it can be hard to make the necessary changes in our lifestyle or work habits.
Many people try to get motivated from a harsh and unforgiving place, essentially treating themselves as someone they expect - almost want - to fail.
No one wants to be a loser.
In school, on the sports field, at work, and even in relationships, we all want to be winners.
But it's so easy to become a loser, lose weight, lose your job - anything that has the word "lose" in it can lead you down a path of desperation and negativity.
Don't do that! Change it up!
Stemming from a self-critical mindset, typically internalized from how our parents, school friends and teachers taught us to see ourselves, the assumption is that by being "strong," we can overcome resistance and make changes.
If we fail doing that, then we are seen to be "weak," possibly contemptible.
If we succeed, we reinforce harsh internalized self-parenting (see below), often driving ourselves to a state of chronic burnout to keep proving we are good enough - while deep down feeling like we aren't.
Let's instead set ourselves up to pursue
what we really need and desire.
So, how can we move away from this vicious cycle, to one which is sustainable, resilient, and ultimately more rewarding and satisfying?
1. We need to cultivate a growth mindset.
While your primary goal may be, for example, to get in shape in the New Year, adopt lifelong learning as an overarching mindset.
Overarching mindset is a brand new philosophy that's been created to help you live a better life. It's important to learn it, but it's also difficult because it's so new.
It's difficult to live with the pressure of always being behind the times and not knowing what exactly is expected of you.
It feels like there are always more things to learn, more conflicts and contradictions in dating policy, more political parties to choose from, more smoking policies in the outside world.
This means that whatever it is we're working toward, we are always on some level interested in our own developmental needs.
Drawing on the four parenting styles, practicing good self-parenting means being authoritative, rather than authoritarian, permissive, indulgent, permissive or neglectful.
Authoritative parenting involves three fundamentals: self-compassion, warmth, and kindness toward oneself; setting clear guidelines and expectations for our own behavior; and avoiding self-gaslighting or over-analyzing our own decisions.
We become stuck in our own minds, spinning around and around in a never-ending circle of self-reflection.
We get so caught up in ourselves that we forget about the people who are depending on us for comfort, love and happiness.
When we look too far into the future, we miss out on the present which is in front of our eyes. When we look back at the past, it diminishes our ability to see what's in front of us.
Self-reflection is essential, but spinning into excessive self-doubt or obsession leads to stuckness.
2. We should plan across different time scales.
Think about what you want in the short - middle - and long-term - realize that it is an ecosystem where different planning scales are ideally synergistic.
Set long-term goals, though not too many at once, and prioritize which are most important.
Many of these are "stretch" goals, or aspirational; some are wishes.
Avoid all-or-nothing goals which are a setup for failure.
Instead, aim to gradually develop new habits which will be more durable.
For example, Instead of aiming for a big finish line - quit smoking today!
Instead work on building up new habits which will be more durable in the long run, like eating healthier and getting more sleep.
Start with a small change and develop new habits one at a time over time and watch your life change as these new behaviors become second-nature.
It's important to use good judgment and kindness when defining long-term goals to be pragmatic and optimistic.
That super-fit version of myself may take a lot more time and investment than I have right now, versus getting in better shape in the mid-range and re-assessing once I've gotten there.
With a longer-term frame in mind, define the initial set-up required and work out the logistics for the first three or four steps.
This is a moving frame, meaning that as you accomplish or revise these steps, you lay out the next few steps as they come up.
This not only works like a ladder, where we get to the top rung-by-rung, but it also builds muscle memory for how to get where we want to go in other areas.
Middle-term goals are important for several reasons—one of the big ones is that the motivation to start is not the same as the motivation to sustain.
When the initial momentum wears off, what will keep us on track and engaged?
Have a plan for recovering if you slip—everyone has off days and persisting through them is key.
3. Build a problem-solving and responsible mindset.
This goes hand-in-hand with the growth mindset.
When unanticipated things come up - and they will - first, catch your breath.
Rather than going into a tailspin, take time to realign your primary goals.
Being responsible ( able to respond ) will help you solve almost any problem.
Get centered and take disappointment as an opportunity to learn for the next time while honoring and accepting difficult feelings with self compassion to move forward - "diving under the wave" rather than getting knocked down over and over.
Being aware of negative feelings and learning to regulate them, in particular, is critical to keep procrastination from undermining your plans and path.
Research shows that people who push through procrastination when they have negative feelings about a task recognize how they are feeling and are able to set those feelings aside enough to say "yes" to the job at hand, and "no" to the all-too-appealing distraction, whether it's a productive one (cleaning the apartment instead of preparing that report) or purely diversion (binging on that awesome new show).
And not only that, but mindfulness practice has been shown to reduce procrastination by helping with emotion regulation.
Use tools to create gentle-yet-firm accountability, again coming from a supportive, wise self-parenting position rather than harshness and self-rejection.
Tools can be solo, like a daily diary, routines, or other rituals that support gradual but consistent change, or social, accountability partners like friends, coworkers, family members, or groups with similar goals, mentors and coaches, then work together.
Establish with accountability partners the expectation for support and encouragement, clear guidelines and expectations, and avoid excessive analysis or "getting in each others head" when learning from missteps.
Keeping it encouraging and supportive means that success is rewarded in the short run, and over time working toward positive change becomes something to look forward to, grounded in healthy relationships.
5. Avoid the willpower trap.
Create a context for success.
We often wait until the 11th hour, setting ourselves up for failure by imagining that the way to achieve goals is via willpower and then confirming deep-seated beliefs we are weak or inadequate.
This undermines self-efficacy, yet belief in self-efficacy is a core motivator, correlated with life satisfaction.
If we can't get out of the willpower trap, it may be time to take a step back and reassess how we are approaching change.
From a place of self-compassion, willpower has a role but is not the centerpiece.
Instead, using the problem-solving mindset, set things up so less willpower is needed, making accomplishment a lighter lift.
For example, scheduling time every day for meditation, rather than leaving it as an afterthought to fit in and getting frustrated; saving special culinary treats for special occasions rather than keeping them in the pantry for emergency soothing; and having a friend you can call when you need support, encouragement or even a candid course-correct.
I really hope that you enjoyed it and will take action on the advice given in this article.
I wish you good luck on your journey.
I hope its contents have been a good help to you so this year can be your best year at achieving your goals and ambitions