If you are like millions of Americans you've reflected on how you could make this year your best yet. We are re-energized each year as we make our New Year's resolutions yet the hard truth is that the large percentage of those who made resolutions have already failed. And many continue this cycle year after year. It reminds me of John (Cougar) Mellencamp lyrics because clearly it "hurts so good!" or why would we keep making and breaking resolutions?
The Secret to Lasting Change
To create a new habit we typically need 60 days, two full months, of repetitive action so that the new behavior becomes second nature.
But let's be real, it's easy to get discouraged after a few weeks when we don't see immediate results or we get distracted from our resolutions because life gets in the way. Often we quit too soon because many of our resolutions are too vague and therefore hard to measure. Without hitting benchmarks there is no opportunity to celebrate success. Without a sense of accomplishment it is hard to stay motivated. We inadvertently set ourselves up to fail and then feel bad because instead of recognizing the small wins, celebrating success, discarding the days we didn't take action and moving forward to get back at it we abandon the resolution. There is an "all or nothing" mentality to New Year's resolutions.
So how can you set yourself up for success? As a coach, I work with clients to set goals and hold them accountable to take action because a goal is just an intention without action. Instead of a New Year's resolution to get healthy, why not set a S.M.A.R.T goal to exercise four times a week for 30 minutes during the month of February? Does that seem more realistic and achievable than a resolution to "get healthy"?
What is a S.M.A.R.T goal?
Specific - Create your goal clearly and with detail.
Measurable - Results must be able to be measured, for example, the number of calls you will make to a friend if your goal is to be more connected to your friends and family or the amount of money you will save if your goal is to build up your savings account
Attainable- Set goals that are realistic and can be accomplished with action and determination.
Relevant- Goals must relate to your brand, personal mission or passion- something that excites you. How do you want to feel when you are working towards this goal? Better yet, how do you want to feel when you've accomplished it?
Time-bound- Goals must have definite starting and ending points.
Make sure to take time to celebrate your accomplishments along the way to keep yourself motivated and positive.
This formula sounds easy peasy. So why is it still a struggle for some? I watched a very interesting TED Talk the other day. In this short video below, Dan Gilbert shares that we as humans have a hard time investing in our future self because we can't relate.
"Human beings are works in progress
that mistakenly think they're finished."
With that mindset it is hard to invest in and relate to the super health version of yourself who regularly exercises 45 minutes a day or the financial savvy future self who has $10,000 in savings squirreled away. Those versions of ourselves are just too different from the person we are in the present moment. How do you overcome that?
1) Think about how you've changed and grown over the last year and use previous wins to inspire future goals.
What about the last five years? Or the last decade? If you are like most people you probably have a long list of positive changes you've made and several examples of how you've grown. Looking back can give us inspiration to push ahead. Our past successes gift us with confidence. That confidence provides us with the courage we need to fuel our future success. Make a list of accomplishments to reflect back on when you are feeling stuck.
2) Set S.M.A.R.T. goals and focus on bringing the action.
Today is all that matters. Give yourself permission to be in the moment. Don't get overwhelmed thinking about the big picture. Schedule a 45 minute walk into your calendar and then when the reminder pops up put on your shoes and move. Don't hit ignore or reschedule. Or make coffee at home before you leave for work to ensure you bypass your local coffee shop. Instead transfer $5 into your savings account. Take time to be mindful of how these little actions support your big goal make you feel.
3) Envision your future self.
Clearly it does not come natural for us but it is not impossible to do so. Can you see the healthier version of you flaunting your toned body as you are now able to walk briskly down a Mexican beach? How would that feel to be comfortable in your own skin?
Or how about your financial savvy future self who uses $10,000 as a down-payment on the house of your dreams. Can you envision yourself walking over, or being carried over, the threshold? Those are very tangible examples and remind you that hard work pays off. Focus on what you want and need to stay the course. Remind yourself that your life is far from over and that your goals will led you to a life you are purposefully creating.
We love the clean slate feeling that comes with each new year but that excitement for change and what is possible fades fast. By setting S.M.A.R.T. goals and taking action you can live the life you love on your terms. All it takes is you+determination. Have a bad day? Start fresh tomorrow. You don't need to wait for January 1 to have a clean slate. It's ready and waiting for you each and every day.
What action will you take to reach your goals? How can you keep the moment going? Please leave your comments below. I'd love to hear from you!