By Vicki Little
It is a few days into January, and if you are like a lot of people, you have already slipped a bit on those New Year’s Resolutions. Statisticbrain.com states that only about 8 percent of people are truly successful in achieving their resolutions. If this is true, then why do so many of us even bother to make them? So we can feel defeated when we fail to keep them?
Having a goal is great, but New Year’s Resolutions tend to be made because there is something we want to change about ourselves. For example: “I want to be in better shape. I want to curse less. I want to be on Facebook less, etc.” These tend to imply something negative about ourselves that really needs fixing. Then what often happens is the first time that we mess up, we begin to feel defeated. The next time we slip, we give up altogether. It’s easier to give up on our resolutions then it is to make them in the first place.
Rather than using the New Year as the perfect time to make resolutions, we should regard it as the perfect time for some self-reflection and “resetting” of our mind, body, and soul. Having a natural, recurring time to give ourselves a fresh start allows us to focus on the things we really enjoy and get back to practicing those positive habits that we want to improve on. Remembering how good it feels to eat healthier, spend more time with family, or whatever other positive traits we’d like to focus on more is a better motivator than looking at what we want to change about ourselves. Plus, it is easier to tweak a few habits than it is to overhaul entire behaviors or traits. Add these steps to a bit of perseverance and you have the recipe for success.
Choose the habit(s)
Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many large changes at once — that is a sure way to give up before you even get started. Instead choose one or two habits that you really want to change and forge ahead with those. You can always add other items you want to focus on later, once you are successful with the first few. It is better (and easier) to start small and succeed than to go big and fail.
Set a realistic expectation
Resolving to get in better shape is a popular resolution, but anyone who frequents the gym will tell you that while it is packed in January, the month of February is a different story. We may think, and even believe, that we are going to hit the gym every day, but if it was that realistic for us, we probably would have already been doing so. Instead of a big resolution, develop a smaller habit. In the case of getting in better shape, start doing 10 minutes of exercise at a given time every day until it becomes a habit. Or at a random time if that works better for you. And then up that to 15 or 20 minutes. If 5 minutes is all you believe you will actually commit to, then do that. A little is better than nothing and it is better to do something consistently then to start something and stop it because you just don’t want to do it.
Be very intentional
There is some disagreement about how long it takes to form a new habit. The old theory is about 21 days, a study in The European Journal of Social Psychology says 66, and some go all the way up to a full year. Regardless of the “official” time it takes to form a new habit, it is important to be intentional about doing (or not doing) your intended habit each and every day. Even if you need to set an alarm, promise yourself a reward, or get your best friend to harass you daily — whatever it takes to get it done. Each day brings you that much closer to it becoming a positive habit, so keep at it!
Vicki Little is a work-at-home mom with two children. A Colorado native, she spends her time writing, sitting in the bleachers for her daughter’s gymnastics, and engaging in spirited debates with her son. In her free time…well, she is still waiting for some of that.
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