Updated: Sep 8
A new year and decade are upon us and for many people that includes creating new year resolutions. I used to list yearly resolutions but have been setting new year intentions for a few years instead and have been a lot more successful with it (you can read why in this blog post about it).
The truth is that most resolutions are not fulfilled, there are various statistics you can look up about this, and a lot of people feel bad about it. For instance, “I wanted to lose 20 pounds this year but I gained 10 instead!” One coach I know said this is because it is a new year but an old you: that you and your habits are hard to change despite it being a new year.
Habits are difficult to change however not impossible. My clients are living proof of this. Here are some tips to help you become a new you in a new year if that is what you desire.
We tend to have great intentions and expectations when craving change, however, this often sets us up for failure. Starting small seems to be the most effective in changing habits. For instance, getting your running shoes on and tying them can be the first step. The second step, and the next day, can be walking outside for a minute or two with your shoes on and so on and so forth. We tend to continue with things if we feel successful at it.
Want to learn more about this? Check out Dr. BJ Fogg’s book called Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is also insightful in regards to behaviour change.
Other strategies include cutting whatever goal you intend into half, accomplishing that, and then moving on to whatever else or extending the time to do something. If you think it will take 3 weeks, add 3 more. Lastly, imperfect action is better than no action. If you keep that in mind then you won’t be so upset when you “fall off the wagon.” Changing habits is no easy task.
Speaking of imperfect action and habits, it’s not a bad idea to reframe things so they are easier to accomplish.
Last year one client decided to create more standards than goals for himself and he was a lot more successful with the reframe. He achieved 5 out of the 6 standards he set for himself. Instead of seeing it as a goal try to make it a daily habit or standard.[i] Inspiration tends to fade however habits can become automatic and exceed whatever goals you had in mind. It’s good to have a vision; however, reframing it and translating it to daily acts seem to be far more effective.
It’s difficult to be effective when there are constant distractions in our lives. This could be physical distractions, social distractions, etc. Over the past few years, I have become really good –not perfect- at eliminating them so I can do other things that are far more important to me.
Airplane or Do Not Disturb Mode on my phone has been my new best friend. Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work and Digital Minimalism, suggests making your phone a foyer phone (like the olden days). Here is a description of the foyer phone concept from his Study Hacks blog post, “A Piece of Advice I Wish I’d Included in My Book:”
The Phone Foyer Method
When you get home after work, you put your phone on a table in your foyer near your front door. Then — and this is the important part — you leave it there until you next leave the house.
If you need to look something up, you go to your foyer and look it up there.
If you need to send a text message, you go to the foyer. If you’re holding a back-and-forth conversation, then you need to stand there while you do it.
If you’re expecting an important call, put on your ringer.
If you feel the urge to check in on social media, it’s waiting for you in the foyer.
And so on.
Eliminating distractions also include setting boundaries. What’s okay and not okay to allow in your psychic and physical environment? Honour that. We should not underestimate the importance of our environment and the pivotal role it plays in achieving what we want. Need support? Ask for it, get everybody on the same page, or find it. Do whatever is going to help you keep up.
Do What Works
We can also support ourselves by doing what works. We can have a grandiose vision of what we are going to do and how we are going to do it, not taking into account our natural strengths and tendencies.
When it comes to creating sustainable change, I say, “go with the grain.” What I mean by this is to figure out what you are naturally inclined to do and use that to help you with changing habits or achieving goals. If you don’t like running, don’t do it. Join a team sport for physical activity that you like instead. Let’s not impose “shoulds” when it comes to change, it significantly lessens that likelihood that you will accomplish it. Which leads me to my next point.
Again changing or replacing habits is no easy task so please choose self-compassion as opposed to beating yourself up for what you didn’t do. Of course, you have a standard or goal to achieve, however, becoming frustrated with yourself or self-deprecating only makes matters worse. If you are coming from a place of guilt or shame, you are less likely to continue the healthy habit and more likely to repeat whatever cycle/behaviour you are in.
Alternatively, expressing self-compassion is loving and understanding and helps with getting you back on track. You are more likely to bounce back with understanding than with judgment. We tend to experience inner resistance for whatever reasons when it comes to change so knowing that, knowing how difficult it is to develop a new habit, combined with self-compassion when we fall short can help us navigate the new course we are on and be more successful with it.
Of course, compassion can be extended towards others as well. If you are in a habit of judgment (it seems so much easier than compassion) than this could help develop a new you as well.
These are some tips that came to mind when thinking about new year resolutions and change, however, there are others that could help equally well. I hope one, if not all, helps you become the version of yourself you want to create in the new year, that is if you want a new you in the new year and not just a repeat of last and the years before.
Ps. If you would like some assistance with your new year plans, please contact me for a Get Acquainted Call to see if I can help.
[i] A great article the benefits of habits versus goals is written by Farnam Street, https://fs.blog/2017/06/habits-vs-goals/