It’s the time of year again! It’s Resolution Time. As the year comes to a close, we naturally look back on everything that happened, and then dream of what we’d like to do differently in the year to come. “This will be the year….”
And we should give ourselves credit because we DO the things! We go to the gym and we eat more vegetables. We stop smoking and we start looking for a new job.
Well, for a few weeks.
And then for some weird reason, we stop. So…why? If you’re asking “why do I keep giving up on my resolutions?” You are not alone. We ask why, because ultimately, we want to find a way to actually keep these resolutions. And there are really 2 major reasons why resolutions are dropped as quickly as they are made. 1) The resolutions don’t fit into your current lifestyle or 2) the resolutions don’t actually mean that much to you.
So here are a few things you might want to consider on your path to not giving up on your resolutions this year.
Reason 1: Your resolutions don’t fit into your current lifestyle.
It’s about setting realistic, appealing goals that make sense for you and your life. I’m personally obsessed with Atomic Habits by James Clear, and what I love is how Clear breaks down what makes habits stick. Some big themes he hits upon are making your new habits appealing and obvious, letting go of perfectionism, and ensuring you have the right support to do them.
First, your habits need to be appealing for you to keep it up. If you absolutely hate doing something, you’re not going to stick to it. So, for example, if you hate going to the cheap, dingy gym in your building but love going to the fancy spin studio down the street, it’s probably worth the money to invest in the spin classes since you will actually use them! Paying money for a gym you hate will get you nowhere toward your goals. Similarly, don’t promise to eat salad for lunch every day if you hate salad. Do some research for a few healthy dishes you will actually enjoy making (or a place you can buy them if you don’t like to cook). The point is, if you’re trying to change a habit, at least in the beginning, you need to want to take on the new habit.
Second, make it obvious. Integrate this new habit into your regular routine. Some examples of this are stopping by the gym on your way home from work, using your regular, every-day to-do list or calendar to remind yourself of what you want to do, or maybe try stacking your new habit onto something you already do like brushing your teeth. This step is important because it’s easy to forget or make excuses for new habits that aren’t part of your daily life yet.
Third, let go of the idea that you need to do it perfectly. It’s ok to “mess up.” When you skip a day or miss your new goal, try using how you feel without it as a reminder of how much you actually enjoy the benefits of your new lifestyle.
Instead of saying, “You’re such a screw up! You’ll never become one of those gym-going people!” you can tell yourself, “Ugh, I wish I could have made it to the gym today! It always makes me feel so much better!” Ok, so maybe that’s a stretch for some of us, but you can at least offer, “That’s normal to miss a day when building a new habit.” And then actually go back tomorrow. Not all is lost, my friend! I usually aim for 80% compliance with my habits. Doing them most of the time is better than letting one little misstep throw off your entire year.
Last thing I’ll say here, get some support! If you’re trying to quit smoking, maybe spend some time away from your friends that smoke. Maybe you want to go to the gym more (sticking with our theme), I suggest getting a gym-buddy. If nothing else, avoid the people who tell you that you’re never going to do it. That’s just rude! You don’t need to be around that energy. But bigger than that, this ties back to the first rule, make it appealing. As social creatures, it is easier to do something with the support of those around you. Build up your network so you’re not just relying on yourself to keep you motivated.
For more on the practicalities of keeping your resolutions, I absolutely recommend Clear’s book.
But for some people, all the practicalities in the world won’t get you to keep this new habit of yours. Which brings me to our next point.
Reason 2: The resolutions aren’t meaningful to you.
That might sound harsh, I’m sorry, I don’t mean it to. But with any good goal, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions in the beginning:
- Why do it?
- Why now?
- How will this impact my life?
- How will this impact other areas of my life, for better or worse?
- Is this something I’m doing because I want to, or because I feel guilty not doing it?
And be honest! Because if you’re not honest, you’re setting yourself up for a resolution you’ll drop quickly. Regardless of how busy you are, regardless of all the things swirling around you in your life, if something is truly important to you, you will make time for it. Especially if you follow the guidelines under the previous section.
Making new habits is hard. It’s uncomfortable. It requires rewiring your brain and pushing yourself (often physically) outside of your comfort zone. Don’t beat yourself up for dropping habits that aren’t going to have a big, meaningful change in your life. Yes, working out and quitting smoking and all the other great resolutions may be something that your doctor or partner or friend or favorite TV show character tell you to do, but if those things aren’t meaningful to you, why are you doing them? This is your life, my friend. Set your resolutions wisely. And if that means your New Year’s Resolution is making time to watch your favorite TV show every week, I say do it.