Why do people fail at their New Year’s resolutions? To make a lifestyle change, you must not only change your behavior, but also your beliefs. Your beliefs are at the core of what you do. If you continue to have your old belief system, your old behaviors will come right back after a short time.
For example, if I believe sweet treats are all that will make me feel better when I am upset, it is only a matter of time before I have a bad day and indulge myself. If I try new coping skills such as journaling, talking to a friend, or exercising, I will learn new ways to calm myself. I then will need to challenge the old thought of “I need something sweet to feel better” and replace it with a new plan. The underlying core belief was that only a sweet treat could help.
Likewise, if I believe my junk food diet is not harmful to my body, I will eventually go back to it. I must change my concept of health, educate myself on what my body needs, and then change my behaviors to have lasting success.
Having the correct belief system is not the only key to success. Many people believe that smoking is bad for their health but continue to smoke anyway. Typically, there is a belief that they will never be able to overcome their addiction or they may lack the motivation to quit. The first step is dealing with the belief system. If you believe you will fail before you get started, you will likely fail. What can you do?
First, I would encourage you to read or watch success stories of people who have overcome the challenge that you are facing. What did they do that helped? What did they learn in the process? What were the greatest challenges to their success?
Secondly, surround yourself with people who want you to succeed. Joining a support group or simply asking a friend for accountability can make a huge difference in your success. The embarrassment of having to tell an accountability partner that you blew it can help you stay on track. Not only that, but if you do blow it, they can encourage you to not give up. Remember, bad habits are hard to change. One mess up is no reason to give up on an important goal.
Another key would be to break up a large challenge into steps. Instead of trying to quit smoking cold turkey, maybe try to replace every other cigarette with chewing a piece of gum. This can satisfy some of the same behavioral things that happen with smoking – taking a piece out of the package and having something to do with your mouth. If you want to get healthy in the next year, instead of trying to change your diet, water intake, and exercise all at once, focus on one aspect at a time. Start small and work your way up. If you have success with something that is manageable, you are more likely to keep up the work.
Finally, focus on one thing at a time. If you have 15 goals for the new year, your attention will be pulled in too many directions. It takes a lot of hard work and focus to develop new habits. Perhaps a better approach would be to map out your new goals to focus on over the course of the year. It takes approximately 28 days to establish a new habit. Rather than trying to focus on all of them in January, choose one for each month of the year. You are much more likely to succeed that way.
Remember, you are worth it! You are capable of so much more than you can imagine. Don’t give up when it gets tough. You’ve got this.