Why New Year Resolutions Fail...and How Can We Make Them Work (Again)
How many times have you made New Years’ resolutions? How many times have you actually seen them through?
For most of us, the new year simply means a new start on old habits. Even if we have the best intentions when making our resolutions, and perhaps spend the first few weeks with guns blazing, eventually our inherent patterns re-emerge, and we’re back to square one. Only now, we are left with residual guilt and frustration that we weren’t able to follow through. It’s a lose-lose situation.
This year, may we suggest something new – nix those resolutions. Stop setting yourself up to fail. Stop placing all of the weight on the end goal. And instead, start shifting your focus to daily practices that you can put into action right now.
Now, this doesn’t mean that instead of saying you are going to lose 10 pounds to shift your focus on hitting the gym every day. It’s much more fundamental. It’s about learning how to cultivate new habits – like going to the gym – by starting at the root: a shift in perspective. It’s these small changes that can lead to shifts in behavior, and cumulate over time to create one massive transformation.
The truth is, whatever it is you are after – a better body, more passion, more energy, more money – whatever it is you want more of, in the simplest terms, comes down to one thing: you are after an extraordinary life.
So this year, let’s stop focusing on the outcome and start focusing on setting ourselves up to achieve that extraordinary life. And that means starting at the root, the core, the heart of it all, and changing the way we approach the seemingly little aspects of our everyday lives.
Change is a part of life. Sometimes it’s positive, and other times less so. But regardless of what form it comes in, you have a choice: you can either ride the wave of change, or let it crash upon you as you struggle to remain afloat.
Sure, it’s easy to adopt a laissez faire attitude when turbulence comes your way. It’s the path of least resistance to shrug your shoulders, step back and watch as the events unfold and take their own course. But while that certainly requires less effort, it also disempowers you and precludes you from taking control over your own life.
The secret to handling change is to focus on progress. If you can make progress on a regular basis, then you feel alive. Now, you may be thinking that this is easier said than done.
When you are lost, or trapped in an emotional fog, it’s hard to even make sense of what is happening, let alone understand what steps to take to move yourself forward. But by following these mandates, you can bring a sense of structure and certainty to an otherwise chaotic time, and start building something new, and perhaps even better.
MANDATE 1: CREATE A VISION
Create a vision for what it is that you truly want. If you find yourself unemployed, what does your ideal career look like? If you recently relocated to a new city, what do you want your life to look like there? If you and your partner are having trouble, what does your dream relationship with him or her look like?
The vision must excite you. It has to be compelling. It has to pull you. It should not be something that you have to push yourself toward, it should be something that you desire more than anything else so that it moves you emotionally. Envision this goal, see how it makes you feel, and then dive in.
MANDATE 2: MAKE THE RESOLUTION
Now it’s time to declare: “Okay, I am not going to just sit here and hope everything will be okay. I am going to take control of this situation.” Cut off any other possibility. If this is what you want, then burn the boats.
Make the resolution that you will find a way to make things work and mentally put yourself on the path towards achieving the vision you just set forth.
MANDATE 3: FIND YOUR REASONS
Now that you have your vision, and you have dedicated yourself on a fundamental level to reaching this goal, you need to find your reasons – your purpose for wanting to achieve this result.
This is one of the most important components to making progress because without it, you will lose your emotional drive. You will inevitably face hurdles, challenges and obstacles along your journey, but the reasons will help push you through. When the stress and pressure come, your reasons will propel you along and you won’t let the fear or negative talk take over.
Your reasons can be framed in a positive or a negative manner – “If I don’t do this, this is what it will cost me,” or “If I do this, then this is what I can gain in my life.” What matters most is that your reasons resonate deeply within you. They are not superficial, but rather, stem from a powerful purpose that carries a profound emotional weight.
Just remember, when you feel stuck or lost, reasons come first, answers come second. Find the meaning behind achieving your goal, and allow that to help you get on target when things get rough.
MANDATE 4: MAKE IT PART OF EVERY DAY
Think back to something you wanted more than anything, something you were so hungry for that you felt a deep emotional need for it, something that you were intensely clear about it, and thought about every single day. You just didn’t know how to make it happen. Then suddenly, you attracted the right situation or the right people, and everything just came together.
Why did that happen? Is it the Law of Attraction? Not exactly.
There’s a part of your brain called the RAS – reticular activating system – and it determines what you notice in the world. When you set a goal, become extraordinarily clear on it, and have strong enough reasons behind your intent, you trigger the RAS. Your brain then becomes incredibly acute at noticing anything that comes into your world that could help you move forward.
Invest yourself fully in your vision. Make it a key part of your focus every single day. Then start to take note of what pops up in your life. The opportunities and key insights that arise may just surprise you.
MANDATE 5: RAISE YOUR STANDARDS
Ultimately, if you want to create real change in your life, you have to raise your standards.
How many years ago did you come up with what you could or couldn’t do in your life? Take a look at any area in your life where you have a limitation and ask yourself when you decided to accept that.
For many of us, it’s these self-imposed limitations that prevent us from making any real progress in our lives. We have convinced ourselves that our status quo is exactly what we deserve, and we in turn, base our identities around that – wherever people have their identity attached to, they live.
If you want to create a new life for yourself, then you have to raise your standards. You have to let go of the limiting beliefs that keep you locked in complacency. Make progress a “must” for you.
Refuse to settle for anything less. This will take practice, it’s not something that happens overnight. But the more often you adopt the thoughts, behaviors and rituals of a new identity, the more powerful your brain will become at finding ways to bring you there.
MANDATE 6: ADOPT RITUALS
You have to back up your standards by what makes those standards real – rituals. Rituals are little things that you do each day that eventually build up so much momentum that it becomes a clear path to your vision.
If you are unhappy with your status quo, and feel that creating the life you desire is just a massive challenge, then break it down to bite-sized steps. Condition your body and emotions with a few small rituals.
Maybe that means going for a short run in the morning. Or taking the time to make a healthy breakfast. Maybe it means incorporating incantations into your day. Or catching up with one good friend every week. It could even be doing something kind for someone else once a day
Rituals are where the power is. They define us. They help us put our standards into action. Remember, when challenging periods come our way, we have the choice – to relinquish control, or to take action.
Creating the life you want is not an overnight event. It’s in the little things. It’s having a vision. It’s making it compelling. It’s seeing it and feeling it with absolute emotion. It’s caring about other people. It’s calling to say “I love you” for no reason. It’s about taking every opportunity to connect. To be playful. To honor and cherish your loved ones.
Change, no matter how devastating, does not have to define your life. You get to make that decision. And if you adhere to these mandates, then no matter how lost you may feel, you will be able to start designing the life you want, and living the life you deserve.
Lets make 2017 rock!