As 2017 comes to a close, media is full of ideas for making changes in our lives. Some are successful while many, unfortunately, are not. There are many reasons why resolutions fail:
- Not realistic. Example: trying to lose weight in a short period of time.
- Too numerous. If we seek to fulfill five resolutions, our attention is diluted and we’ll likely fail to achieve any of them.
- We give up too soon. Changing behavior takes time. There will be setbacks and frustrations. We must be patient with ourselves and persevere.
- Inflexible. This is related to giving up too soon. We begin the year with great dedication. But when distractions occur and we lose our momentum, we give up because we suffer from the perfectionist’s excuse: “If I can’t do it right, I’m not doing it at all.” I have a friend who developed a regular exercise habit that she has maintained for many years. She preserves a flexible mindset by saying, “I’ll miss a workout now and then, and on rare occasion I’ll miss two in a row. But I’ll NEVER miss three in a row.” She is successful because she’s developed a process that bends, but doesn’t break.
- We lose our motivation. Something comes along, knocks us off our program, and we are unable to reconnect with our reason for keeping the resolution before it is an established habit, hardwired into our character.
Here are my suggestions for making successful change:
1. Pick one change you want to make; one habit you want to develop.
- Make it something important, but achievable within a few months if you put your mind to it. Remember, we’re building on success. Once you’ve achieved this change, there will be others.
- Be patient. It’s as important that you build confidence in your ability to change as it is to achieve this first specific goal.
2. Take out a blank piece of paper and write about the change you want.
- WHY do you want to make this change? Why is it important to you? What will be the benefit(s)? Dig deep. Don’t stop with the first two or three why’s. Get to the heart of the matter. If it doesn’t trigger an emotion, it’s not important enough or you haven’t dug deep enough to uncover the truth. We’ll need to refer to this when we get distracted or frustrated. “I want to make this change because…”
- What is the TRUTH about your current situation or condition? Look yourself in the mirror — literally or figuratively — and spell out the current situation in detail, with honesty. “The truth is…”
- What is the OLD STORY you have told yourself in the past that has resulted in your current situation? If your resolution is to get back into shape, what do you usually tell yourself that allows you to avoid exercising? Be honest. Because you will hear this story again and you need to recognize it for what it is. “In the past I haven’t followed through because I tell myself…”
- What is the NEW STORY you need to tell yourself to keep making progress in building your new habit? It should include elements of your WHY and the benefits of making the change. “From now on, I will remember…”
- WHO do you know who already embodies this trait or behavior? Keep a photo or quote handy to inspire you by their example.
3. Design a specific ritual that you will do each day to achieve your resolution.
- What: it must be specific and objective so it is obvious if you did it or not. Hint: make this first one easy. Example: “I will take a 30-minute walk every day.”
- When: define a specific time of day or an event that will trigger the ritual. Examples: “At 0630 every morning, I will…” or “When I cross the Charles Bridge on my way home each day, I will…”
- Keep score: each day make a note as to whether you completed the ritual or not and any comments or observations about the experience. Use a notebook, calendar, or any other system that is readily available and easy. Keep it on your nightstand or other obvious location.
- Establish an appropriate reward at the end of the week if you were successful in remaining true to your resolution.
4. If done regularly, with full attention and commitment for 30 days, the ritual will become a habit. Once it becomes a habit, you can move on to the next resolution, and then the next, building habits that support your values and becoming the person you want to be.
Rather than making positive, lasting change only once a year, why not make a “New Quarter Resolution every three months?
What difference would it make in your life if you made FOUR key personal changes in 2018? Would others notice? How would you feel this time next year?
Be a High-Trust Leader: Make resolutions that last.
Thanks to my good friend Jim Loehr for sharing his proven insights, lessons, and inspiration on making personal change.