Guest contribution from Dr. Thara Vayali
New Year’s Resolutions: love ‘em or loathe ‘em, they are a key discussion point in January; so let’s discuss. Dedicating resolve towards accomplishing something is commendable, as it is an indicator of what matters to us, what (given endless free time and motivation) we truly want to put our energy toward. Unfortunately, this resolve can fall to the wayside as the year consistently offers up challenges to us completing our goals.
The only way to keep from feeling annual defeat is to deconstruct why we keep making and breaking resolutions.
In 2012, Time Magazine published a Top 10 most commonly broken resolutions:
- Lose weight & get fit
- Quit smoking
- Learn something new
- Eat a healthier diet
- Get out of debt & save money
- Spend more time with family
- Travel to new places
- Be less stressed
- Drink less
Five major reasons that resolutions such as these can go awry:
Not Specific. Resolutions often come in broad themes rather than achievable actions. Eating healthy, getting fit, losing weight, saving money, spending time – all these are admirable goals, but they are vague because they are unmeasurable. When there is nothing to measure, there’s nothing to work towards. With open-ended goals one can end up under-motivated or overwhelmed and resigned to failure.
Over Sized. Riding on the coattails of non-specific resolutions, are oversized resolutions. A major stumbling block is the habit of making grand predictions of our capabilities within the year. With the goal of progressing quickly, we aim too high. Resolutions are a practice of patience. Think of goals in terms of Projections vs. Stretch Goals. Resolutions are projections of your desires matched to your capabilities, within a timeframe. Aspirations are your stretch goals that can motivate you to aim higher than predicted. Both are great to have, just keep them clear and separate.
Improper Targets. The desire to change something in our lives isn’t enough, as we often don’t see the obstacles en route. Our bigger goal is often so desirable that we forget to check what roadblocks we might run into. A great tool for staying on track is to backtrack your goal to your daily actions and habits and take inventory of inhibiting factors. If there are people, locations, or temptations that you know will impede your resolve, your resolution can instead be to circumvent or remove these variables.
Incentives. Don’t expect yourself to change habits based on the elusive goal of being a healthier, happier, better person. That is just not enough to get you out of bed in the morning. Giving yourself small rewards is key – whether the reward shows up through the action itself, or through a perk you give yourself after taking your daily step toward your goal. Immediate rewards are important to keep motivation high and will increase the odds of your success.
Lack of Support. When a goal is a secret, no one knows if you haven’t done it. With habit changes, having a cheering squad or a team of people on the same path will sustain your commitment Community matters. Instead of going it alone, find companions who keep you motivated, who you can motivate and with whom you can share the glory.
So, take these factors into consideration and challenge yourself to some realistic resolutions this year. Here are questions and suggestions that can get you on your way.
First off, What? What exactly are you doing? Is your resolution simply a theme or is there a concrete action you can take from this statement? If you can pull a specific task that can be completed, you are more than half way there.
Then How? How will you do this action? If you don’t have a how, the resolution is a pie in the sky. Pick a method of action – if it doesn’t work, that’s okay! Regroup and try again. Trying is part of doing.
Who? Who will be part of assisting your decisions & actions? Begin by enlisting them as part of your goal. Do you have anyone to whom you are accountable to? Can you ask for their support and encouragement?
When? When do you plan on doing these actions, and when do you plan on assessing your efforts toward your goals? Give yourself a schedule and some lead time for a longer term evaluation of your goals and efforts.
Where? Where do these actions occur? Does this require prior organization? And if so perhaps sourcing the specific tools to proceed can be the realistic resolution.
Why? Why are you doing this? Big picture perspective will give you purpose and setting up desirable incentives for incremental progress will create motivation. You need both the big why and the small why.
Sit down with the resolutions you’ve already made and put them to the test. Ask yourself these questions and you might discover that you are better off with fewer, but more achievable resolutions. Banking on goals within your grasp will help you conquer the broken resolution repeat. Resolve to keep your resolutions!
Thara Vayali is a Naturopathic Doctor & Yoga Teacher in Vancouver and is also a UBC alumnus. She is obsessed with intestinal and immune health, hormones, and pain-free bodies. She is the creator of Change Natural Medicine: Budget conscious, membership based health consulting.