Alright, I know this may be a little early, but I think with New Years resolutions, some mindset preparation is required. 🙂
Let’s be honest, we all have done it! We get all pumped up for the New Year to begin because that is when we are going to, once and for all, kick our bad habits to the curb and replace them with habits that will change our lives for the better. We are dancing with excitement with triumphant music playing in the background, feeling confident this year is going to be different from the previous years! Then it happens…it all comes to a screeching halt, we find ourselves right back to where we started, wondering to ourselves, “how did I get back to this place!” We do this over and over and over again! How do we get off this crazy merry go round?!
Let me start out by explaining why our resolutions don’t stick:
- Neurons that fire together, wire together! We all have habits, good and bad, we all have habits and routines we regularly do. As we repeat our mental and physical habits, the stronger and bigger our neural pathways become. The stronger and bigger our neural pathways become, the easier and more automatic things are for us! This is wonderful news for our good habits, but not such great news for our bad habits; there is hope nonetheless! When making changes, we are literally rewiring our brains, which, unfortunately, does not happen overnight. Building new neuro pathways is like hacking new trains in the jungle. This is where patience and self-compassion are required! When things take “too long,” our inner critic loves to chime in and convince us “we are not doing enough,” “it is taking too long,” and therefore, I (the inner critic) am throwing the towel in and going back to my old habits! Research states it takes around 180 days to drop an old habit and adopt a new one. Remember, everyone is different, so this may vary from person to person.
- Self-doubt and self-criticism spike when we try to make changes in our lives, and especially when we make progress! As one of my mentors, Dr. Michael Aroloski, has said, “one of the greatest ways that we “dis-empower” ourselves is by allowing the inner-critic to rule” and that “operation out of fear is that part of us that vehemently holds us to the status quo and fights change, even if it is good for us!” I cannot express to you how very true this is! As I think back to recent changes I have made in my life, changes that have greatly affected my life in more ways than I could have ever imagined, there were points where I most certainly wanted to “throw the towel in,” and just give up, but I didn’t! I didn’t give up because I knew fear was trying to control me and I made the conscious decision, through support, faith and guidance, to override the inner critic…and it worked:) Knowing that self-doubt and fear are there when trying to do something good for yourself is more than half the battle!
- We have billions of neurofeedback loops trying to keep us at status quo! That is inspiring, right?:) Our minds are wired to stay in our comfort zone, and that is ok! The amazing part of this is that even though we are wired in certain ways, it does not mean we must stay the same! Just because there are parts of us that do not want change, it does not mean change cannot happen! Change can happen, it just takes some preparation, time, dedication, self-compassion and conscious decision making to the job done.:)
Ok, so it is clear that our minds like to be in the comfort zone, but how do we shake things up?
Here are the 5 Steps to Make your New Years Resolutions Stick and Stay!
- This may be obvious, but be very clear and specific on what your New Years Resolution is and what your life will look like once you have “made it to the other side” 🙂
- Be aware of where you are within the Prochaska’s Stages of Change (See below). Often, when we want to make the change, we assume we create the goal and then take action. There can be a lot that needs to happen before the “action stage!” Here are the stages; you decide which one you are in. 🙂
- Precontemplation Stage: No thought of changing or intention of changing.
- Contemplation Stage: You are thinking about changing and at the same time, you feel ambivalent. Here is a tip with this stage, when in doubt, don’t act.
- Preparation Stage: You are getting ready to change. You are gathering information about topics and/or resources such as different physical activities you could participate in or doing research on different eating plans that best meet your needs. Other preparation steps may include removing temptations, planning on how the action will be taken, arranging support and understanding from family, friends and perhaps a support group. When arranging substitutes for the missed habit, activity or substance, beware of substituting a new problem (over-eating, over spending), for the old. Last, don’t stay in this stage for too long! The part of us that wants to hold us back from change can keep us here for a long time!
- Action Stage: The stage most of us picture – actual practice of the new way of being.
- Maintenance Stage: The actual process of maintaining the action that has been taken. The stages of Change Model is a spiral model, meaning it is frequent for people to attempt a change and then spiral back into earlier stages. Being prepared to recognize a lapse and take immediate action can save you from going back and staying back!
(Source for Prochaska’s Stages of Change: Change for Good by J. Prochaska, J. Norcross and C. DiClemente, published by William Morrow and Co. Inc, 1992 and the Real Balance Global Wellness Services Training Manual by Dr. Michael Arloski)
- Create mini goals based on the Prochaska stage you are in. If you are in the preparation stage, allow yourself to explore, learn and prepare, so you feel confident moving into the next stage! Be sure your “mini goals” are on track with your long-term goal / New Years Resolution. Also, be sure the goals will challenge you but not overwhelm you, cause you to freeze, shut down and have you return to your old default behaviors.
- As you are going through the change process, journal, journal,
journal! When making changes, our inner critic shows up in full force. Journaling will allow you to reflect on your behavior and thoughts without obsessing about them. Awareness is the first step. Without awareness, change cannot happen. After journaling and learning of your blocks, limiting beliefs and self-sabotage, ask yourself, “How does this serve my health and well-being?” and “What am I getting out of staying the same?” (Source Real Balance Global Wellness Services Training Manual by Dr. Michael Arloski)
- Celebrate your successes! We are programmed to judge ourselves! Let’s create new neuropathways by focusing on all that we have accomplished vs. our failures.:)
- Bring out your potential of being who you are and not what you think you should be! (I know this is over 5 steps, but the ideas keep coming:)) Let me clarify. Often, for example, when trying to lose weight, we have an image of how we think we should look that was sold by the media and culture. It may be very unrealistic and even unhealthy for us to replicate the images we see in social media today. Be whom you ought to be and discover who you truly are vs. trying to look a certain way because media has said to do so. I have many exercises on how to love your body, but that will be covered in another article. J (Source Real Balance Global Wellness Services Training Manual by Dr. Michael Arloski)
- Remember, taking care of yourself is NOT selfish! Often, we help others, and we do little for ourselves. That is because we have been taught that self-care is selfish instead of self-full. Often, what I see when coaching clients is that they will have amazing results, feel good but then backslide. The reason they go backward is because they don’t feel comfortable feeling good! They have a limiting belief that if they are feeling good and taking care of themselves, somehow, they are being Allow yourself to feel good and give yourself permission to take loving actions for yourself; this will help you get to where you want to go! (Source Real Balance Global Wellness Services Training Manual by Dr. Michael Arloski)
- Finally, never forget to H.A.L.T! This is a tool from the addictions field. As you become more and more aware of when your inner critic is in full effect, stop and ask yourself…am I: Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? If the answer is yes to any of the above, then HALT! Stop the inner critic, move into self-compassion and ask yourself what you need at that very moment, and take loving care of yourself. If you allow the inner critic to push you forward when you are not in the place to do so, you will end up taking action that is not in the best interest of you.
As I always say, this is not a full and complete list! I always love hearing from you and the things you have done to help you become successful! My hope and intention of writing this article is to help you prepare for your New Year Resolutions and to encourage you to take a different approach this year than previous years! I know it is a little early, but as we know, the neuropathways need some time to change! Getting in the right mindset now will better prepare us for the amazing changes to come!
Ronda Stevens, MA, LMFT, Holistic Coach