The fact that it’s January doesn’t make the behavior change process any easier than it is in June, so let’s not fool ourselves into thinking there is some magic about New Year Resolutions.
If you want to make real change this year, you’ll need to face some facts about the process.
(By the way if this sounds a bit curmudgeon-ly, it might help to know that I’m talking to myself and bringing you along, so I don’t have to do it alone.)
We are not so different just because I have an (unbreakable) exercise habit and you don’t. I might be physically fit (although I could always do better), but you might have a really organized desk or an organized life or a balanced checkbook or great discipline around carbohydrates – none of which I have. And if you don’t have any of those things, I’m sure you can think of SOMEthing.
I have important changes to make this year, one of which is to cultivate a writing regimen. This might not sound like a big deal to you, but it’s really important to me, for my own personal reasons. And I’ve “wanted” to do it for a long time, yet I haven’t figured out how to incorporate it into my life on a regular basis.
It’s not that I don’t know how to write, or even that I can’t write well. It’s that I haven’t figured out how to bring forth all my ideas in the way I envision them. I get overwhelmed with organizing the task, preserving the time to do it, overcoming obstacles (mostly electronic media), and staying clear on what I’m aiming for with my writing.
So I enlisted help. I resisted the idea of paying for something I think I know how to do. But I finally decided that if I couldn’t get it done myself after more than a year of trying, it’s probably not happening without an intervention.
I needed not only the expertise but the accountability – someone who would not only show me where to start and how to structure my projects, but who would also keep me on task, hold me to my own promises to myself, help me launch this new habit.
Sound familiar? These are many of the reasons people seek MY help!
The process I’m embarking on with my writing coach has made me even more sensitive to the challenges of making any change – whether it’s getting more physical activity, establishing a meditation practice, trying to get to bed earlier, eat healthier, spend more time with loved ones, stay on a budget or write a freakin’ blog.
If lasting changes were easy, we wouldn’t all be struggling with them. If you truly want your New Year resolve to last, here are some things to keep in mind:
Experts say simplify the process – “chunk it down,” is a phrase you hear a lot these days. As in, when you’re faced with a big project, “chunk it down” into manageable pieces, which you can think of as individual, manageable steps toward the bigger goal. Then take a step at a time.
(Supportive side note: I know this makes sense, and it does work. But I find the act of deconstructing a project into bite-size pieces requires a level of detail that leads me to a straightjacket, which is why I sought help.)
Set reasonable goals. It’s UNreasonable to think that if you haven’t been getting any regular exercise for a long time that on January 2nd you’ll suddenly start, every day, to walk/run/bike/swim/zumba/yoga etc.
Pick one, maybe two, days next each week and decide what kind of activity you’ll get on those days. This doesn’t preclude you from working your way up to a daily habit; it’s a place to start. Make these 1 or 2 activities relatively convenient, things you’ll look forward to. That way, you can do one of the other important things in the change process, which is:
Celebrate. Every. little. win. We need some accomplishments under our belts to keep us going. And one way to reach a goal is to make it attainable in the first place. Did you go to a gym and take a look around to explore the possibility of going there? That counts! Did you schedule a lunchtime walk with a co-worker? Score! Did you research online yoga offerings, local jazzercise classes or maybe dancing events. Cha-ching for you! Every step in the direction of improving your health counts, so don’t cheat yourself out of the credit.
Enlist support – professionals, loved ones, coworkers, friends, chocolate (did I say that?) – or all of these! Support systems are a proven factor in people’s success with behavior change.
Expect bumps in the road, and learn from them. There will be interference. You will miss a day you were planning on. Sometimes the interference is something you can’t control. Sometimes you could have done something differently, so you’ll learn from that. There’s no way around this part, so resist the urge to declare failure and give up. Recognize the bumps as part of learning to make your new habit a life-long change.
I can tell my coach is excited about helping me. She knows what I’m struggling with and what to do. She’s worked with others having the same challenges, and I look forward to learning from her.
But mostly I’m learning from my own trial and error, with seeming emphasis on error. Which reminds me of the thing my coach keeps telling me and I often say to my clients: Be kind to yourself. You are doing big work!
So let’s do it together.
What are you changing this year? And how will you do it?