What is the difference between a New Year's resolution that sticks past January and one that doesn't? Have you ever wanted to change but felt like change was just too difficult and the thought of attempting something new was completely overwhelming? You're not alone. For many people, change is difficult even when logically it makes sense and even has tangible benefits. So what is the formula for successful change?
On paper the formula for successful change seems simple: set a goal and a time frame, change your behavior and - voila! A new you!
Could this work? Yes, but for most people it is a bit more laborious than that. When I speak with people about a change they say they want to make, the conversation is much more detailed than, 'What do you want to be different?' Most often the first few questions are: How would this be helpful for you? What are the benefits and drawbacks of change vs. staying the same? What has been holding you back from making this change? And is this something you want to do or is it something you feel you should do? Very often, teasing out the issues related to change can be very revealing for the individual. Self-awareness and honesty are the key factors in the first stages of change.
Once you have decided this change is something you really want to do, the next questions are: What is the time frame for this change? Is that time frame realistic and is this goal really doable or do adjustments need to be made? For example, if you are not a morning person but set a goal of getting up every day at 5:30 a.m. to run three to five miles starting tomorrow - and you haven't run in at least a year and there have been few occasions your feet have hit the floor that early in the morning for any reason - you might be setting yourself up for failure. Is the goal to be a morning person or to run or both? Have you ever been able to get up at 5:30 AM and run? And if so, how were you able to do that? If you are not a morning person, would it be easier to begin running in the evening if the goal is to run? Or if the goal is to get up earlier, what time do you get up in the morning now? And would it be easier to start getting up one hour earlier rather than two hours earlier? By adjusting your goals to make them more attainable, you will be able to build on your successes, which creates the internal momentum to keep going.
TIME magazine reported on Dec. 30, 2013, that only 8 percent of people who make New Year's resolutions keep them. Additionally, the 92 percent who do not keep their resolutions often give up within the first seven to 10 days of January. So if you find yourself within that 92 percent, instead of giving up, take a look at that goal again. Ask yourself some of these questions and see if there is way to get back on track and be part of the 8 percent. The reward is achieving your goal! And keeping the promises you make to yourself increases self-esteem and the likelihood of successful change again in the future. It's a win-win situation.
Ultimately, you can reinvent yourself as many times as you like during your lifetime. Embracing change and evolving as you live your life keeps you in the game. Don't give up! It might not be easy but it is possible.
Dawn Wever is a licensed mental health counselor and has worked in the Behavioral Health Care industry for six years. She has presented at state wide conferences on issues related to mental health and substance abuse and provides mental health trainings for professionals. Additional resources and information can be found on her website at http://dawnweverlmhc.com.