By J. Douglas Roill
Once each year, tradition allows us to take pause and create a conscious effort to make some positive behavioral changes in our lives, affectionately referred to as the New Year’s resolution!
New Year’s resolutions are traditionally promises made to one’s self — a positive affirmation or future vision of one’s self — on New Year’s Day. The results of various surveys revealed that approximately 66 to 70 percent of adults make New Year’s resolutions, but only 17 to 22 percent keep them. Research that looked at success rates of people’s resolutions found that the first two to four weeks usually go fairly well, but by February people are already questioning their ability to succeed because they may not be meeting their own expectations.
Other reasons people do not achieve their resolutions include but are not limited to:
- Not taking the necessary step to break down their vision of their better self into smaller goals or take smaller steps.
- Not being successful in the past setting similar type goals. When a person fails to achieve positive affirmations, this can erode their self-worth. This can result in giving up and going back to old habits. Their self-efficacy, the ability to reach similar goals in the future, also suffers.
- They want to change but are just not ready to do so.
- They do not have a plan on how they will reach their vision.
- Not identifying potential barriers that could get in the way and a not having a plan to mitigate these barriers.
- It is more painful (uncomfortable) to change than to stay the way they are. “We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.” – Henry Cloud
It’s never too late or too early to create a vision of one’s self. If you find that the New Year has arrived before you have planned your resolution, then break tradition and resolve to set aside a week or even two to work on your resolution in the first or last weeks of January. Research shows that taking time to think through the implementation of a resolution increases the likelihood of achieving success. Take your time, and by the middle of January, you may have a resolution that will change your life.
Reflecting back on the past year is an excellent way to clear the path for the New Year. Reflection allows us to let go of the restraints that can hold us back and build our strategies to move forward based on the strengths associated with our accomplishments. The benefits of this end of the year review offer us “lessons learned” from those situations that may not have turned out as we might have hoped, and those that did.
Here are 20 reflection questions to clear a path for New Year’s resolutions and make a difference in your life:
- What were my resolutions or goals for 2017?
- What were my most significant accomplishments for 2017 of which I am most proud?
- Now, what is one more? (There is always room for one more.)
- What are the actions I took or process I followed to achieve these accomplishments?
- What strengths did I tap into to be able to take these actions (determination, ability to focus, resources, faith, spiritual beliefs, a good support system, etc.)?
- How can I apply these strengths to move forward in 2018?
- What did I intend to do in 2017 that did not go as well as expected?
- What were the biggest challenges or barriers I faced in 2017 that contributed to not accomplishing everything I wanted or that I overcame?
- How did I deal with each of these barriers?
- Where do I get my strength from to overcome barriers?
- How have I grown from these accomplishments and challenges?
- What am I most grateful for as I reflect back?
- What have I learned?
- Who are my greatest supporters or support systems that I can rely on as I move forward?
- How can I show my gratitude and appreciation to those who have supported me?
- What would I like to be different in the upcoming year – what do I envision?
- What would it feel like to experience this difference?
- What am I willing to do to make this change a reality?
- What barriers do I anticipate and what strategies can I put in place to overcome these barriers?
- What is the first step I need to take to get closer to my goal?
Ask anyone what their New Year’s resolutions are (current or past), and chances are you will hear one or more of the following: to lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking, eat healthier, relax more, spend more time with my family or friends, get a job, or stick to a budget.
These are all very good intentions, positive affirmations, future visions and sound commitments — but not necessarily well-defined, achievable actions that will yield results. Specific intentions such as, “lose 10 pounds”, “increase my inner core strength,” or “get a full-time job in the next three months,” are more defined.
Intentions are stronger yet when written in terms of what you “will” do rather than what you “want” to do. For example, “I will exercise more this year!” is stronger than, “I would like to exercise more this year,” or “I am trying to exercise more this year.” An even stronger vision statement might sound like this: “I am consistently engaged in a planned exercise program that exceeds the national recommendations so I can maintain my strength and endurance, which will allow me to participate in active sports with my family and friends.”
- Break your vision down into smaller SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic and Time-specific.) For example: “I will go to the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday this week, after work, and before I go home, and the time I will devote will be 45 minutes of aerobic cycling class with my friend Sally followed by 15 minutes of strength building on the functional machines.”
- Write down your goals.
- Post them where they can be easily seen.
- Record your progress in a journal.
- Verify your vision every 90 days, and check in with your goals monthly to assure they are still valid.
- Update them if there is a change or you reach your goals early.
- Share your goals with family and close friends to gain their support and accountability.
J Douglas Roill, D.Mgt., RDN, is a Registered Dietitian and Health Coach. Douglas and his wife Bonnie Roill own Scottsdale-based B3 Nutrition. Bonnie, also a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Health and Wellness Coach, and a Hormone Support Coach, helps women upgrade their digestive and hormonal health, resulting in easier weight management by providing programs for individuals and groups, including the “21 Day Clean Eating Detox Jumpstart” program. Visit b3nutrition.com or contact Bonnie at (480) 242-9217 for more details.