Resolution Revival How many times have you made a New Year's resolution to exercise more, stop smoking, or write your book and then broken your resolution by February? Dr. Fiore explains why we fail at keeping resolutions and how to improve your odds of succeeding. BY DR. NEIL FIORE
Break the cycle of breaking your resolution
Why do I always break my New Year's Resolutions?
Ah, the New Year. A time to start fresh, right?
Sitting with your spouse, the two of you make New Year's resolutions as another chance to improve. But making a resolution can sometimes be like wishing upon a star; it doesn't involve making a real commitment to the daily effort involved in changing. Then it happens. The resolution is broken because you are just passively wishing for change and not committing to making it happen. Your brain wants the goal, but you haven't told it when and where to start each day and what to do.
If you truly want change in your life, consider the consequences of continuing with your same patterns for another year: gain another ten pounds, spend more money on a gym membership that you barely use, and hear more complaints from your spouse how you’ve given up.
Then consider the pros and cons of making small changes that could improve your health, your energy and your life.
Start by creating a 3-dimensional plan that can be spread out over the next few weeks or even months of what you will actually do each day to stick to a resolution. Only make resolutions that can fit into your current schedule and that you can start on immediately.
Break your resolution into doable steps. If you want to lose 10 pounds, know how you'll increase your exercise—today. Plan to change your shopping habits by buying more fruit, vegetables and whole grains to replace more fattening foods.
Identify those times of stress when you're most likely to grab for candy or bum a cigarette. Identify the words, thoughts and feelings that lead to continuing your negative pattern. Identify the pessimistic and cruel inner critic voices that say, "Yes, but I tried that and it didn't work. What if I fail again?"
Prepare for these stressors and voices by having in place corrective actions that keep you on the path to achieving your goals and resolutions. For example, have slices of apple and oranges available; replace "I deserve a break" with "I've had plenty" or "food is no longer the solution to every problem" or "I'm strong enough to deal with my feelings" instead of saying, "Eat this, drink this, smoke this and shut up."
Do a mental rehearsal of breaking your resolution and then bouncing back from your set-back. Know what you will do and say when you slip. Know how you will recover and maintain your commitment 30 to 60 days from now when stress or difficult events tempt your brain to offer you your "favorite" and "default" methods of coping.
When you make your New Year's resolutions, increase your chances of keeping them by committing to continue with your plan even if it becomes difficult, even if you slip, and even if you lose confidence. This is not just a passive wish, but an active plan for success. Happy New Year!
Neil Fiore, PhD is a psychologist, coach, speaker, and author of Awaken Your Strongest Self: Break Free of Stress, Inner Conflict, and Self-Sabotage [McGraw-Hill, 2006]. For more about Neil's latest book, free tips and articles, and his motivational newsletter, go to www.neilfiore.com.