It’s February and if you’re like many, you’re probably wondering what happened to that New Year’s resolution. While most had good intentions of joining a gym, losing weight or even quitting smoking, the majority of us never made it out of the gate! Instead, we simply embrace the guilt and vow to do better next year.So, why do we experience so much difficulty when it comes to sticking with our resolutions? It varies, but perhaps one answer is that our goals are just too unrealistic and are often based on what we see others achieve. You know the scenarios; a reality show contestant loses 10 pounds in a week or learns to dance like a professional in six months. This kind of radical transformation may appear to be the norm but the truth is-it’s not. Change is difficult and rarely accomplished with quick fixes. The reality is that we’re better off taking small steps that can lead to long term success.
It may help to re-frame the way we think about the changes we wish to make. Instead of looking outward at what everyone else is doing, try spending some time being quiet and become mindful of your wants and desires. At first, this process can seem strange and maybe even a bit difficult- because stillness and quiet have a tendency to bring up thoughts and emotions that were once masked with noise. But when we get “real” with ourselves we can begin to ask questions like:
- Am I happy with the way my life is going?
- What parts of myself have I been ignoring, neglecting or denying?
- What do I need to let go of? What behaviors are no longer working for me?
- What would my life be like if I weren’t comparing it with someone else’s expectations?
- What makes my heart “sing”?
Instead of working toward a quick solution, perhaps it would help to think of the big picture. For example: let’s suppose you want to lose 50 pounds. It’s tempting to focus on losing all of the weight up front. You’ll likely make some good decisions along the way; maybe you’ll skip dessert or purchase a new pair of running shoes. Perhaps you forgo your morning latte and head to the gym after work. These are all great decisions that demonstrate a desire to work toward the big picture. But are these steps consistent?
What if instead, you focused you energy on just a few things? In other words, instead of attempting “random acts of wellness” try focusing you energy on having dessert two times per week instead of the usual five. You could even commit to getting to the gym 3 times each week instead of whenever the mood hits you.
The point is that it’s easy to get overwhelmed when we try to do it all at once. Why not focus your energy on just a few specific actions that can be accomplished today? Over the long haul, these changes will make a difference. Shorter term goals, when done consistently, will add up to long term success.
It’s all in the timing:
Once you decide on some short-terms goals that work for you, you’ll need to determine whether it makes sense to set a specific time-frame. It’s important at this point to give thought to your personal situation. Forget what you saw some celebrity do on television! What is appropriate for that person may not be for you. You may find that some goals work well with a pre-determined time-frame, while others do not. For example, if your goal is to regularly attend a recovery support group, it probably makes sense to determine a date or specific day of the week that you’ll go. However, if your goal is to get a job it probably doesn’t make sense to commit to a time- frame, since there are many factors outside of your control. It’s probably more realistic to set a deadline around writing a resume because you can control the likelihood that you’ll complete it. However you decide to handle the issue, just be careful not to fall into the “immediate gratification” trap. “I need to lose 20 pounds by the end of the month” is just not realistic!
Goals are challenging! But improving overall wellness can and should be done by taking small steps that add up to “big picture” changes. Mindful perseverance can be the best way to reach long term goals. Be patient with yourself. Change is not instantaneous, but once accomplished it can be extremely rewarding.
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