Why is it that we have to keep re-setting goals and making new resolutions each year? They are frequently the same resolutions that you set last year, or the year before.
Well, the truth is, New Year´s resolutions have a lot of flaws and they will never work for that very reason.
New Year´s Resolutions Go Against The Way Habits Are Built.
Habits are formed when actions are tied to a trigger by consistent repetition so that when the trigger happens, you have an automatic urge to do the action. Leo Babauta
When you make a resolution you essentially are saying, “I will change my habits today once and for all”. Sometimes that approach works if you have made the decision deep down in your heart; otherwise you are just setting yourself up for failure, since generally, building habits takes time.
Resolutions Call To Deprivation
Normally it is hard to quit something, whatever you want to change or stop doing, because of the sense of deprivation that you naturally feel. So if you decide on Dec 31st that you won´t eat chocolates any more, I will bet you any amount of money that you will crave them now, even more than before.
Deprivation of something makes you crave it even more!
I am sure that has happened to you, when you know you won´t be able to have or eat something particular then you automatically crave it more. For example there are these delicious chocolates we buy when we are in Mexico (we travel back and forth Mexico-Canada), and I might not eat them at all while I am there even if it is for a long stay, but the moment I know that I will go back to Canada and I won´t be back for months, then I really crave them and if I have them, I will eat lots of them.
Here are three reasons why we crave what we can´t have:
- Intense attention: When something is hard to get or forbidden, your attention to that thing increases and often becomes intensely directed towards that thing that is out of reach.
- Perceived scarcity: When we perceive something as scarce or limited availability, its value to us increases.
- Psychological Reactance: People generally don’t like to be told what to do! We especially don’t like to be told what we can or cannot have or do, especially if we feel unfairly treated.
They Bring Fear Of Failure
When we feel the fever of the New Year coming, we feel that we can eat the world in one bite, but sometimes we set goals that go way out of our comfort zone and we are not sure we can achieve them. Basically, we lack hope that we will ever really succeed, and the disappointment that we will face won´t make it worth even trying it.
Again, it is important to remember that habits are built overtime and that you need to pay the price of the process even though that process might not be that exciting. For example, thinking about having a very hot and sexy body (the end result) is a sexy and exciting goal, but working out every day even when we don´t feel like it (the small goals) is not as sexy and exciting, right? Yet those small goals are the ones that will allow you to achieve your end result the ultimate goal.
In order to overcome this fear of failure, it is key to start small, and make the habit enjoyable rather than a chore. Success builds success. That is the only real way to build confidence in yourself making you realize that you are capable of making changes and sticking to new habits.
Jeff Olson explains in his Slight Edge book how the little changes that don´t seem to matter make all the difference.
The Slight Edge
To understand patience; to understand that little steps, compounded, do make a difference. That the things you do every single day, the things that don’t look dramatic, that don’t even look like they matter, do matter. That they not only make a difference—they make all the difference… Jeff Olson
Habits And Deservedness
Feeling undeserving creates resistance to positive change. If you don´t feel you deserve to be fit and healthy, you will never workout enough to achieve that goal.
Think about this, has this ever happened to you? You have a disappointment, something happened at work, with your spouse or kids, you are upset. You have been eating healthy for the past few weeks, but now you feel that it does not matter, that it is pointless to go through the struggle if nobody really cares.
When we are feeling emotionally down we question whether we deserve to have something better, then we stop working towards our goals. Achieving a goal is hard work, you need to step out of your comfort zone and do something you are not used to, on top of that, you feel you don´t deserve the end result (the sexy and exciting final goal), so why bother going through the pain and struggle of working on the everyday little goals that you need for that bigger goal.
No matter how much you want to achieve your New Year´s Resolutions, if you don´t believe you deserve achieving that goal, it just won´t happen.
Actions Are Consequences Of Your Self-Image
Building lasting habits requires some internal work, since habits depend on your self-image. That is why putting a lot of weight into the resolutions that we make on Dec 31st is kind of unrealistic. It won´t magically happen simply by declaring that we want to achieve something. It takes a lot more than that to build lasting habits.
If you are the type of person that sees himself as a person that never misses work no matter what, then even when you don´t feel 100%, you will go to work. In some way it is more painful for you not to go to work than the discomfort you might experience because you are sick.
On the other hand, if someone considers himself as a sick and not very strong person, then he will go to bed at any small sign of discomfort.
Your behaviors are a reflection of your current self-image, either consciously or unconsciously.
This applies to anything in life including fitness, wealth, relationships, etc.
So, in order to create habits it is important to become in your mind (your self-image) the person that is capable of sticking to the habits that will bring you to your final goal. Basically, you must see yourself as a person capable and deserving of what you want to achieve.
Work on your emotions and limiting beliefs and discover what might be the hidden reward that is keeping you where you are. Jessica Ortner teaches you how to do the internal work necessary in order to permanently achieve an optimally healthy weight. She addresses emotions and limiting beliefs and gives you tools to overcome what is holding you back. Learn more here.
Habits Take You Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Yes, it is New Year´s Eve, you are so pumped up and excited, it is a new beginning, time to have a fresh start, but all of that motivation lasts only until the first obstacle comes along, which it will.
Now it is important to consider that by definition, new habits take us out of our comfort zone, and that in itself is a huge obstacle that stops us from sticking to, or even starting, a new habit. This applies not only to the final big habit, the end result you want to achieve for example “losing weight”, this also applies to all of the different little habits that you have to build in order to lose weight.
Even the smallest things will take you out of your comfort zone, from reading the nutrition labels of the products you buy, if you have never really done that, to buying different brands of foods if they are healthier, etc. Now imagine more challenging tasks like avoiding certain foods, cooking in a different way, or even exercising on a regular basis.
Even further, if we consider also that you need to see yourself in a different way, (changing your self-image), well then the big goal of “losing weight” becomes a very challenging task.
That´s why it is very important not to focus on the end result as a goal per se. What you will need to work on consistently is building the habits that lead you toward achieving your goal. This might look like setting out your exercise clothes the night before, so that you have them ready in the morning, or looking for healthier brands of foods. Again that end result is exciting, so it should be the motivator to keep you going, but it is not the goal you will work on daily. You will work on “daily habit building” in order to achieve that goal.
Habits Require Willpower
Willpower is like a muscle, it gets fatigued from overuse but also it can be strengthened over time by exercising it. With this in mind, it is important to understand that normally, first thing in the morning, your willpower is recharged, and as the day goes by you willpower will be diminished.
This suggests that it is a lot better to start your day by doing the most important and challenging tasks that you need to do, leaving the easiest ones for the end of the day.
For instance, for some people working out is a task in their “to do list”, so they would rather do it first thing in the morning.
In my case, I prefer making phone calls, studying, writing or doing any other activity that requires my full concentration or inspiration early in the day. On the other hand, for me working out is relaxing, it´s time for myself, so that´s why I enjoy it better in the late evening.
Now, keep in mind that if I was training for something like a competition, my time could be different, like when I was training for the Dragon Boat Festival in Vancouver B.C., my time to work out was during the morning. This was because that training was not relaxing, but a challenging, although exciting, activity.
On the other hand, you will lose self-control as your will power is depleted.
It is important to understand that it is not just the hours of the day that depletes your will power, but all the things that have happened during the day. Making decisions, being under stressful situations, dealing with complaints either from your clients, your kids or anybody else´s, working on a project that requires lots of concentration, or even being tired, hungry, or low blood sugar.
All of this means that you will surrender to temptations a lot easier. It makes sticking to a habit very challenging, if you have not built the habit over time. That´s why it is unrealistic to expect to have new habits just by making a declaration in your New Year´s Resolutions.
Psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and The New York Times science writer John Tierney, explain in their “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength” book how self-control and willpower work.
“Willpower” shares lessons on how to focus our strength, resist temptation, and redirect our lives. It teaches us how to set realistic goals, monitor our progress and keep faith when things get hard. All of that through understanding the importance of self-control.
Final Thoughts, Why New Year´s Resolutions Don´t Work:
I am not against making New Year Resolutions. I think it is great to pause and think about what we want in life or what we would like to change, and for many people, the New Year is a good time for that.
My point is that the realization of what we want, or the things we would like to change, or the intention of making those changes, in other words, our resolutions, won´t create a real lasting change or new habits. It is the little decisions, activities and changes we do every day that will.
Although it is sexy to consider as a goal that you will lose 20 pounds this coming year, which is an exciting dream to go after, you should focus on the daily decisions and activities that you need to do in order to achieve that.
Now remember, we are the product of our self-image, so even before focusing on the daily activities that will allow us to achieve any goal, we should understand what is blocking us internally (unconsciously) so we don´t sabotage our efforts.
In this webinar that Jessica Ortner has created, you can understand how these blocks apply to your health and weight loss efforts, but I must say that those emotional blocks also affect all areas of your life. Watch the webinar here.
What about you? Do you make New Year resolutions? Do you stick to them?
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By Carina Franco yoursimplehealthylife.com