"Every year I try to make New Year’s resolutions and can never stick with them. How can I actually stick with my New Year’s resolutions?"
So this is – it’s so funny that I got this question because it has come up a ton in a bunch of my sessions with my coaching and therapy clients recently.
What I see a lot of times and this happens to me too, I do it to myself a lot, is we make a resolution or we have like a goal or thing we want to change about ourselves and we will like have this idea of how we are going to do it and then we don’t stick to it and we beat ourselves up and we come to the conclusion that the way to make this change is to be like stricter with ourselves, to treat ourselves like a petulant child, to like really force or find some way to force ourselves to actually do it this time.
And I think that the underlying assumption in that approach is that we are lazy and we are not doing it for bad reasons or for no reason and if we could just stop being so lazy and stop being so immature and actually stick with something then everything will be fine.
And I think that that assumption is often wrong.
I think that a lot of the times the reason we don’t stick with the change is because it is genuinely hard and we have not made it easy enough for ourselves to stick with it.
What if instead our approach to this was, okay, every year I make this resolution that I’m going to for instance, do more fitness the next year, and every year, I’m successful for about a month, two months maybe, maybe three, and then it falls off?
So what if it is falling off good reason?
What if I am quitting for a good, valid reason?
What would make it easier for me?
If we come at it from that angle, it makes it much, much, much simple to figure out how to make lasting change because number one, it takes us out of shame cycle.
When we are in this space of saying that like we just need to be more strict with ourselves, we need to be more on top of our habits, we have to be less lazy, less terrible, right?
If we come and step from a place of like, “Okay, this is just generally hard so how can I make it easier?” it gives us a lot more space to look at what is it that we want from this thing we are trying to change or be or do.
And how can we set ourselves up for success around it rather trying to like force ourselves into submission to following through on it?
So if what you want to do is do more fitness things in the New Year, what would make that easy for you?
For me, I’m the kind of person where if I’m supposed to be meeting a person somewhere, I am far more likely to do a thing than if I’m supposed to do it on my own.
So like finding things where I have a friend who I’m going to go on walks with or I have a friend who I’m going to go to a dance class with.
Having something that creates that social connection and social accountability helps it be much easier for me to follow through on those things.
Maybe it’s about having a regular calendar item that happens every week, and that makes it easier for you.
Maybe it’s that the fitness stuff you’ve been trying isn’t actually fun for you, it’s not enjoyable or pleasurable and so when you try to keep doing it, it just still feels bad, maybe there’s a different kind of movement where fitness or activity that’s going to feel better for you.
So I think again, coming from this lens of if I have been unsuccessful at this new habit or new way of doing things in the past, I was unsuccessful for a good reason so how can I make it easier?
I think that makes it feels so much lighter in terms of thinking about making a change, which then makes it feel like something that we get to do rather than something we have to do.
Most of us inside of us have at least some small part of us that loves to just be a little bit contrary that wants to like push back and be a little rebellious.
And so as soon as we get to this place of, “I have to X, I have to X, I’ve decided I’m going to X, it’s bad if I don’t X,” all we are going to do is keep pushing against it and going down that shame spiral and building up resentment towards ourselves and guilt and that’s not going to help us make that change.
So instead if we say, “Okay, so I said I was going to train for a marathon, I got through about 4 runs and then just stopped doing it, does this mean that like running is not for me? Was I running too long? Was I running in the wrong conditions? Do I need a running buddy? Would it be easier if I had a really great podcast that I could listen to? Would it be easier if I join a running club?”
Finding the thing that will make it easier rather than finding a way to like force yourself into it I think is a much more successful approach.