Even after three decades in the field, I am astounded by the messages I get mid-January full of disappointment, even shame, that the firm, passionate resolutions made just days earlier have already become broken promises.
Well, guess what? Eighty percent of new year’s resolutions are broken by February. We come off the highs of the holiday season, full of motivation. We resolve to swap eggnog for lemon water, stem Black Friday inspired overspending and recommit to the gym we signed up for last January. But these grandiose plans dissolve to the lure of snooze buttons and Super Bowl nachos.
Why does this happen to so many of us?
One answer is that many resolutions are responses to something in ourselves that we think is broken, something messed up or shameful. “Resolving” refers to fixing a problem. And while we certainly do solve problems and conclude unwanted behaviors, we never fully finish. We are in a continual process of growing healthier and stronger or becoming weaker and more fragile. And when we look at this as a constant set of problems then we must constantly re-solve them. It’s the reason many people set the same new year’s resolutions year after year.
Resolutions often fail for many of the same reasons other wellness programs fail:
We focus on outcomes.
We do too much, too fast.
We lack accountability.
We forget why we started.
This is not a powerful way to inspire. What does inspire is looking at our lives and finding what is working. Taking the lessons we have learned and using them as a framework for growth. What works is honoring our deeply rooted drive to evolve. To evolve means to change or develop slowly, often into a better or more advanced state. Evolution is neverending. It is sustainable. It is steeped in the natural ebb and flow of our lives and allows us to create a wellness practice that supports us, forgives us and can grow with us.
A wellness program steeped in the power of evolution is almost certain to get the results we are after:
Focus on behaviors.
Clarify goals. “I want to be healthier” becomes “I want to lower my blood pressure.” Then list the behaviors that will get you there. Maybe, “I will eat three servings of vegetables daily.” Or, “I will schedule three 20 minute walks this week.” Start with the day you are in. What can you do today that will move you closer to your goal?
Take baby steps.
Choose one of the behaviors you’ve identified and scale it down to a micro-habit. Exercise for example. Let’s use a universally helpful move, the deep squat. Start with a cue that will remind you to do your behavior. Something you already do everyday. Like, getting out of bed. Add the habit. “When I get out of bed in the morning I will do one deep squat.” Then comes the magic part; reward yourself immediately. It sounds silly but it works! Squat, then pat yourself on the back (literally!) and say out loud, “Good job.” Choose any action and exclamation. Snapping or slapping your thigh. “I’m awesome!” “Way to go!” “You rock.” Anything will work as long as it’s tactile, out loud and immediate. Five days in a row and I promise it will be tough to keep yourself from squatting that sixth day. Use that same formula for adding exercises or another habit.
Ask for help.
Find a crew. A friend, co-worker or family member makes a wonderful accountability buddy. Evolving may seem tedious or daunting alone. Meeting goals with a friend makes it more enticing. If you know someone is expecting you to bring roasted cauliflower and chickpeas for lunch, you are not as likely to settle for a less nutritionally powerful option. Knowing someone is waiting at the park to walk with you makes it infinitely more likely you will show up at the park!
Define your “Why”.
Ask yourself, “Why did you choose these resolutions?” To look better? Do more? To own a bigger house? There is no wrong answer. The key is, keep questioning to the root. Want to lose weight to feel better? Ask why that is important. What do you miss when you are not well? These answers will get you to your deeper “why.” Find it, write it down and put it somewhere you will see it every day. This is your beacon.
Resolutions may be a fun part of your tradition. And if they don’t send you into a shame spiral come February, hurray! But if you are more like the 80 percent; choose one simple behavior, remind yourself why you chose it, practice it daily, share it with your crew and let’s EVOLVE through the new year and beyond.
Wishing you wellness in 2020.
Erika Taylor is a community wellness instigator at Taylored Fitness, the original online wellness mentoring system. Taylored Fitness believes that everyone can discover small changes in order to make themselves and their communities more vibrant, and that it is only possible to do our best work in the world if we make a daily commitment to our health. Visit facebook.com/erika.taylor.303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.