Keeping Resolutions Beyond the New Year

Why we start with force and go out with a fizzle… 

As the calendar turned to the new year, we envisioned a fresh start and thought about what we would like to do differently in 2022.  Resolutions are often made at this time.  The new year brings an opportunity to abandon old habits and commit to the improvements we would like to see. We might want to improve professionally or personally. Maybe we think about paying more attention to our physical or mental health.  Whatever the change we desire, having a vision of what that change will look like is usually what motivates us to take the first step.

When a resolution is centered on our health, it often involves a new diet or exercise program.  We might vow to practice mindfulness, or take more time to do the things we enjoy.  Regardless of the behavior we choose to adopt, we first have to eliminate one or more automatic behaviors that are part of our routine.

It is for this reason that after we follow a new regimen for a few weeks, most of us reach a “fading point”.  It may start by missing a workout or two, or by gradually drifting away from a new diet plan.  No matter the trigger, we eventually become too bored or too busy, and find we are not nearly as motivated as we were on January 1st.

Why does our enthusiasm to adopt a new habit fade so quickly? 

Here’s why we might start with force and end with a fizzle…

We Need the Right Kind of Motivation

When the desire to make a change comes from an inner yearning to achieve a certain goal, you are more likely to achieve it. For example, if a doctor advises a patient to lose ten pounds or eat less sugar, the instruction might seem simple. Advice given by a doctor for health reasons is usually enough to motivate us. However, if the individual receiving this advice does not connect it to a personal value or something important to them or their lifestyle, (i.e., having a job that requires physical stamina or the desire to stay active with age) then the likelihood of maintaining the change is going to be low. Having intrinsic motivation can be a powerful motivating factor in getting a desired result.

Thinking Too Big or Too Many

It is common for many people who make resolutions to commit to many changes at once.  Although it is admirable to want to improve ourselves, being overly ambitious often results in unrealistic goals that are difficult to achieve. An example of setting the bar too high would be trying to run five miles a day after being sedentary for three weeks. Or, cutting every carbohydrate from your diet (including carrots and bananas because they rank high on the glycemic index), and signing up for a thirty minute meditation class five times a week.  Being overly enthusiastic and impatient often precludes us from setting manageable goals that fit into our lifestyle. 

Smaller goals like cutting all added sugars, walking for twenty minutes two to three times a week, or meditating five minutes a day might not sound like much, but starting with little steps creates a much higher likelihood of achieving (and maintaining) commitments that you can build on later.

We Need a Contingency Plan

Similar to creating realistic goals, we have to plan for interruptions when trying to work on a new goal.  Just one unforeseen event can easily throw us off track.  This is why it is important to consider any possible roadblocks or obstacles when planning your new regimen.  Even small disruptions can easily get in the way of planning.  Having a “plan B” in place helps to prepare for anytime a new routine or schedule might not work.  For example, if you miss a jog you had scheduled with a friend, you can follow an exercise app instead. Or, if you wind up working late on an evening you designated for self-care, you should have another day penciled in as an alternative.  This simple step will prevent the feeling of failure to meet goals, and allows some “mental flexibility” by realizing you are not locked into one way of achieving them.

Having Someone to be Accountable to

Some of us prefer to have a partner when taking on new activities. It can be more fun, and it’s nice to have support when navigating new territory.  Still, many of us prefer to take on new challenges by ourselves and not complicate the effort by involving another person. Either way works – but staying motivated is easier when you have someone to check in with. Sharing our progress with a partner, spouse, or friend gives us someone to be accountable to.  Having someone who can make sure we stay on the road we set out to drive on gives us the support we need if we veer off.  If there is not a person who you feel you can count on, you can also consider working with a coach.  Having a Fitness Trainer, Nutritionist, or Health Coach will not only provide support and accountability, but will help guide you with suggestions and resources to keep you motivated.

So, as you continue to envision your goals for this year, and what things you would like to improve, try not to put too much emphasis on resolutions. Instead, commit to making a realistic plan with small goals, and have the support you need in place to ensure long lasting change. 

If you are considering making changes in your life to improve your health and well-being, it may not be difficult to start a new regimen, but it is often difficult to maintain it.  A Health Coach can help you outline a plan to benefit your health, and more importantly, support and guide you while maintaining it.

Contact MAP 2 Wellness to learn more about Health Coaching and our wellness related services.

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