Who is sick of New Year’s Resolutions?? Me! I am! Ugh! The worst, right?
The way we typically go about New Year’s Resolutions just doesn’t work…we truly refuse to take into account how our brains work when we set out with our intentions.
Here’s the truth: our brains are actually wired up to avoid abrupt change, and isn’t this pretty much the definition of a New Year’s Resolution??
Because your brain sees sameness as safety, that is, your brain wants you to keep doing every single thing that you do now no matter how bad it is for you simply because it’s what you have always done and you’ve lived through it, so that’s good enough for your brain! What would be best for you or what would make you most happy is irrelevant to your brain. Survival is your brain’s job and it is obsessed with it.
So, your brain actually sees any new behavior as dangerous regardless of how good it is for you or how happy you would be if you could pull it off. Since it has been hanging out with you your whole life, it knows just what to say to get you to stop…and go back to the same ole same ole.
There are some cool ways to get past this and this is what my counseling practice is all about. But let’s just start here…
What is “The New Year’s Resolutionist’s Mistake”?
It’s actually a series of mistakes based on the inflexible promises that we make to ourselves to begin (and continue forever!) a new behavior some “magical day.” This involves abrupt and drastic change relying solely on willpower to achieve instantaneous results and uses guilt, shame and punishment when we falter.
This won’t work…well, at least not for long.
It’s time to ask yourself, do you want perfect change for the first few weeks of January or life-long change that becomes so normal you don’t even need to think about it anymore??
Here’s the thing, nothing magical happens on January 1st. It’s just a regular day…nothing happens on this day that isn’t available to you every other day of the year. Every day, actually every moment is an opportunity to change.
If you follow me, you know that I will tell you that the most important thing that you need to do before you change a thing is to feel GOOD. Not bad. If you feel bad about what you want to change, your brain will interpret this as something that you hate and avoid it like the plague.
So, using this mentality, let’s take one baby step toward a new way to think about a new year.
The most annoying thing about a New Year’s Resolution is that it starts at the goal. This almost never works! “On January first, I am magically changed…I run for 45 minutes, four times a week…blah blah blah, While you fantasize about spontaneous change, meanwhile, your brain is thinking, “Uh, no. Not happening.”
Let’s turn this around so you feel good about what you are working on rather than feeling bad about what you aren’t doing right now.
Try this: Sometime at the end of January or the beginning of February, maybe even on Friday (whaaaaaaaaat??). Any old time that you decide that you want, make a list:
- By the end of 2019 I want:
- To have tried:
- To have visited:
- To have experienced:
Then, move backward through the year…if Disney is on the list, maybe there are money saving goals, a date that you put on the calendar to buy a plane ticket, whatever…you can always change your plan, but you need a plan first and always.
I have a trillion things to say about this and it takes everything I have to keep this short and sweet and not drone on for hundreds of pages…so, I will leave you with just this place to start.
The breakdown of the New Year’s Resolutionist’s Mistake:
The assumption that something magical happens on January 1
Starts at the goal
Uses immeasurable goals.
Changing many behaviors at once rather than in succession.
It relies on willpower alone.
Uses guilt, shame and thought-punishment for when we falter (which contributes to what I call “Southern Hospitality Syndrome” I’ll cover this in the next newsletter!)
No planning, or contemplating allowed.
Goals are inflexible with expectations of perfection
Vowing that our behaviors will be daily or associated with some assigned weekly number, e.g., 3 x a week, etc. (don’t vow to do anything every single day unless it’s biological:)
Ignores your true self and the possibility of a lovely journey in changing for good.
How to avoid a New Year’s Resolutionist’s Mistake:
Change the way that you think…about change.
Let the end of the year be your goal.
Challenge yourself to start any old time.
Be flexible with a plan: make a plan but one that is open to revisions.
Plan, contemplate, consider your new role and ease into it.
Focus on the successes.
Be kind to YOU. Being hard on yourself does NOT work.
Is a meditation practice on your list of 2019 goals???
Much love and light,
Much Love and Light to You,
CHERI AUGUSTINE FLAKE, LCSW The Stress Therapist Cheri@TheStressTherapist.com www.TheStressTherapist.com Phone: 404-610-1780 Author of From Honey Do to Honey DONE!