I don't have to tell you this, new year's resolutions are hard. Just before the start of a new year there's enormous optimism in the air. We all have big dreams, we think about all the potential we have and the things we could achieve. And how we will finally, next year, become a better version of ourselves. If we only could make a new year's resolution that sticks, this year would be different.
Despite all the good intentions, most early January resolutions don't take us very far. The problem may not be our will power or but perhaps how we formulate what we want.
Firstly, most people tend to start with what's wrong with them. "I'm overweight." or "I drink too much wine." or "I'm a bad mother." or "I don't get anything done." So you've already pulled yourself down even before the year has even started! It's never a good idea to start from a position of weakness, not least when you want to make positive changes.
The second mistake is to focus on the end goal. "I want to lose 25kg." or "I will never drink wine again." or "I will be a perfect mother this year." I used to make this kind of promises and held myself accountable to strict rules I knew deep down in my heart I was going to break anyway. All I got as a result was some self loathing.
We make extreme promises that are based on a very negative view of ourselves and an elusive goal of perfection.
What has changed for me that I've become more realistic and kinder to myself over the years. I know myself better and I accept my flaws. This doesn't mean I don't want to improve, but I know I'm enough even if I don't.
I've also worked on my new year's resolutions over the years and I've watched how the most successful DrivenWoman members create change that sticks. This is what I've learned.
1) Don't focus on a problem
In my last week's post I discussed the difficulty with unrealistic expectations. When we compare ourselves to our dream situation we are always lacking. So it might be a good idea not to focus on a problem and compare it to your dream solution.
If you want to lose weight, by comparing your current weight, say 80kg to what you think is your ideal weight, say 65kg, you will simply make yourself miserable on a daily basis. You will be 'lacking' for weeks and months to come, and will lose interest and will-power to get to your goal simply because the amount of negativity you have created during the first months of the year.
Focus on a process instead. What small steps will over time change the outcome? Rather than thinking you must lose 15kg, try doing one sugar free day per week, for instance.
2) Start from a positive
I always try to build on what I think was good about this year. I'm happy how 2015 went for me. I improved - note improved, not perfected! - on all of the areas I said was going to work on this year.
If you think you would like to be more productive, for instance, try to think of a project or an idea that you have been able to push forward and you have enjoyed doing. Can you build on those experiences? Is there something you are doing well that you could do more off?
Personal growth plans are better when based on what makes us happy rather than on things we don't like about ourselves. If you focus on adding more of the positive, you will have to get rid of some of the negative.
3) Think who your resolutions are for
If your main goal is to achieve more, for instance, try to see if you are serving yourself or your ego? Many goals relating to traditional success measurements (bigger tittle, faster cars or more Facebook followers) can stem from our need to look successful.
You are enough as you are and shouldn't really need to make resolutions. But the journey finding your 'truth', your authentic self, is long, I've discovered, and at least for the time being I'm using this opportunity of a new year - a new beginning - to see how I can use more of what I have, and who I am.
This is my favourite step, and it really has worked wonders for me! I tend to give myself three 'themes' for the year rather than resolutions. These are areas for improvement, learning and growth. This means that if I become even slightly better in these areas I can pat myself on the back. It's not about being soft and lazy, but about being realistic and kind.
Examples of my 'concepts' include 'Connect' (= improve my network and meet new people), 'Accept' (= understand life's natural flow and stop pushing too hard) and 'Think Big' (= be brave to dream big). Here, you can find my concepts for 2015 and 2014.
Setting these themes will allow you to focus on a couple of areas of personal growth at the time. You can set new concepts next year.
5) Give yourself time
It's a resolution for a year, right? Not for a week! I'm not the only one who falls back to my old habits already in January, but don't tell me I'm the only one who keeps trying all year?
I try not to beat myself up but to think instead that, if I fail, it was my first attempt, and then give it another go. I have the whole year to improve, the rest of my life, really. But seriously, it's a bit silly that just because you emptied that jar of biscuits on the 5th of January the resolution about living a little healthier is thrown out of the window.
Good luck girls. Be positive and supportive to yourself. Be your best cheerleader this year. Make a New Year's resolution that sticks, it's a great tool for personal growth.
Ah, and what are my resolutions for 2016 then? I'll tell you all about them next week :).
If you want to make your New Year's Resolutions stick and generally become better in creating positive habits join one of our Introduction evenings in London or Helsinki.