According to James Prochaska, Ph.D. and Head of Psychology at the University of Kingston, the average person makes the same New Year’s Resolutions for three years in a row before they finally achieve them. The three main reason people don’t stick to their resolutions are: 1) They don’t have enough knowledge and/or skill, 2) They revert back to their former habits, and 3) They don’t have enough desire.
As we all know, habits are often deeply ingrained and very difficult to break. “We need three things in order to change habits,” says Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. “These are knowledge, skill and desire.”
Most people head their resolution list with “get in shape” and/or “lose weight,” so let’s use this as an example. By February, most of these people will have fallen off the resolution wagon and onto larger clothing sizes and a profound sense of failure. This is mainly because they didn’t have enough knowledge, skill or desire. They also may have missed one or more of the five most important factors below.
1. The Lord of the Rings
Prochaska found that the first and most important factor in permanent change was social support. Studies show that people stay more motivated when working in groups or teams. So your first job is to find a group of people to connect with who share your goal. If you read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, you’ll recall that the Fellowship of the Ring was a team consisting of hobbits, humans, a dwarf, a wizard and an elf. Each of these species used different strengths to help save Middle Earth. When it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, you, too, need a Fellowship. As Tolkien’s story suggests, the key to success is teaming up with a variety of people with different skill sets and styles.
As in the example of diet and fitness, social support be achieved through OA (overeaters anonymous), Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig or other such programs, hiring a personal trainer, getting a diet or exercise buddy, joining an online forum, hiring a personal coach or other helping professional. It also helps to get a role model. One is Bethenny Frankel who created the Skinny Girl brand and has written at least four books on this subject. Another is Dr. Mehmet Oz, who has his own T.V. show and has written at least six books on this subject. Another is Bob Greene, Oprah’s Diet and Fitness guru, who has written at least eight books on this subject.
Some of your fellows may prefer a structured diet program, some may prefer an exercise program, and still others may prefer both. Your fellowship can be in person, by phone, email, Internet group, a gym, or any type of structured program with regular contact. Your team can include friends, family, teammates, a personal trainer, motivational coach, etc.
2. Intention and Commitment
The next most important factor is making a commitment to permanent, lifestyle change. The main reason it’s so hard to maintain change is that people are creatures of habit. Habits are very hard to break. So your goal cannot be a temporary one – you have to commit to PERMANENT changes. Your commitment needs to spring from your desire and intention. Your desire needs to be strong enough to endure adversity and setbacks. Your intention needs to be foremost in your mind. You’ll need to get some TOUGH LOVE for yourself. Remind yourself that no one has ever been successful at anything being lazy, wimpy and weak. Yes, this takes SELF DISCIPLINE, and you’re going to need to muster up all the inner strength, self control and perseverance you possibly can. You’re going to have to make this a MUST. You must MUSTER UP a MUST.
3. Make Sure You’re Ready
Each person is at a different motivational stage. Motivational levels change from time to time, season to season, year to year. It really doesn’t matter if you start your Resolutions in January or in June. What matters is that you are READY. You have to come to a place where you are FED UP with the way things were. No matter what your Resolutions are, you can achieve them, but you’re going to need to light a fire under yourself and keep that fire burning. If you can’t light your own fire or keep it burning, then get someone else help you.
4. Create a Plan
The next most important factor is creating a PLAN, and having environmental control around your plan. It doesn’t matter so much what your plan is, only that you can stick to it. There are lots of great plans out there, just do an Internet search and you’ll find one that works for you. The best types of plans are those that provide structure, guidance and reinforcement. You’re going to need to make some changes in your environment and your routine. You must be very strict with yourself and your environment. You may need to stay away from certain people, places or activities until you feel you can maintain self-control.
5. Keep a Journal
Your plan should include a daily journal. At the front of the journal will be your Resolution, with sub-goals, tasks and timelines. Each morning, write your goals for the day in your journal. Each evening, check off the goals you accomplished, and modify or refresh your plan for the next day. Your journal is a very powerful motivator. It helps keep you on track, reminds you of your intention and commitment, shows you how far you’ve come, and assists you in rewarding yourself for your progress. Slowly but surely, you will see yourself improving. The path to goal achievement is never a straight and easy one. You will have setbacks and roadblocks along the way. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep moving forward!