Every New Year’s Day begins with the promise of a fresh start. You’ve thought about what’s important to you and created a plan for how you can create more of what you really want in your life. Well, two months into the year, how’s it going for you?
If you’re like most people, you may have started off strong and resolute, but then life got in the way, and well, those changes just didn’t stick. Or maybe after so many years of that experience, you are one of the many who doesn’t even bother to make resolutions anymore.
It is possible to make the life changes you are hoping for without putting yourself through the anguish of making yourself wrong when setbacks occur. You don’t have to let a temporary challenge turn into a complete failure!
What to watch out for
As you create actions toward your new extraordinary goals, one of the biggest obstacles you’ll run into is overcoming your default actions. You know, those things you do when you are on automatic, such as: habitual behavior, situational reactions, and persistent complaints.
Why is overcoming your default the biggest obstacle to your new goals? Because your brain likes those automatic actions. They’re comfortable.
But to accomplish new goals means making new choices and taking new actions.
Why is this so challenging?
Try this quick exercise:
- Clasp your hands together in front of you, interlocking your fingers.
- Notice which thumb is on top.
- Now, keeping your fingers tightly clasped, switch your thumbs.
- Notice how you FEEL. Really notice. Sit with it for a minute. The longer you hold it, the more uncomfortable it is. You want to, maybe even HAVE to, switch your thumbs back to your default position.
Consider this: If in this simple, meaningless exercise you experienced such a drastic pull to your default, imagine how difficult it might be when you are taking new actions toward something important to you or when you’re under stress!
So what’s the solution?
Simply put, the solution is to become comfortable with the uncomfortable. When things start to feel awkward take a deep breath. When you have doubting thoughts, answer them with optimistic ones. When you are just plain stuck, reach out to someone you can count on.
Remember that uncomfortable doesn’t mean you have to stop. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong. It is only your brain warning you that you haven’t done this before. And isn’t that the whole point?
And then, most importantly, practice, practice, practice compassion for yourself. Be patient. Be understanding. Allow room for setbacks and failures.
Imagine if your friend said, “I’ve been trying to eat healthier, but today I just couldn’t stop myself from having dessert.”
Now imagine your response,”You lazy jerk! You just aren’t trying hard enough. I knew you couldn’t do it. You might as well give up. You are going to be a fat pig the rest of your life!”
My guess is that you would not say such mean and nasty things to your friend. You wouldn’t even think them. You would respond with kindness, support, understanding, and maybe even some ideas about how they could try something different next time. “It’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up! You have been doing great. One dessert is not going to matter. Maybe if you don’t like how it feels, next time try drinking a big glass of water first, and you’ll be so full that dessert won’t even sound appealing!”
Learn to be your own friend. Show yourself compassion and catch yourself when you are not being so nice in your own head. Stop playing those old tracks of self-loathing and start creating new ones of appreciation, gratitude and love.
With this new mindset, failed resolutions will become an obsolete concept. You’ll be on your way to making all the changes you want to make, and you’ll make them as you are ready, feeling loved and nurtured along the way. And however long it takes, you’ll feel good about the way you are honoring yourself, honoring your goals and giving priority to the things that are important to you through the process.