Don’t have a good track record with keeping your New Year’s Resolutions? You’re not alone, not by a long shot. If only change was as easy as simply deciding to do or not to do something. In reality, our brains are much more complex than that. Studies show 90% of New Year’s Resolutions fail. Once more for the people in the back:
Resolutions Do Not Work
Turns out, the way most of us approach change is fundamentally wrong. Here are 10 common mistakes, and what to do instead:
Common mistake #1: Focussing on flaws.
What do instead: Give yourself more credit.
We all have flaws — real and imagined — and we tend to focus in on them at New Year’s. No one resolves to change good habits or fix the things they like about themselves. Because of this, we tend to approach change from a point of lack. The problem is, having a scarcity mentality holds us back. Instead, you can approach change from a place of abundance by reflecting on all the things that make you awesome and all the things you’ve already succeeded at. You’ll be in a much better mindset to succeed some more.
Common mistake #2: Doing something because you think you should.
What to do instead: Check your motivations.
We all have moments of doubt. Does this scenario sound familiar? You’re a confirmed night owl who reads an article about 10 highly successful people who wake up at 5am. You instantly feel like less than for getting up any later than that and wish you were different. Now, if the article mentioned that a sampling of 10 people is not statistically significant, that there are also disadvantages to being an early bird, and that when we naturally go to sleep and wake up is largely based on genetics, you’d realize there’s no one-size-fits-all right way of being or doing. Before you set your sights on something, double-check its right for you.
Common mistake #3: Aiming too high.
What to do instead: Start small, like really small.
We all dream big. Go big or go home — right! But life is hard and our brains do not love change. If you want to add something new to the mix, make it really really ridiculously easy on yourself. Like, so easy you can’t not do it. Break something into small enough pieces and you can accomplish anything.
Common mistake #4: Trying to do everything at once.
What you can do instead: Focus on one thing at a time.
We all have a lot we want to do. But when faced with so many options, we freeze and end up doing nothing. It’s called the paradox of choice. The important thing is to just make a choice. Choose something (anything!), but make that something one thing. Only when it becomes second nature should you move on to the next thing. Over time, little changes add up to big changes.
Common mistake #5: Not changing your environment.
What to do instead: Set yourself up for success.
We’re all products of our environment. It’s often our environment that triggers bad habits. Think about it, if you keep your phone by your bed, chances are you’re going to look at it first thing in the morning. Set yourself up for success by tweaking your set up a little. In this example, get yourself an old-fashioned alarm clock and charge your phone as far away as you can bear.
Common mistake #6: Getting overwhelmed by the idea of forever.
What you can do instead: Live one day at a time.
We all struggle with commitment in one area or another. Thinking about doing something (or not doing something) forever is downright daunting. Stop fretting and start living one day at a time. Don’t think about tomorrow until it comes. All you need is to muster enough willpower to make it through one day, not the rest of your life.
Common mistake #7: Focussing on what you want to achieve.
What you can do instead: Focus on why you want to achieve it.
We all lose steam from time to time. If you want to stay motivated, stop focussing on what you want to achieve and start reminding yourself why you really want to achieve it. When you’re connected with your why, you’re far more likely to succeed.
Common mistake #8: Giving up at the first sign of failure.
What you can do instead: Anticipate bumps in the road.
We’re only human. If we strive for perfection, we’ll always fall short. Life inevitably happens and gets in the way of our best intentions. When it does, and you veer off course, be kind and patient with yourself and commit to trying again now, not next New Year’s.
Common mistake #9: Going through the motions.
What you can do instead: Create a ritual.
We’re creatures of habit. Once we create a habit, our brains hold on to it for dear life. Rituals are what turn behaviors into habits. If you’re just going through the motions everyday, it’s not going to stick. Create a ritual by simply bringing more mindfulness to what you’re doing and observing the positive ways it makes you feel. Soon enough, you’ll start to look forward to it everyday and it will become second nature.
Common mistake #10: Fixating on results.
What you can do instead: Celebrate small victories along the way.
We all like achieving our goals. But what if our goal is a moving target or can’t ever truly be reached? It’s important to celebrate small victories along the way, so you don’t get discouraged and give up. Take a minute to stop and feel proud of yourself and remind yourself that establishing a good habit is the hardest part. You’ll get a little dopamine hit, which will encourage you to keep going.
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