The New Year has come and a great many of us are still riding the motivational high of the promise of change and improvement emphasized by this new start. After a few weeks, days, or even hours, that high will die down and our to-do lists, micromanaged schedules, gym memberships, produce drawer, and daily journals will be thrown on the back-burner. We’ll do this once, twice, and completely forget our new year’s resolutions and abandon all hope and all effort towards achieving what we felt so excited and inspired to do.
A major problematic aspect of this trend is intensity. It’s quite easy to pump ourselves up and get excited about new goals- the inspiration feels real and extreme. Yet this feeling quickly fades and the motivation doesn’t last because that level of intensity is (for most of us) unsustainable.
Just like nothing drastic really happens at the turn on the second hand carrying us from one year to the other, we can’t really expect a drastic change from ourselves. In order for permanent change to occur, it must be sustainable change and we must implement do-able and sustainable techniques to allow this change to become our new normal. Growth is much easier and much more achievable when it is down slowly and steadily. We have to give ourselves many chances to acclimate to our desired heights. Are you compromising yourself by not allowing this to happen?
Your Goals Are Unrealistic
I don’t mean to promote a self limiting belief, but we have to be honest with ourselves and where we’re at. If you haven’t touched a pair of running shoes and have been eating frozen dinners, then your goal of adopting a 5k a day running regime and eating only boiled chicken and lettuce is a pretty unrealistic goal. This goal is unrealistic because you are expecting a huge change of yourself whilst skipping the small steps that help stabilize a foundation that allows permanent change to occur. This is like standing at the bottom of a step of stairs having never exercised in your life and expecting yourself to jump a vertical high enough to clear an entire flight of steps. What is more realistic, gentle, and honest is the goal to reach the first step, get comfortable with that, and then jump to the second, the third, and so on.
Dreaming of your new life as a fit superhuman is great, but don’t skimp out on the smaller steps that secure your place at the top. Take the time to break down your goals and give yourself ample time. Implement one small change during comfortably placed increments and work with that schedule. Your small change should challenge you a bit, but it should be doable enough that you can easily adopt it after a bit of effort. Exchange salad for bread one week. Only eat dessert three times a week the next week, drop it down to only twice in 2 weeks. Don’t torture yourself by carrying a weight so heavy it brings you to your knees. Be gentle and firm- sustainable change is a balancing act that requires a great deal of patience.
Your Goals Are Blind and You’re Doing It For Wrong Reasons
Having goals is integral to growth but what is even more essential is understanding why you are pursuing your goals. If you blindly set goals without really taking the time to examine yourself and why that goal is important enough for you to pursue, then the goal is most likely meaningless. Meaningless goals offer no authentic inspiration.
Think about your goal. Why do you want to pursue that goal? How do you think you will feel when you achieve that goal? Are you trying to impress someone by achieving that goal or are you doing it for your own self benefit? Are you pursuing this goal because you want to work towards positive change or is the fuel for your goal made up of negative self criticisms and self hate?
Goals that are fueled by negativity usually result in negativity and that means that the process will be unhappy which makes it harder to achieve. If you do achieve your goal, you won’t be happy anyways. Don’t let yourself use negativity as a fuel. Find positive, self loving reasons to pursue this goal. Don’t do it because you’re ashamed, you’re angry, you’re jealous, or you need a reason to be proud. Do it because it will make your life better, it will make your life more enjoyable, it helps you experience fun, it makes you feel good.
For example, you might want to lose weight and become ridiculously attractive because you want to make your ex-partner jealous and you hold a grudge against fit, slim people. You might pick up a gym membership and start working out, but while working out you might see people more fit than you and think angry, begrudging thoughts towards them. You’ll spend half of your workout comparing yourself to others. You might go to the grocery store and stock up on produce, and you might see another fitter person buying less healthy produce and you might spend a great deal of your shopping time criticizing them. You might lose weight and get fitter, and when you go out you might judge other people who you deem pathetic because they’re too lazy to work out. You might see your ex out and about with a new date and you might make a fool of yourself trying to show off, expecting your ex to break down at the sight of your possible chiseled glory. This won’t make you happy, this makes you contemptuous. This contempt is created because instead of changing for yourself, you pursue change due to an external source of motivation.
Happiness is internal, so how can you expect to be happy and bring about happy change when you are looking for it in the external?
Your Beliefs Cause Resistance
Maybe you don’t believe in yourself. Maybe you think change has to be painful and excruciating. Maybe you don’t believe you deserve to get that promotion, or find that beautiful relationship, or wear that new dress 2 sizes smaller than your current. Maybe deep down you associate high earning jobs with greed, fit people with shallowness, happy relationships with fantasy.
These beliefs limit you. In order to release these beliefs, you must find them in yourself which requires self examination and self exploration. You must ask yourself why you believe this and then tell yourself it isn’t necessarily true. You must allow yourself to believe new beliefs more conducive to your goals.
You Don’t Forgive Yourself and You Have Coping Mechanisms Because of This
We all make mistakes and we all have moments where our will power is less than ideal. This is okay and normal and you need to be able to forgive yourself and refocus yourself so that you come back to alignment with your goal instead of spiraling into a state of abandon and regret.
Sometimes instead of forgiving ourselves, we do not allow ourselves to feel through the shame or guilt or embarrassment something we’ve done has caused us. At the first sign of that feeling, instead of paying attention to it and observing it, we reach for something to cover it up. Check yourself the next time you start thinking of a mistake you’ve made or something unpleasant you haven’t quite gotten over. Do you reach for food, a cigarette, your phone? What are your coping mechanisms and how are they limiting you?
Or you could go the other way and completely surrender to those feelings and thoughts that make you feel bad. You keep feeding the fire by recalling other times you’ve made mistakes or feel you’ve been wronged. You get angry, sad, depressed. You might feel it to such an extent that you no longer see a point in your goals. This is also a coping mechanism that keeps you from having to grow and be vulnerable and expose yourself to new pains because you haven’t gotten over old pains.You subconsciously choose to suffer because it is easier and it is comfortable. Be aware.
Adopt New Habits
Change is really about adopting new habits that replace old ones.Change can be doable and even enjoyable. Start small and start slow. Work your way up. Be gentle with yourself. Understand yourself. Be honest and open with yourself. Do research, write in your journal, explore different view points and perspectives. Enjoy the process and use your inner guidance. Question why your inner guidance works the way it does. Practice appreciation and patience and tell yourself it’s possible and probable.
Happy new years. Be unstoppable.