I don’t mean to sound like Miss Grumpy Pants at such a festive time of year, but hear me out. I don’t like New Years Resolutions, and I’ve stopped making them. People make them because they want to better themselves, which is all good and lovely. But it may be a little trickier than that. Change is hard. If it was simple, we would have changed by now.
1. Change Takes Time
Sometimes, for some people, change just takes some time. If you’re one of those quit-cold-turkey people and it works for you, then you’re a rare breed. Keep doing what you’re doing. But for most of us, big changes like quitting smoking, losing weight or vowing to be a happier person doesn’t just happen overnight.
I have found that quickly or haphazardly making life-long decisions ends up in failure. As Dr. Leo and Bob discuss in “What About Bob?”, sometimes we need to take baby steps in life.
A few years back when I started this website, I decided that I really wanted to start laying off bread and pasta. But the difference between this resolution is that I wanted to make this a long-term, life-long change. I didn’t want to stop eating carbs all together, but I wanted to stop buying it at the store. This change wasn’t overnight. Gradually, over the course of several months, I stopped buying 1 carb at a time. I would continue buying pasta, bagels and tortillas (and not feel guilty for it), but I would stop buying bread loaves. A few months later, I would stop buying bagels, but continue buying pasta and tortillas. So on and so forth. After 2 years, I’ll still eat bread if I’m in a restaurant or if it’s offered to me, but I’ve stopped buying filler carbs all together.
So take your time, and don’t hate yourself if you fail. That self-resentment can easily spiral out of control and cause you to discard your long-term resolution all together.
2. Change Requires Genuine Desire
If we’re honest with each other, I’d be willing to bet that many resolutions are made out of peer pressure. Have you heard this before? “You should really stop smoking. Maybe that could be your resolution!” or maybe, “I want us to have a garden and eat locally this year. Let’s make that our resolution!”
Long-term change can’t be decided for you. It has to come from within, and it has to be genuine. Faking the desire to change is just a bandaid on a gaping wound. Think of something bad that you used to do that you don’t do anymore. Here’s one from me: Letting myself buy 1 bad thing at the grocery store to make shopping fun. The was immature and did nothing but made me feel guilty after consuming it, so I stopped. No one knew my bad habit but me and probably wouldn’t have judged me if they did, but I just wanted to stop. ME. I wanted to stop.
3. Change Must Be Realistic
Jumping on the latest diet trends and vowing to lose 50 pounds in 3 months may not be the most realistic decision of your life. Buying a house by the end of the year while working a part-time job at McDonalds may not really work out for you.
Do your homework. What will it realistically take for you to make these changes? It’s safe and realistic to lose up to 1-2 pounds per week, unless you’re on speed or something. So do the math! What’s realistic?
On my idea board, I want to write 2 books, record a CD, finish about 15 websites, make several video commercials and a few iPhone apps. All of that on top of a full-time job and a freelance business. Uh. Yeah. I never said this had to be done in 2013, but they’re things I want to do someday. Consider writing down 1 or a few changes you want to make and post it somewhere in your house.
4. Change Isn’t Ruled by the Calendar
Real, long-term change doesn’t need to be ruled by the days of the year. If you’re convicted of something you need to change about yourself in the middle of July, then start changing in the middle of July. Change doesn’t magically appear at the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve.
I think more often than not, this has to be a GUT thing. I see so many people make resolutions on New Years Eve, then start slipping in early February, and by March, they’re back to their old ways and they’ve forgotten their resolution already. Usually, people feel so guilty about slipping so soon into the game, they’ve lost confidence in themselves that they have the capability of making real change.
5. Change Needs Boundaries
Before you make these changes, decide how much grace you ought to give yourself and specify exactly what you want to achieve. You say you want to get in better shape. So, are you promising yourself that you will work out 6 times a week for 30 minutes a day, or deciding to do something physically active every single day, even if it’s dropping on the floor and doing 50 crunches before bed?
Maybe you’d like to stop drinking so much. Well, be specific. Is your goal to stop getting drunk every night or to not have a single sip of alcohol for the rest of your life? Maybe it’s to not have more than 1 drink per evening. Decide on your boundaries and stick to them, no matter what.
6. Change May Need Accountability
Some minor changes in life may be a personal thing. You’d like to start getting out of bed after the 1st alarm (I have 4 every morning. Sigh.) These types of small changes may not necessarily require help.
However, some major life changes may need a little accountability. Find a group of friends, a spouse, or whoever you feel comfortable with, and tell them the change you’re trying to make. Consider sharing your resolutions, and really make a point to keep each other accountable ALL YEAR LONG. If you decide to hold each other accountable, don’t take this lightly. Go out of your way to ask each other on a regular basis how your changes are coming along.
The bible talks about letting each other “carry our own loads”. Some changes may not require help. Think of these changes like carrying a backpack.
But a few verses later, it also says that we should help “bear one another’s burdens”. Think of these changes like carrying a boulder. Some changes need accountability and help from others. Don’t be embarrassed by asking for help.
7. Change Can Be Simple
I know a guy who makes one small resolution every year. Just one. And not life-changing earth-shattering resolutions either. Change can be simple and small. But the important thing is that you’re trying. You’re progressing and moving, even if it’s seemingly unimportant to others.
If you suck at keeping promises to yourself (like me), consider starting small this year. The catch is, though, that if you’re going to keep it small, you’ve really gotta nail this one. Stick with it all year long and/or forever. You may need to start with small victories before tackling the big ones. And that’s okay.