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A new year is upon us! And, with it typically comes new motivation, new aspirations, and new goals. Often, it’s the time to set those new year’s resolutions into motion. And, it feels easy, inspired, and attainable at first…you’re going to the gym every day, sticking to the new budget, avoiding those dreaded carbs, and whatever else you’ve set your sights on as the methods to create the “new and improved” you. Then, somewhere at around the 3-week mark, things begin to go sideways. You lose your momentum, possibly hit a plateau on the scale, fall off from hitting the gym, and decide to throw it all out the window because, well, you’ve already failed so why bother. Sound familiar?! It likely does as most of us have been on this cycle of insanity for many new year initiations. How do we break the cycle then and find success?
First, let’s talk about the word “resolutions”. As a confidence and empowerment coach, I caution against the use of disempowering language. To “resolve” to do something, or be “resolute” in your effort might sound completely positive but it can often set people up for sabotage. It has a force energy to it and could set perfectionistic types up for failure because of their tendency toward obsessing over a final outcome versus being process and journey oriented. You see, a perfectionist has an “all or nothing” mentality so the moment they “fall off” of the high-achieving (and usually unrealistic) goals they’ve set for themselves, they throw it all out the window. This can also be the case for others – not just those wearing the perfectionist label.
Subconsciously, “resolutions” send a signal to your brain that you have to force and push yourself to achieve these goals, and study after study already shows that willpower alone can only be temporarily maintained. This is because it’s externally motivated versus coming from within by addressing the emotional triggers that are linked to your self-image – which is how you view yourself.
Maxwell Maltz describes the self-image as a movie in which you are the writer, director, and starring actor in the motion picture. It’s how you evaluate yourself and your own “objective truth”. And we actually make up the majority of this self-perspective. You have the power to make up whatever content that movie reflects on the screen. I always tell my clients “since we make up what our mindset is filled with, why not makeup something that feels good?!” So, be your best friend and cheerleader on your way to meeting your goals for 2023 – not your worst enemy!
In other words, if you see yourself as someone who can easily make changes for the better and be successful in doing so, you’ll be able to pass up the donuts in pursuit of the salad without feeling like you need to apply pressure and force to yourself. On the other hand, if you have a load of limiting beliefs about how you’ll never be able to get to your goal and it’ll be extremely hard during the journey, you’ll find that about 3 weeks is as long as you’ll be able to stay motivated before those naughty old paradigms have you racing right past the gym and rushing into the arms of a “hot now” Krispy Kreme.
To put it simply, Henry Ford stated it perfectly: “whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right”. The bottom line is, mindset is everything. But, the trick is to get to the roots of your negative mindset and transform those limiting beliefs.
So, let’s talk about ways to TRULY set yourself up for success when it comes to creating…let’s call them “intentions” instead of “resolutions”.
1. Target SMART goals instead of vague, generalized goals. This acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. For example, rather than saying “I want to get healthier in 2023”, you could say I would like to reduce eating fast food from 5 days per week to 3 days per week by 1/31/2023. This method takes those larger, seemingly insurmountable, and broad goals and breaks them down into smaller, more digestible components to help diminish the likelihood of overwhelm so that the goals feel more attainable.
2. KISS complexity goodbye! Keep It Simple Sweetheart by targeting no more than three objectives at a time. I use a somatic approach with my clients to help them tune into what feels resonant and “doable”. After taking a few deep breaths to ground, I’ll have them imagine working on the identified goals and objectives one by one, tuning into their bodies to see if it feels expansive (green light) or constrictive (red light). Starting with one objective and adding until they have a constrictive reaction. The number right before they felt the constriction is the target number of goals.
3. Make your goals relevant to YOU!! Choose intentions that matter to you and are important to your life. If you are not truly interested in getting fit and rocking six-pack abs by swimsuit season, don’t take it on just because it seems to be THE goal everyone is focused on. If you find yourself saying “I should” be doing x,y,z that’s a red flag. Don’t “should” on yourself. Be authentic about what matters to you and focus on those intentions – without self-judgment! Again, use empowering language like “I choose” or “I would like to” to motivate you.
4. Accountability partners and a supportive community make a difference! Studies show that having some like-minded people working toward shared or similar goals – or at least providing encouragement about yours – is the best way to stay on track and keep making progress. Don’t currently have friends who are addressing the same or similar goals, why not put making new friends on your list?
5. Set your sights on goals that will grow and stretch you but also feel achievable so that, again, you are setting yourself up for success, not failure. For example, if your goal is to run a marathon, it would be better to register for one 6 months in the future to have time to train rather than rushing into the one scheduled for next month.
6. Track your progress! The best way to determine if your goals match the criteria for the SMART system is by looking over them and answering honestly if you’ll be able to track them. Designating 15 minutes per night to read is measurable. Saying “I want to read more” in 2023 is not. What is “more”? How will you know when you’ve reached “more”?
7. Increase your efforts incrementally. Once you’ve read for 15 minutes per night for a week, add 5 minutes for a week, until you’re reading daily for 30 minutes.
8. Work with a coach or therapist to identify and overcome limiting beliefs! This is hugely important as ALL of us have some emotional blocks and barriers that will sabotage our best efforts. Find a coach or therapist who can help you find and transform them for the best results. To circle back to the concept of self-image, you can’t outperform your self-image! But, with effort and application, that self-image CAN be changed!
This article is written by DirectShifts' star clinician, Kelli Hall, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.