New Years Resolutions
Early January is a time for change. After holiday indulgences, many of us plan a fresh start to herald the arrival of a new year. Millions of people make new years resolutions every year, but despite our best intentions, as few as 8% actually follow through with those promises for more than a few months. According to Time Magazine, the top 10 new years resolutions are:
- Lose weight
- Quit Smoking
- Eat Healthier
- Get out of Debt/Save Money
- Be Less Stressed
- Drink Less
- More Friend/Family Time
- Learn Something New
- Travel to New Places
Making new years resolutions such as those on the list above, is relatively easy. Keeping them is a little less so. As time moves along, we seem to forget the promises that we made to ourselves, and the reasons we made them. We might even want to forget that we made the commitment at all, as a means of guilt avoidance when we fail.
Fortunately, I know a little bit about having to sit myself down and make a life-changing decision. And more importantly, I know a little bit about having little choice but to stick to it. At the time that I stopped drinking alcohol, I wouldn’t have looked at it as being a fortunate event, instead probably seeing it as a frightening cliff face that my relationship with alcohol had walked me towards. There was no going back. I could either fall, or build some wings to support myself as I was forced to take a leap of faith and leave my mountainous problems behind.
Until today at least, I am still airborne and very much enjoying the flight. Whether it is ongoing recovery from addition, or a simple lifestyle improvement by making new years resolutions, I believe the basic principles are the same. I also believe that if we really want to achieve something (that we are realistically capable of), then there is nothing in this world to stop us.
Keeping new years resolutions is difficult for a very simple reason – we so desperately want to make lifestyle changes, because the particular thing we want to address has been taken to excess. This means that we really like doing it, not doing it, smoking it, drinking it or whatever the case may be. So going from excess to abstinence is difficult if not impossible, until such time as we understand why we excessed.
Regardless of whether it is alcohol use, dieting, exercise, being less stressed, making more time for family or whatever resolution we chose, instead of aspiring to something new, maybe we can look at why the issue requires such a dramatic change in the first place. This will help us to understand what we are trying to change, and help us to be grateful for every moment in which we keep our new years resolutions. Understanding the need for our new years resolutions on an ongoing basis will dramatically increase our chances of succeeding. Remembering the emotions that drove us to make the decision to change, will help us every day. It is not so much about a new fight every day to keep your new years resolutions, it is about understanding what drove you to making that promise to yourself in the first place.
Change requires just that; change. Hoping you keep your new years resolutions to be healthier, skinnier, fitter, less stressed is not enough in itself. WE need to actually change. After I stopped drinking alcohol, I changed much more than just what I chose to put in my glass. I broke ‘friendships’, changed habits, formed new relationships, avoided certain places, frequented others, took up new interests, read new things, looked at life with a more open mind and did just about anything it took to give myself the best possible shot at staying true to my decision on a daily basis. If we want to diet by avoiding convenience food, then maybe we also need to change where we pick up our food, change our routine, eat at different times, spend less time in the company of others who eat convenience food, etc. An isolated decision alone, regardless how much we promise ourselves that we will keep it, is susceptible to failure unless we make other changes to accommodate it. So, to change, do just that – make changes.
Ignore the Negativity
While kicking the habit, or starting on a better path is an admirable thing to do, it can actually make us feel worse unless we actually stick to it. Breaking promises to others is one thing, but breaking a promise to ourselves completely destroys our self esteem. Sometimes we are so disgusted with ourselves for breaking our new years resolutions that we actually revert to even more excess afterwards, making the desperate promises of next January even more difficult, and mapping out a year filled with guilt until we try again. We need to ignore this negativity. Our subconscious, or ego, will do its very best to drag us down. Who can identify with the voice that says ‘but you deserve it’, ‘its only one’, ‘I can start over tomorrow’, ‘this is too hard’ etc? We really need to ignore that voice. It will go away if we ignore it and stay strong by sticking to our convictions. This voice is trying to make us unhappy, so why should we obey it?
As new years resolutions get broken, we subconsciously tell ourselves that we are incapable, that we are stuck, unable to follow through with our dreams and plans. So not only do we revert to the excesses of our worst habits, but we also damage our ambition in general. We need to believe in our own convictions, regardless of how much or how little progress we seem to be making. If you fall – get up. If you fall and get up and fall again – then get up yet again. Always get up once more than the number of times you fall. You have got to believe in your convictions and your ability to do this, regardless of what happens. If there is one person or thing in this world that you can believe in, it is yourself. Because you yourself have the ability to control what you believe in.
Here is a good reason to continue believing in yourself, even if you have slipped up along the way. Even in failure we can find positivity. According to Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioral Addiction at Nottingham Trent University, people who make new years resolutions are ten times more likely to achieve their goals than those who don’t. So you see, even in yesterday’s failure, there is an echo of today’s success.
Live in the Now
To give ourselves a better chance of keeping our new years resolutions, we should forget about the new year. Yes you may already have lasted for two days, or a week already. But guess what? That counts for nothing when it comes to your chances of keeping your promise to yourself. Every moment is a standalone moment. Yes, certain abstinences will give us benefits the longer we refrain, and yes we will garner more self belief the longer we stick to our resolutions, but why on earth should we be measuring our future based on a date in the past? Be happy with yourself right now, not happy for yourself in the past. The new year is gone. Yesterday is gone. What we did yesterday is also gone. The ironic truth is that in many cases, the longer we abstain, the harder we hit the old habit if we take it up again. (Smokers tend to smoke more heavily after a failed attempt to quit, dieters tend to put on even more weight after a failed regime and tee-totalers often go on a huge bender after falling off the wagon). So, forget what you have done so far, or how long you have ‘been good’.
Any resolution is only applicable today, or even right at this very moment. You cannot change the fact that you either kept your new years resolution or broke it yesterday. You have no way of knowing or controlling what will happen tomorrow. So, to give ourselves the best chance of keeping our new years resolutions, we should look on them as ‘this moment resolutions’, rather than new years resolutions. Forget the past. Ignore the future. Just concentrate on the now – for now is all we can control.
We all like a pat on the back. If it comes from others it can make us feel uncomfortable. But if we are able to genuinely pat ourselves on the back, it will feel amazing, and keeps our ego in check too, because suddenly this new regime is rewarding as opposed to being arduous. After stopping drinking, I ‘rewarded’ myself by taking up new activities and being able to afford the cost of the best equipment, for example surf boards, surf holidays, cameras, gym membership, a cool phone, a car etc. Just be careful not to replace one habit with another. Many addicts suffer cross-addiction when they attempt recovery. The void left by one addiction is often filled by a new addiction. This is also true for habits, even if they are not problematic habits.
Reward yourself, but just don’t overdo it. Most of all, enjoy the benefits you are now experiencing because you are are keeping your
new years right now resolution. If you haven’t made a resolution, fear not. You can start anytime you like – new year or not. Because, to quote from one of my favorite movies: ‘Every waking moment is another chance to turn it all around’.
The Paris Method can help you to ask yourself what you would like to change, and help you to achieve it. Change is beautiful. Make it. Keep it. Enjoy it.