Most New Year's resolutions will fail dismally by the second or third week of January. Reminding you that your good intentions to change your life probably won't last isn't meant to discourage you from setting a goal for yourself, however.
Instead, the reminder that most New Year's resolutions fail is a reminder that you can take steps to help you beat the odds. Make a few changes now and you'll enter the New Year feeling mentally strong enough to crush your goals--and you'll skyrocket your chances of success.
1. Switch up your self-talk.
The conversations you have with yourself affect how you feel and how you behave. But if you're like most people, you probably pay very little attention to the way you speak to yourself.
After all, you've been narrating your life for a long time--and you're used to hearing the same old monologue every single day.
If you want to change your life, switch up the way you talk to yourself. Here are some changes you could make:
- Trade self-criticism for self-compassion. Calling yourself names and beating yourself up will prevent you from doing your best. When you notice you're being unkind to yourself, respond with more compassionate words. Talk to yourself the same way you'd talk to a trusted friend, and you'll not only feel better, but studies show you'll also perform better.
- Argue the opposite. When you find yourself thinking of all the things that could go wrong or the reasons you're doomed to fail, argue the opposite. List all the ways things might go right or all the reasons why you might succeed. This can help you see that your negative thoughts aren't facts, and you can develop a more realistic outlook.
- List some logical reasons why. When you lack motivation to keep going, you'll find tons of excuses for giving up. The best way to counteract those excuses is to list all the logical reasons why you should keep going.
2. Give up a counterproductive bad habit.
You could have all the good habits in the world, but you won't reach your greatest potential unless you give up the bad habits that are holding you back.
Imagine a runner training for the Olympics. She works out several hours a day, eats a healthy diet, and works with a coach to help her compete. And while she keeps working hard to stick to her good habits, she continues to smoke two packs of cigarettes every day.
That sounds silly, right? But that's what we often do in real life.
We practice gratitude, but we keep hosting occasional pity parties. Or we work on improving ourselves, but we continue to resent other people's success.
It takes only one unhealthy habit--including unhealthy mental habits--to keep you stuck. If you want to work smarter, not just harder, identify one counterproductive bad habit that you're willing to give up.
It might include a physical habit, like eating a bowl of ice cream in front of the TV every night. Giving this up might make the rest of your diet plan much more effective.
Or it might involve giving up a certain way of thinking--like you deciding you're going to stop dwelling on the past. When you stop rehashing things you can't change, you'll be better able to focus on the present and plan for your future.
Giving up that counterproductive bad habit will help you work smarter, not just harder, in the new decade. You'll see better results--and the more results you see, the more motivation you'll gain to keep working hard on your goals.
3. Practice coping with an uncomfortable feeling you usually avoid.
Everyone has at least one uncomfortable emotion that they go to great lengths to avoid. For some that emotion is embarrassment. Individuals who fear embarrassment might refuse to do anything that puts them in the spotlight--from singing karaoke to asking a question in a meeting.
Other people avoid sadness at all costs. These individuals might numb themselves from pain by binge watching Netflix, or they may escape their sadness by distracting themselves with social media. They may do anything they can to avoid thinking about things that cause them to feel sad.
And many people avoid anxiety. In an effort to dodge those uncomfortable physical and emotional symptoms, they may live really far inside their comfort zones. Whether they're too shy to invite a friend for coffee or they're too anxious to review their budget, they dodge the things that cause a spike in anxiety (even though their avoidance tends to cause bigger long-term problems).
The good news is you can handle feeling uncomfortable. And your insistence that you must avoid a specific emotion isn't true. Allowing yourself to feel a little uncomfortable will remind you that although it's not pleasant, it's tolerable.
Embracing a little discomfort could help you feel better in the long run. In fact, it's likely that you'll increase your chances of reaching your goals when you commit to allowing yourself to experience an uncomfortable emotion that you've been working hard to avoid.
Build Your Mental Muscles
Creating a few small changes now can help you start off the new decade feeling mentally stronger. But you shouldn't quit there. After all, you have to keep working on building more mental muscle if you want to stay strong.