Have you given up on your New Year’s Resolutions yet? (Doesn’t that sound horribly pessimistic?) The raw reality is that New Year’s Resolutions set us up for failure, not success.
New Year’s resolutions imagine that we are actually ready for the change we want, and that we have all that we need in order to make it happen and to sustain the change. Really really REALLY wanting to lose 40 lbs and go to the gym everyday after having not darkened the gym door since last January does not make us ready to actually make it happen! Worse still – setting the bar that high sets us up to not only fail those goals, but worse, to go even further away from our desired outcome as we beat ourselves up for “failing.”
I have a better idea…
There is a therapeutic treatment modality called Motivational Interviewing that does a great job of understanding how human beings actually relate to change. In MI, we take a good hard look at where someone really is in what Prochaska and DiClemente framed in their Transtheoretical Model as the Cycle of Readiness for Change, (see the graphic above, and http://www.prochange.com/transtheoretical-model-of-behavior-change.)
Most often, when we set New Year’s Resolutions, we’re still in Pre-contemplation stage. We’d like to see those things happen in our lives, and we may have even moved to making a Decision to change… but that doesn’t mean we are actually ready for Active Change. Our next best step is to carefully consider how we can move, not to actual change, but to the next step in the cycle. Otherwise, we will fail and set ourselves back.
One very helpful tool from MI is called “scaling” your goals. Ask yourself candidly: “On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 means I’m not doing it and 10 means I will definitely do it, how likely am I to achieve this goal?” If your answer is less than 7, you need to tweak your goal. Break it down into smaller goals, change your timeline – whatever it takes to get to at least a 7. Now you’re cooking with gas! Those are changes you are actually ready for!
For example: Genevieve is unhappy with her body. She sets a goal to “eat healthier.” Great idea right? But that’s exactly what it is: An idea. Not a goal. One common and very helpful construction for goals is SMART goals: Is your goal Specific, Measurable? Attainable? Reasonable? Time-Specific?
What does it mean for Genevieve to eat healthier? Does she know what works for her unique body? She can’t scale that goal in a meaningful way because it isn’t concrete enough. Ok, G says, I won’t eat any sugar any more.. Great start! But this is NOT your goal. Genevieve? On a scale of to 10, how likely is it that you’ll eliminate ALL sugar from your diet? Uuummm… ok maybe realistically a “4.”
We can work with that! Genevieve, how can you tweak that goal to make it attainable? Genevieve determines that she can stop eating sugary desserts after dinner. Every day? UUummm… No. But she’s confident to a 7 that she can do that at least 4 days a week. Excellent! Go Genevieve, go!
After succeeding with that goal for a week or two, she can perhaps go up to weekdays, no sugary desserts. then maybe she’ll be ready to cut back sugar in other areas, building momentum with each success. She’s making progress! She’s losing her taste for over sugar-ing and she’s more motivated by how much better she’s starting to feel in her skin and relationship with food.
Now all she needs is a “relapse prevention plan.” What does she need to do in order to try and avoid falling off of her goals? And what does she need to be prepared to do if she does mess up? Deciding these things ahead of time and writing them down can help Genevieve keep from throwing in the towel and sugar binging if she has a particularly bad week with her goals.
See how that works? By setting small, attainable, reasonable goals and preparing for our humanness, we actually get farther along in reaching the desires of our heart.
If Genevieve had set the goal for January 1 that she would no longer eat sugar, everything in her would want to devour that entire plate of baklava in the break room because she would feel deprived. After eating the baklava, in addition to feeling like total physical crap, she would likely feel defeated in her sugar-free quest, and be much more likely to continue to overeat sugar for the rest of the day, and potentially, far beyond. But she’s not doing that! Instead, she is building on victories!
Go, Genevieve, GO! Go, Genevieve, GO! Go, Genevieve, GO! It’s amazing how cooperating with the way we’re made is so much more successful than fighting our design.
Would you like some support with your goals? I’m happy to help. Click the Contact Tiffany button above and let’s talk about how we can get you to your goals..
“Surviving is important, but thriving is elegant.” ~ Maya Angelou