How to Make and Keep New years Resolutions
Ok it’s that time of year again (end December/Early January) and it’s a natural time of review and resolution. We find ourselves re-examining our lives and weighing up the inevitable question “was it a good year?” and “could I have done anything better?” Well of course everyone can do things better, there’s no end to better, but did we make a good go of things… well did you?
One of the key problems in human existence is that we find ourselves wanting certain things but having difficulty in doing whatever it is that we have to do, in order to achieve these things. The commonest example is dieting. Most people are not happy with their bodies and would like to be leaner and more toned. On paper it appears like a simple thing, just drop calories for a few months and increase activity levels, so as to help burn of calories, and d hey presto you’re at your ideal bodyweight. Easy right! Well maybe not so easy after all!
If most of us find it difficult achieving what is effectively a simple thing, losing weight, how well are we going to do at more complex things in life like improving our careers, relationships, following long-term life goals and becoming happier more fulfilled people?
So what we first have to realise, when thinking about fulfilling New Year’s resolutions, is that we humans tend to self-sabotage ourselves.
So what is self-sabotage?
Self-sabotage takes place when we think we want something but a sub-personality (a hidden part of our own self) fights against our resolution. This is probably the single biggest factor which stalls our progress and this explains why most New Year’s resolutions have been dropped by the end of January!
For example, I used to go to a popular gym which had a huge influx of new members every January. It used to irritate me as during the month of January the gym was always packed. However, I used to cheer myself up by reminding myself that by early April everything would be back to normal and this always turned out to be the case. Fifty present of the new members would drop out in January itself and the other fifty percent would drop out over February and march. But what’s the point of attending a gym for a month or two, what effect will you get? The answer of course is that the people (literarily hundreds of them) have just wasted their time and the reason for this wastage is self-sabotage. Because let’s think of it this way, paying out expensive gym membership fees and taking time out to go to the gym several times a week is a big commitment, so even to keep this up for a couple of months is a huge waste of money and effort if we drop out so quickly. But with self-sabotage, while part of us wants to lose weight another part feels afraid in some way or other.
So what are the causes of self-sabotage?
With self-sabotage a sub personality feels threated in some way or other. Probably the biggest cause of self-sabotage is the underlining dislike of change. While we want to change, another part of ourselves feels put out by the effort; if we look at the universe around us ENTHROPY (a tendency towards disintegration) is ever present. We have to keep moving forward otherwise this universal law of entropy will bring our efforts to a halt. Again using the gym analogy, we see this beginning with a feeling of boredom and dullness, when we are about to go to the gym. It feels almost impossible to go to the gym and often we end up not going and then one day becomes two, three or more days, then suddenly two months have passed and our time in the gym is now over!
This is where we have to understand the 21 DAY RULE. The 21 day rule states that it takes 21 days to form a habit, so whenever you want to start and keep going with a new life change, bear in mind that it will take 21 days to make a habit out of it. When we realise this we take out the time and energy necessary to make this a reality. For example, back in 2009 I made a big effort to start a health rejuvenation program, but even though I spent about one and a half hours a day doing various exercises and activities, within a month or two it was all over and the reason was because I started about 10 new habits at once and of course I couldn’t focus on everything! I had let my enthusiasm get the better of me and in a highly mental state, I spend about a week researching and developing a plan but I didn’t factor in the amount of resources required to make a habit out of these 10 new activities.
What does it mean to set aside sufficed resources to make a habit out of a new activity?
Well one type of resource is the 21 day phenomena, whereby after 21 days our unconscious mind accepts a lifestyle change and makes it a habit. So, for example, if you are used to going to bed at midnight and then change to going to bed at 9pm, it will be difficult at first, but after a few weeks you will get used to this and will feel odd staying up late in the evening. The gym goer who goes to the gym everyday, will feel restless if they don’t go to the gym. Many people feel irritated if they don’t go to work for a few days, is another example. So once we do something for a while it becomes difficult to not do it anymore. This in itself is a resource, a resource of time (21 days of time).
Another resource is providing us with a worthwhile end in mind. Our mind does not want change (ENTHROPY), so we have to force it into action. Now we can use our will power, but will power will dry up within a few days. What is far more powerful than our willpower is our imagination. So when we think about why we want to make a new habit and what benefit it will provide and then flesh this out, so that we have taken the time out to think about creating an end goal, intermediate and even short term goal, which will make our efforts worthwhile. So again, looking at the example, of the gym goer, who wants to lose 50 lbs. of fat, it would be silly so expect to achieve this within a month or two. Most professional trainers will suggest a weight loss between 1 to 2lbs a week, as been far more realistic a goal for the majority of people. Consequently losing 50lbs in a year would be a good long-term goal for most people. Yes more could be achieved sooner, as has been seen on shows like “The Greatest Loser”, for example, but how many people can exercise for 6 hours a day while having a bunch of personal trainers and dieticians at their side? So for most people a good long-term goal would be 50lbs in a year; an intermediate goal of 30 lbs. in six months and a short term goal of 10lbs in the first two months. So if at the end of month two you find yourself say 8lbs lighter, although you have not actually achieved your ideal goal, you can see that if you keep up your efforts, that over the course of a year that at east 40lbs will be lost. So we have to keep motivating ourselves forward.
The third resource required is to think about skills and support, what kind of support does we require. For example, the first week in a gym or the first couple of days in a new gym is daunting, because in the case of the newbie, you don’t know what you are doing and in the case of the experienced gym goer, you are still a little unsettled by the new gym. By the same token, say you want to take up hill walking, well hill waking is great but are you wearing the right boots? Do you know a good location to go and take a walk? Have you anyone who could go with you and share the experience? So this is equally important to the other two resources.
So to summarise, you have to expect 21 days to make a habit, and you have to work out how to motivate yourself to stick it out. Finally, you have to have a plan. For example, you might want to learn a new language, well in this case are you going to buy a book or take a course or maybe visit a foreign country? Regarding learning languages, as an example, many countries provide a language/cultural institute, whereby the students not only learn the language but also they receive moral support via the various cultural activities of said institute. This is a good example, of how we can really learn something complex, like a new language, via a multi-level approach. If you approach learning a language as learning a new culture, you will fare well, but if you think about learning a language the same way you might take up an academic module, the disaster will await you!
Give yourself 21 days, proper motivation and a practical plan, is the way to move forward. Looking back at my rejuevnetaiton exercises in 2009, we can now see that trying to do this with 10 new habits at once, was a really silly idea on my part. Take up one New Year’s resolution is ideal, at most take up around three. If you want to take up more resolutions, then add in a new resolution every month or so. Slow and steady wins the race!
Other Forms of Self Sabotage and What to Do About Them
Ok so ENTROPHY is a big factor, whereby we are fighting off inertia, but what other cause of self-sabotage are present?
There are many different variations on the theme of self-sabotage, but as a rule of thumb what we have to fight off is FEAR. Some aspect of ourselves fears change. For example, say your new year’s resolution is making a career change. Well, you might be enthusiastic but some sub-personality within you feels afraid. Have you ever been too scared to phone somebody? Have you ever been too scared to talk back to an authority figure? Have you ever really wanted to do something but couldn’t make yourself do it? Well in this case fear has gotten in the way.
The cure to fighting fear is to take our long-term goal and then break it down into many sub goals. As the old saying goes “How do you eat an elephant? Little bit by little bit”, so when something is daunting we have to undaunt it. A common example of this is driving a car. As a driving instructor has us sit in a car with dual controls and at first we go around the black a few times, but over a period of time we go further and further, until the driving instructor have us driving on the highway! So when dealing with fear, start small and work up.
Also, in life in general if you find yourself hitting a brick wall, when trying to make changes, chances are that fear has grabbing us. Don’t get angry with yourself, rather break up your goals and little by little pursue goals until your sub-personality gains confidence. For example, say you want to run your own business, but are daunted by the task and find that everything goes wrong whenever you try to start a new business. Well instead of going big, go small. Don’t give up your day job, just start a small business and as it becomes more successful, aim at a bigger goal. You might find that after a while that you can shift from a job into your business role or maybe you will just gain confidence and go for the big break after all. But the key is little by little.
I remember some years ago, I had a small sports motorbike and I always felt that I could have been better at cornering my bike. Well one day, while going around a roundabout I decided to go for it, well I ended up on the ground. What happened? I literally threw the bike into the ground. I was correct in my assessment that I could corner my bike better, but I was feeling inpatient and chucked the bike onto the ground! A little while later I changed bike and ended up taking a 10 mile spin through some tricky windy coastal road every day, and low and behold after about two months I became far better at corning, because little by little I got used to taking those corners a little faster every day!
Finally the other form of self-sabotage is created by forcing an unwilling sub-personality to do something against its will. This sounds similar to fear above, but this is slightly different in that it is not so much fears as rather its unwillingness. Thomas Hobbs once noted that every citizen of a country is like a cell within the body, in that the body is made up of cells and so too each person is a cell within a country; by the same token while we are the captain of our ship, so our sub-personalities are our crewmen and by the same token the captain has to prevent against a mutiny, so too do we have to protect against mutiny of our sub-personalities. Think about it this way, if you have ever worked in a big business, then chances are that you have seen the management team wanting changes while the workers felt resentment, that the activity was a waste of time, or that the managers where stupid, or whatever. Well the same thing happens with sub-personalities. For example, we may have convinced our ourselves that we wanted to lose weight, but a part of our self likes binge eating and does want to give it up. From its perspective eating is tasty and possibly it protects us against feeling of an anxiety or insecurity, so why give up the good life. Of course the sub personality does not see the big picture, whereby we have to lose weight for health.
So what to do about this type of self-sabotage?
For example, a real estate salesman might have to phone 50 people a day, but a sub-personality doesn’t see why he should have to go through the discomfort of phoning strangers and receiving endless rejections. The salesman feels hurt, both consciously and unconsciously by the rejections and once his sales dive it is difficult to recover. But if the sales person works out ways of motivating themselves, like keeping a record and a conversion rate for example, whereby maybe they find that for every 30 phone calls they get a hot lead, then they keep making calls and work towards this magic figure. The key here is not to fight the inner estuation, but that to work with it and find a way to convince our inner sub-personalities to stick with the program!
Final Thoughts on New Year’s Resolutions and How to Keep Them
I know you are probably thinking that this seemingly simple topic has suddenly become a difficult one, but the reality is that if we had no inner sabotage taking place, then we would just set our minds on anything which we wanted to achieve and it would be done!
Want to lose 50lbs? Then diet for 50 weeks
Want a million dollar house? Then work hard and save money for 20 years
Want to retire rich at 50 years of age? Then work hard and save money for 25 years
Want a beautiful mortal partner? Then meet lots of people and only settle for the best
Want a better family life? Then find out what everyone needs and wants and work together as a team
Want a great career? Find a niche, get some training, super specialise and stick with it for 20 years!!!!
So I know that this list sounds ridiculous, but actually it’s that simple to achieve these things. But while I’m saying it’s simple I’m not saying that it’s easy!
Where new year’s resolutions go wrong, is when we think from the head and forget to check in with the heart, our sub-personalities with their realities of our life, with the dynamics of our relationships etc. In a nutshell we don’t think our resolutions through, we don’t give them the necessary resources for success and we fail to recognise our inherent self-complexity, which makes for inner conflicts which have to be resolved over time.
The good news is that with a little bit more home-work and a little more focus, you get set and have your new year’s resolutions, but do so in a co-ordinated manner, whereby you are working not just this new year but also all through the year, we should be working on positive life changes. When we set dreamily goals, we end up year after year coming out with the same BS and never taking effective action. Start taking effective slow and steady action and keep it up that’s all there is to it!