If You’re Gonna Do It, Do It Right

Oh, that line takes me back to one of Wham’s last hits together – who can name that song?

But I digress… this post is about New Year’s Resolutions! Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of them; we have all heard that true success by way of resolution is hard to come by. But, some people find them irresistible and if this is you, read on…

Because I care about you and your success, I will say it again:

If you’re gonna do it, do it right!

Before we get to the nitty gritty of how to do it right, take a minute to examine what a resolution made at the new year really is. It’s generally accepted as a change individuals wish to turn into a habit. Perhaps it’s an agreement with yourself that you will become healthier by eating fruits and veggies; maybe you want to focus on things you are feeling grateful for; it could be a vow to take up a new hobby.

Whatever your wellness lifestyle goal is, you are most likely trying to create a new behavioral habit (or stop an old one).  We all know that habits, once formed, are hard to break. On the other hand, they are also hard to create.

Creating a new habit or a new behavior actually causes changes in our neurology – our brains literally form and create new pathways and connections.

Change your behavior; change your brain (and vise versa).

I would like to offer you some suggestions on how to attain success with your wellness resolution this year:

Consider your readiness to change.  Are you really ready? Is this a behavior that you’ve contemplated changing? Have you already taken some steps to change this behavior? Are you ready for action? Consider why you want to make the change. People simply do not make change successfully if they are not ready, or they’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

Practice patience with your self. I read recently that solidifying a new habit takes 180 days – that’s 6 months! I suspect that time table is probably optimistic and takes a great deal of effort and energy. Be very patient – “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Niether was a new lifestyle. This will take time.

Practice SMART goal setting. Create action steps that are as small as you need them to be to create success and a sense that you can accomplish what you set out to do. Watch your expectations – you can’t all of a sudden appear at the top of the stairs without having taken each step to get there (unless, of course, there’s an elevator!).  Creating the wellness lifestyle you desire rarely comes with shortcuts.

Practice self-care and compassion. If you fall off the wagon, don’t then let the next wagon run you over while you lay in the road feeling sorry for yourself! Forgive and start anew (it really doesn’t have to be January 1, right?).

Practice noticing when you have done well.  Catch yourself in the act! Even if it’s just a small layer of where you want to be. Ate some French fries when you’ve sworn off fried foods? Notice that you didn’t eat the entire portion served to you, or you only ordered a small (even though a large would have cost less). You made a step in the right direction.  Catch the positive!  Give yourself a high five and continue to make the choices that fit with the goal of your new habit.

Practice using visual cues.  Whether your cues are written or symbolic – a sticky note or a small figurine; a meme; or some other object –  these tokens can serve as a powerful reminder of the wellness lifestyle you desire. Here’s a tip –move your reminders around every few days so they don’t just become another thing in our environment we stop noticing.

Practice acts of accountability. Let others know what you are doing. Post it on Facebook, tell your friends and coworkers, start a blog and attract subscribers; keep people informed and interested in your progress – you may even inspire them with your successes. If increasing physical activity is your goal, find an accountability partner – do it together!

Work with a coach! Coaches can help you clarify your goals and action steps; they can help you brainstorm strategies to keep you going; they can help you create and sustain that all important intrinsic motivation. A coach can be your biggest cheerleader; cheerleaders never beat down the team because they lost the game, right? They don’t judge the team, they just keep working on the routines, creating new cheers, and showing up at games ready to support the team! Find your own cheerleader.

* * *

Did you notice how I used the word “practice” quite a bit? Creating behavior change is not a “one and done” kind of thing.

If you want to play basketball, will you quit when you toss the ball the first time and miss the basket? Probably not. If your desire to play is strong enough, you’ll practice. And practice some more.

If your desire to change is strong enough, you’ll practice, practice, and practice some more.  You will find a way.

Alright, then. If you have decided to make a New Year’s Resolution, go for it! Know that it takes patience and lots of focused energy. You can do it! You’ve got what it takes.

If you happen to be reading this in March or July, don’t wait until the new year, you can make change any time of year!

Let me know in the comments below if you’re making a resolution and what it is (practice accountability!).

Also comment if you have a successful strategy that has worked for you.

Aaaand…  while you’re here, why not comment on other topics you’d like me to write about?!

Contact me if you would like more information about coaching.

Happy New Year!

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Reference: The idea for this article and the intent of some of the strategies came from: Arlosky, M., (2014) Wellness Coaching for Lasting Lifestyle Change, 2nd Edition. Available from www.wholeperson.com.