We are halfway through February. How are you doing on your New Year’s resolutions? If you’re like most people, you’re probably feeling like you took two steps forward and one step back. You decided to make positive changes in the New Year and within a few days or even hours, you slip up and revert to your old way of doing things.
This does not mean that you should give up on your resolutions.
First, congratulate yourself on your decision to make changes. Second, use the slip-up as an opportunity to learn more about yourself. Making changes is not easy and requires persistence, time, and acceptance.
Here are a few things to think through as you adjust your plans and move forward successfully.
Did you try to change too much too soon?
Research shows that our brains can be overloaded so it is best to choose what is most important to you and focus on improving just this one area. Maybe your goals are too big at this beginning stage.
You have a better chance of succeeding if you can break down your goals into the simplest tasks possible: something you can accomplish in under a minute. When you have achieved this goal consistently, add your next goal. Continue to strive for improvement and refuse to give up.
Recognize that change occurs over time.
Be patient and be sure to reward yourself along the way. Positive feedback will increase your chance of success. What is most important is not the speed of change but the forward direction. Have faith and act like you expect positive change will happen.
Finally, you have to accept reality when seeking to make changes.
Willpower is more than just a making a decision to exert self-control. It is controlled by the prefrontal cortex of the brain, and the brain like any other muscle will fail when it gets overwhelmed. Imagine going to the gym for the first time and attempting to lift 300 pounds. Trying to change too much too soon can be viewed in this same way.
Mistakes are going to happen, don’t expect to be perfect. The good news is it is through these mistakes we gain experience. Change is about making progress, so even if you do take two steps forward and one step back, you are still one step ahead of where you were when you started.
Written by: Ann Sheerin, LPC