Well that was a long January. Cold, rainy, blah. All the crazy New Years resolutions to lose 4 stone, only eat organic, cut out TV, work less, be better parents, have for many, gone by the wayside. Even before we set out these aspirational goals, we secretly knew we wouldn’t keep them. Resolutions are hard. It takes a serious amount of will power to go out for a run on a dark night, or even to turn the TV off and have a chat with our significant other in an effort to re-connect, when we’re tired from a long day.
One of the reasons for this is that we unknowingly set ourselves up to fail. We do things back to front, deciding what we are going to do, without exploring why we want to change. So we say things like, “that’s it, no more chocolate. Ever”. I’ll take a safe bet that not one person out there can stick to that plan. We make grand statements but fail to put any structures in place to support us in achieving these goals, and then when we fall off the wagon in week 1, we beat ourselves up about it.
So it’s February now. Still rotten weather but small signs of spring in the air. The days are a little brighter. Someone’s going to utter the sentence “there’s a grand stretch in the evening” any day now. Maybe this is a better time to think about making some changes. Forget the New Year’s resolutions, focus now on spring cleaning.
Before we set new goals we need to fully acknowledge a sometimes hard truth. Our behaviours and actions are our choice. Even if we feel caught between a rock and a hard place there is always more than one option. Even if we don’t like that option or if it’s just the lesser of two evils. We are responsible for the choices we make.
One of the main reasons people don’t achieve their goals, is simply because they make choices that lead them away from getting what they want. And they allow themselves to do this because they don’t take responsibility for them. Do any of the comments below resonate?
- Having 3 biscuits with your coffee when you say you want to lose weight
- Putting off paying your credit card and incurring late payment, when you say you want to be in a better financial position
- Gossiping about a colleague when you say you want to be more compassionate and less judgemental
- Making yourself miss important project deadlines because you decided to get one more thing off your endless, but possibly less important, To Do list
We tell ourselves that it doesn’t matter, sure what harm can it do if I just do it this once? Even as you say you’re going to turn over a new leaf on Monday, you know in your heart of hearts that it’s not going to happen. The answer is it can do a lot of damage to our self-esteem because we know we’re not doing what we’re meant to be doing. And not even just what we’re meant to be doing, but what we say we want. The fewer results we see the less motivated we are. And so the cycle continues.
When we choose these behaviours we are choosing to walk in the opposite direction to our goals. Sustaining those behaviours and dealing with their consequences is hard. Much harder in fact in the long run than making the choice you know you committed to making.
So what can we do to break this cycle?
To give yourself a fighting chance of making lasting change that will have a real impact on your daily life, try the Question & Answer technique below. I’ve used housework as an example that a client shared with me but the approach will work with anything you have in mind:
This is the emotive sweeping statement a lot of us tend to make in our heads. It’s not in fact reality
The house is always a mess, I can’t keep on top of it. Why does no one else in this house care if we live in a pig sty.
|Ok, but what’s really happening?
This is the objective, rationale view of the situation.
Some days, the house isn’t as tidy as I would like. Some days it’s fine. At a minimum I need to clean the bathroom, hoover and get through the ironing on a weekly basis. Sometimes on top of work and minding the children that doesn’t always happen.
|How does this make me feel?
This is critical. To achieve a goal you need to understand how your emotions attach to it as this will be your motivator.
|Overwhelmed. Frustrated. Disorganised. Out of control. Like it’s groundhog day.|
|What does this mean practically speaking?
This is where you set your specific action plan. Practical steps that you commit to following
|On my weekly household chores list are x, x and x
One evening a week will be spent on chores, plus 1.5 hours on Saturday morning.
Other household members will be allocated tasks and are responsible for completing them
|Who will help me be accountable?
This is where you ask someone who will support you to achieve your goal, even when you’re struggling.
My partner / friend / colleague / mentor (as appropriate) will check in with me, support me and remind me of why I am doing this. In turn, I will open myself up to their support. I won’t be offended when they challenge any choices I make that take me away from my goal. I will be careful as to which people I choose to hold me accountable, only sharing this journey with those who have my best interests at heart.
|What’s my reward?
This is why you will keep going if it’s genuinely important to you. The temptation to get the reward will be stronger than the temptation to give up
|A sense of peace. Knowledge that I’m in control of my own space, time has been allocated to keep things at a level that makes me happy and that I’m not doing it all on my own. Comfort in knowing that I’ve allocated time to chores and after that I have space for family, friends, hobbies, work (or whatever is important to me)