Around this time of year, many people begin to think about starting some sort of wellness program as part of their New Year’s resolutions. Find a way to get healthy, lose weight, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being. Seems like a pretty simple laundry list, really. It’s also true that this is the same list that gets repeated every New Year’s Eve. Why? Because multi-tasking is a way of life and we are used to focusing on a million things at once. We live in a society of instant gratification. We want immediate results. Many of us are Type-A personalities and we expect to check off everything our list as soon as it goes on. Unfortunately, that type of mindset often turns that exciting new list of resolutions into a recipe for failure.
As a wellness coach, I have a question about planning New Year’s resolutions. What would happen if you focused on only one resolution at a time? Would you be able to give that goal your complete attention and thereby increase the possibility of success? And if you are successful in one area, might there be a ripple effect in other areas of your life you would like to change? After that one change becomes a habit, would your self-efficacy improve so other changes don’t seem quite as improbable?
If you truly want to keep your resolutions this year, try tackling one item at a time. Instead of declaring you will become an icon of healthy living in January, break the project down into pieces, and decide which piece seems to be the most important to you. For example, we know that wellness is defined as the integration of mind, body, and spirit. Which piece of that equation seems to be the most out-of-balance when you look at your life?
List the areas where you would like to see change, then prioritize which of those changes is most important to you. If you want to have a healthier body, is changing your diet the most important, or do you feel there would be more benefit to starting an exercise program? You can tackle both, but if you focus on one item at a time so that each change becomes a habit, your odds of accomplishing both items increases. Both are important to reach the overall goal of a healthier body, but let’s be real–we are busy. There are only so many hours in a day and only so much energy we can dedicate to making changes. If you get a regular, moderate exercise program in your wheelhouse, you can use that as a base and turn your attention to making healthier eating choices. Put the two together and you get a healthier body.
The truth is if we focus on making too many changes at once, we can easily become overwhelmed. Trying to accomplish too much at one time only leads to frustration. Remember, you can do it all–you just can’t do it all at one time.
The other half of this formula is to allow enough time for the change to become a habit. As a rule, changes take about twelve weeks to become solidified in our minds. Once that happens, they become fixed in our psyches and are no longer considered changes, simply new habits. Since habits take less mental energy to maintain, at this point you can turn your focus to the next priority on your list. Lather, rinse, repeat, all the while building on the success of your first accomplishment. Before you know it, you will have managed a series of changes that not only support your resolutions, but create a new lifestyle as well.
This method can help you conquer any change, whether it be physical health, financial health, career issues, or relationship goals. So why not give it a try for 2013?
Just be careful. You may find that you have to find new resolutions for 2014 instead of recycling the familiar ones. But is that really such a bad problem to have? I’m guessing not.