Remember the sparkles… the magic… the endless possibilities… the newness of a blank page? That’s what was happening only six short weeks ago when the clock struck midnight. The new year and new decade brought with it hopes and dreams and aspirations. A worldwide endless optimism accompanied by countless goals and resolutions.
But it’s all gone – there’s not a tinge of magic left and all the sparkles have fizzled out. It seems like the world moved on with the humdrum and mundane all over again, just like it was in mid-February last year. Just like it was in mid-February every year past.
Smoke and Mirrors
Just the act of making a new year resolution gives us a sense of accomplishment, like we’re doing something because we actually decided. We made a choice and that’s something, right?
Err – kind of.
Making a change in life does require making a choice, and our choices are completely within our control, so change is within our control. It’s only natural for it to feel like progress to have finally decided on whatever the change is because in a roundabout way a decision = change. Plus we’ve got renewed conviction in our decision and a huge amount of motivation to stick to that decision.
What’s easy to forget during the magic of New Year’s Eve is that the choice is only the beginning, the first step. And it’s often said that the first step is the hardest. But on such a celebrated day with everyone around also making their first steps, it’s easier to use the combined momentum and energy to make your first step (aka the choice/resolution).
THEN comes the real work – making the decision is the first step of what could end up being thousands of steps. So while the first step can be the hardest in terms of momentum (objects at rest stay at rest kinda thing), the discipline and subsequent habit formation is where the real work takes place.
Willpower and Motivation
Willpower and motivation seem to get the brunt of the responsibility of any change, but especially resolutions. A quick look at a list of inspirational quotes will give you the impression that you can do anything if you’ve got enough willpower or if you want something bad enough.
That’s all great until you realize willpower is a finite resource (more on that in a later blog post) and motivation ebbs and flows. The component most of us miss out on when making resolutions is the list of subsequent steps required to KEEP the momentum of the resolution magic.
Think of how often you’ve heard people state their resolutions, and then think back to how many times you’ve heard people state the method by which they’re going to accomplish it???
We’re all gung-ho about what we want to do, but we didn’t really think through the logistics (aka habits) of how we’re actually going to get to the end result. Which is why by February “they” say more than 80% of new year resolutions have failed. By February!! That’s now! And most people have fallen off the wagon.
The Real Magic
The real magic of goals, resolutions, and change in general is in the humdrum, mundane habits that we create. Those who are most successful have found ways to fall in love with the process and create habits. That’s where the lasting motivation really is – in the action itself, not the end result.
People who are successful in training for a marathon don’t fall in love with race day (as exciting as it may be), they’ve committed to the day in and day out training required to make it to race day.
Same goes for losing weight – people who reach a goal weight rarely do so by beating themselves up until they reach the weight. No! They find healthier foods they like, they find ways to be more active that they actually enjoy. They create sustainable habits which become their new, healthier lifestyle and are thus able to become that goal-weight-person they’ve always wanted to be.
And once they get to a goal weight, they don’t just stop the habits that got them there because they’ve grown to be a part of their personality, it’s just a part of who they are now.
Research says habits take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to create an automatic habit (average is ~66 days, not 21 or 30 which is commonly repeated). But whether it becomes automatic at day 18 and you continue it for another 236 days (totaling 254 days for my math-challenged friends), or it takes until day 254 to become automatic, the end result is the same – 254 days of PROGRESS.
So if you’ve fallen off your resolution wagon, get back on! And this time with a plan for HOW you’re going to get to your goal, not just what your goal is. At this coming new year’s eve you can either repeat the same resolution, or you can have a new one in mind because you knocked this year’s out in the remaining 10.5 months (ps 254 days is ~8.5 months so you’ve even got a cushion!).