The Secret to Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions
Here we are, ready or not, in 2022. Each new year holds the promise of a new beginning. But in reality, most people find that it doesn’t come with the change they were hoping for.
The good news is that I may have the answer to how to get those New Year’s resolutions to stick.
Most of us want something to change in our external world – we want better health, more money, loving relationships. We approach that desire by trying to figure out how to make it happen. We make a resolution to “do” something to create the change.
We may eat better for a few days or weeks, go to the gym a couple of times, or do any number of things that we think will get us what we want… and you know how that goes. It’s not long before we end up right back where we started.
Why does this happen to us? The reason is that change requires us not just to DO something externally but also to shift ourselves internally.
Without new thoughts or a new perspective that will get us on board with the actions we want to take, external changes won’t stick.
Your brain needs to be in on the process; otherwise, you will default to the thoughts (which have become habits) that have been programmed and run on autopilot in your subconscious. Another way to say this is that the habit or pattern in your brain is what pulls you back to familiar ways of being.
Let’s say, for example, that you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to exercise more regularly, so you join a gym and start out motivated and enthusiastic. Soon you begin to dread going and start making excuses to skip workouts, until you finally decide to drop the membership because it’s a waste.
What’s happening is that thoughts like these are looping in your brain – over and over – whether or not you are aware of them:
- I try this almost every year, and it never works. I never finish projects, so why am I wasting my money? I’m out!
- I don’t have time to go to the gym because I SHOULD be at work or taking care of others or cleaning (or whatever is relevant to your life).
- Why am I bothering? I look around at all these beautiful people, and I look awkward, out of shape, and ridiculous. Who am I kidding – I’ve always been this way, and I’ll never look like them.
You can see how thoughts like these hold you back from keeping your commitment to exercising.
Here is the good news: Brain science has shown that the brain has the ability to change its thoughts, experience, and habits on a neurological level (called neural plasticity). Changing your brain and beginning to build new neural pathways to support your desired change is simple:
- Clearly define the result you want.
- See yourself with the end result.
- Feel how good it feels to have it.
- Take inspired action.
- Acknowledge progress.
It’s important to know that while this is a powerful five-step process, change will not happen overnight. As your brain incorporates new thoughts, you may still have some thoughts come up, like the ones in the example, pushing back out of fear, doubt, or lack of confidence.
Deep down, you may not believe it’s possible, or that you don’t deserve to have that improvement in your life. This is your “old” brain pulling you back into what’s familiar in order to keep you safe and from experiencing disappointment.
When this happens, just keep at it with the confidence that the change you are making – internally AND externally – is what you really want to improve your life in a positive way. The “new familiar” that your brain adapts to will be worth it!
Making changes doesn’t have to be frustrating or difficult when we get out of our own way by first making some internal changes to our thinking about the end result we desire.