January, you make a long list of resolutions. In the first few weeks, everything looks good and you feel motivated. Then come February, things start to backslide. March, everything is back to the way it is before you make your resolutions. By the end of September, you forget most of the items on your New Year’s resolution list. Have you experience this before? If yes, you are not alone, 92% of people are unsuccessful in achieving their resolution. 3 possible reasons for this to occur are:
- You usually set unrealistic and vague goals.
- You get a wrong cause and effect relationship on their goals. For example, you think that by changing a small aspect of their life, your entire life will be changed. And when that doesn’t happen, you revert back to your old behaviors.
- You lack the proper structure to attain your goals, which comes from a change in the behaviors, which is fueled by a change in the mental processes.
If New Year resolutions don’t work, what can you do to change your live? Here are 5 things for you to do right now to ignite your life in 2015.
1. Be honest and SMART
An unrealistic goal is defined as the projection of a state of being that is significantly unrealistic and out of alignment of your current situation. You paralyze yourself after a long sustained period of not being able to achieve your goals. Vague goals such as losing weight and getting organized (these 2 happen to be in the top 10 New Year Resolutions) do not help you to fare any better. They lack a course of actions and urgency. If you want your goals to stick in 2015, take effort to reevaluate your sense of reality and set your SMART (specific, milestone, attainable, realistic/relevant, timeline) goals.
2. Practice gratitude and contentment
From contentment unsurpassed happiness is gained. Yoga Sutra II.42
It has been said in this connection: “The happiness gained on this earth through the enjoyment of desired objects, or the supreme heavenly joy, is not even one-sixteenth of the happiness caused by the cessation of desires.” — Yoga philosophy of Pantajali by Samkhya-yogacharya Swami Hariharananda Aranya
Positive emotions have the potential to motivate behaviors and actions that are essential to achieve our goals. Practicing gratitude and contentment will generate these positive emotions for you regardless of the circumstances of your life. In life, nothing is set in stone, things come and go. Sometimes, you gain, while other times, you lose. If you constantly focus on your loss, you will never be contented.
Here is one simple exercise for you to try out:
- Reflect on the desired object you already have. It could be tangible, like your family, or intangible, like your knowledge of cooking.
- Next, meditate or contemplate on the thought ‘What I have got is enough for me in this moment.’
3. Learn to regulate your emotions through your breath
Having said so, sometimes you might not have the luxury or the mental clarity to do the simple meditation above. Or your mind is in such a high flux of emotions that it is just not receptive to the above practice. In this case, you could use your breathe to calm your mind. Our breathing patterns are closely related to our state of emotion being. When we are anxious and angry, our breathing become shallow. Whereas, when we are relaxed, we breathe deeper and slower. Studies have also found that regularly practicing breathing exercises lowers one’s level of cortisol — the “stress hormone.”
The next time you are feeling overwhelmed, turn your attention into your breathing by doing this:
- Inhale while counting to 4 slowly.
- Exhale while counting to 4 slowly.
- Repeat until you feel calmer.
4. Live a healthy lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle is the foundation for everything else in your life, be it work, relationship, studies or finance. You can’t motivate yourself when you are feeling lethargic all the time. And you can’t focus well if you are having issues with chronic pain.
Stretch, do yoga, dance, hike, run or whatever exercise you deem fit. Moderate your diet. Sleep early. Watch less TV. Spend more quality time with your friends and family.
Take some time to nourish yourself. You might not see the impact directly on your goals in the short term, especially if your goals are not health related, but you will definitely see the benefits in the long run.
5. Beware of indulging in distracting short term pleasure
While it is alright to reward yourself from time to time, beware of being indulgence. Indulgence might lead to attachment, which in turn could lead to a constant thirst of such pleasure. Much like an addict, when you are addicted to such short term pleasure, you might act involuntarily, unconsciously and uncontrollably towards the objects of pleasure. There are good reasons why gluttony and greed are part of the seven deadly sins and why one of the three poisons in Buddhism is attachment. When you spend a huge portion of your time in indulging yourself, you have reduced the amount of quality time you could spend working towards your goals.
Dan Diamond. 1 January 2013. Just 8% of People Achieve Their New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s How They Do It. Forbes.
Thomas Oppong. 31 December 2014. Forget New Year Resolutions. Focus on This Instead. AlltopStartups.
Ray Williams. 27 December 2010. Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail. Published on Wired For Success and featured in Psychology Today.
Dave Asprey. Why 92% of New Year’s Resolutions Already Failed, and 140 Better Ones. Bulletproof. The state of high performance.
Timothy A. Pychyl. 7 June 2008. Goal Progress and Happiness. Published on Don’t Delay and featured in Psychology Today.
Emma M. Seppälä. 14 April 2013. Breathing: The Little Known Secret to Peace of Mind. Published on Feeling It and featured in Psychology Today.