Last week we talked about making New Year’s Resolutions you can keep, by focusing on things you actually WANT to achieve rather than beginning the year with a laundry list of drudgery.
But what if you really have to make a change, even though you don’t especially want to?
And you need to take advantage of the momentum of the new year to do it?
Maybe finding some way to work out is your last hope of avoiding an especially icky medical procedure that you really don’t want.
Or it’s only a matter of time before your spouse leaves, or a judge removes any choice YOU have about dealing with that drug or alcohol problem.
Alas, Big Hairy Intimidating Changes won’t always wait until you’ve built up a cushion of wellbeing to carry you through them, will they?
But, Big Hairy Intimidating Changes, by their very nature, are overwhelming to attack. If they weren’t we’d have vanquished them 5 years ago, the FIRST time we resolved to change, right?
So here is my slightly-less-fool-proof, but still pretty darn practical method for making tough resolutions stick:
1) RESOLVE to do the least you can do
It makes change less overwhelming. It practically ensures successful resolutions instead of yet-more-failure.
AND if you work it right, it starts a little snowball effect that can lead you to big-deal changes.
And that beats yet another staggering defeat at the hands of a HUGE, GRIM RESOLUTION.
Let’s say you really do have to find some way to exercise.
But you hate working out. And you’ve tried this 100 times before. And it never works.
Heck, maybe at this point you hardly can work out!
So, what CAN you do?
Start there. Can you walk? Resolve to walk around the house for 1 minute each day. Or the yard, if you prefer it. The office, if need be.
Or to do arm curls with whatever weight you CAN lift. Only one pound? All good. Two pounds? Splendid. You can only curl the weight of your arm? Do one minute of that!
You can handle one minute, even if that’s all you possibly can handle.
Resolve that if that goes well, you’ll up it to 1 minute a couple times a day. Or to 2 minutes. Keep going from there: keeping it manageable, but keeping at it.
Now, clearly this isn’t going to drop you three dress sizes by Valentine’s Day. Probably won’t get you a beach body by summer.
But it WILL get you moving in the right direction.
It will prevent Resolution Failure.
It will start to make a difference.
If you can do more, DO! But starting is better than not starting, and succeeding at some is better than failing at lots.
And you can up the progress with a NEW (but small and manageable) resolution ANY month of the year!
Or maybe you need to deal with that alcohol problem.
You COULD resolve RIGHT NOW to NEVER. DRINK. AGAIN!
But if you’ve made that resolution several times before (whether at new year’s or not) you know the success rate on this one.
That’s a huge, overwhelming resolution and it probably drives around with a lot of bright red baggage that screams FAILURE! every time you see it.
Instead, maybe your resolution is that on 3rd January from 11am to 1pm you will research recovery and treatment options to find out which are successful.
Or that by the 15th you will have spoken to your doctor about some options. Or talked to a friend who’s been sober for 12 years, about what worked for him or her.
2) Revolve to do it the easiest, most successful way
When facing something you don’t really want to face, do it the easiest, most successful way you can. Torture yourself some other time, right now spend your energy on effectiveness.
For example, back to losing that weight: say you passionately hate going to a gym, but you LOVE dancing.
Then don’t resolve to hit the gym 3 times a week! Resolve to go dancing once a week!
If the mere thought of salad makes you cringe don’t resolve to eat salads 2 meals a day! Eat blueberries, or watermelon, or carrots.
What is the least intimidating way you can get the information or help you need to get? Resolve to learn that.
Then resolve to take the first step. Maybe to attend one AA meeting. Or schedule a doctor’s appointment. Or search online for successful programmes for whatever your need is.
Whatever the next, bite-sized step may be for you.
3) Focus on what you CAN do, instead of what you have proven you can’t.
What you can’t do isn’t going to help you here, so why spend energy on it?
Maybe you’ve GOT to get help for that eating disorder, or gambling problem, but you KNOW your family is going to go through the roof at any hint of imperfection.
Seek help from someone who ISN’T going to make it harder!
Maybe your Doctor.
A colleague who has been there, but gotten help.
A friend who you know is truly concerned and won’t let you stay stuck – but won’t condemn you either.
Or maybe you don’t know the first thing about cooking, but living a fast food life has failed yet again to tame your diabetes.
You could look into a cooking class, or some simple healthy recipes.
But you could also buy pre-packaged meals that you just have to toss into the microwave or a pot of boiling water, and follow the directions. If you are richer than I am, or live much closer to a big city, there are services that will drop off meals made to order.
4) Don’t do it alone.
Hiding problems, trying to pretend you have it all together, muddling through something that’s way beyond you – that stuff drains your energy.
It makes more sense to find someone who has already been there and gotten through, or whose job it is to help people get through.
If you’re not a mechanic, or plumber, or electrician, you probably call one when you need one. Or at least call your brother-in-law who IS one. Same thing here.
If you want to get this resolved with the least pain and hassle, resolve to decide who you need to ask for information, help, or advise. Then resolve to do it.
5) Try to have two resolutions you really want to keep for every one you MUST make.
This one is pretty simple. Don’t ONLY tackle the tough stuff. Build at least a few minutes into your week, EVERY week, where you build yourself up so you can tackle the draining things.
And don’t make too many resolutions! We can have different resolutions next year (even next month!) but having a laundry list of resolutions is a full-time job, not an inspiration to succeed.