So you’re making some progress with your New Year’s resolutions. But all of a sudden you hit a wall and drop your healthy habits. You want to pick them back up, but they seem to be sliding further away.
Does this sound like you?
It should, as most of us go through an ebb and flow with most of our habits, health or otherwise. It’s part of learning and it’s totally okay.
However, it’s important not to live in the space of giving up.
Let’s explore first what commonly gets us in this mess, and then–what we can do to keep our 2020 New Year’s resolutions going.
Why We Have a Hard Time Keeping New Year’s Resolutions
Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Motivation
You’ve probably heard of a friend, or a friend of a friend, who sadly got dumped and immediately took to the gym to help get themselves through the breakup process.
This someone might not know what to do at first, but they persist and become fluent in gym-speak and maybe even get some results. Those results and successes gradually form a habit that becomes their own. They no longer require approval from others (hopefully), and just start going to the gym for themselves. Maybe because it feels good, or maybe they start using it as a social outlet. Either way, it’s unique to them and likely becomes a part of their identity.
This familiar scenario shows how extrinsic motivation (in this case, looking good for others) can become intrinsic motivation (working out to feel good).
It shows that wherever you may start, you eventually do it for you.
While extrinsic motivation can lead to better New Year’s resolutions, there is a danger of staying in this space for too long. And in my experience, it’s called seeking validation.
The Danger of Chronic Extrinsic Motivation
When I was 25, nearly everyone I connected with gave me feedback that I sought validation far too often. The input came from my family, friends, even coworkers. It was helpful, but also pretty embarrassing. Especially because I was so oblivious to it. I started noticing all the times I thought I was asking a simple question, only to see that I was actually asking for their approval.
Maybe you have a similar experience with seeking validation. Or maybe you have a coworker or friend who is obviously doing this. Luckily, after a bit of work, course correction is possible.
Why This Matters
The point is, our motivation is the bridge to healthier habits. Construct a weak bridge made out of toothpicks and glue-sticks, and it will likely crumble underneath us, only to start all over again.
But, construct a bridge that outlasts the elements and weight of others? And you can cross with stability.
How We Can Keep Our 2020 New Year’s Resolutions
Now that we’re guiding our health goals towards intrinsic motivation, how can we feed it? How else can we build a strong bridge that lasts?
Become Your Own Coach and Record Progress
There’s a reason why the fitness and health section of Instagram has been taken over with before and after images. It’s because it’s a strong motivator.
Often times we don’t take them because they might be unflattering or too mainstream. But if you can get past the initial cringe, these photos can show us the results we aren’t seeing.
Since we’re looking in the mirror every day, we don’t see all of the incremental changes in ourselves. It takes a relative you haven’t seen in five years to point out how you’ve changed, or maybe–it just takes a photo.
Try taking one every month and set a reminder. It could be a photo of weight loss over time (of the scale or otherwise). Or the food you’re learning to cook. Or maybe even your finances.
The point is, whether it’s weight loss, building muscle, or just eating healthier, you can see the incremental results, and photos are a good way to capture it.
Note Your Mood and Energy Levels
Capturing your mood and energy levels are also great for keeping track of your overall quality of life. Much like the example above, it can be hard to see incremental changes in your mood or energy until it’s drastically different.
Tracking these changes either through an app, such as Mood, or simply writing them down is effective to keep your 2020 New Year’s resolutions. But where the real power comes in is when you see the changes over weeks, months, or years. Log them in a format you like, and have fun seeing how you grow.
Justify the Benefits of Your Resolution
When we’re at a crossroads in our life, it can be scary to take the path least traveled. Even if it’s more exciting or rewarding, we are still skeptical. This is okay, as it’s in our nature as a species. It’s our instincts telling us the path could be dangerous. After all, there might be snakes on that trail, or more relevant to today–failure.
The trick I use to overcome this scenario is to imagine a future with each of the two paths laid out in front of you.
The Two Paths
The first path is where you have been before. It’s the path most traveled and because of that–it’s comfortable. Ask yourself if you want the same things you’ve had, or if you want something new.
If it’s something new, start to picture the second path. What does it look like? Feel like? Smell like? Really start to understand where the second path leads. Is it a new job? Living in a different country? Learning how to fold origami swans?
The secret with this is that once your brain has a go at it, the real decider shows up–your gut.
Even if your brain is trying to play it smart and stay comfy, if your gut is telling you to get out there and try something new, then it may be worth listening to.
Reframe Your Thinking
Speaking of our brain, there’s so much power in not just what we think about, but how we think about them.
For some, nutrition and physical activity are boring or hard, and in a way they’re right. For others, they’re a way to increase energy and to feel good.
This is essentially all that New Year’s resolutions are; what you do is a result of how you think about them.
I once heard an exchange between a coach and their client who couldn’t decide if they wanted healthy changes. The client loved sweets (as we all do) but was struggling to get off their medication. At one point the coach asked, “Are you placing more value on the taste of that dessert, rather than getting off your medications?” From that point on, it clicked for the client.
Keep It a Secret
Earlier, we looked at how sharing your goals and progress with others isn’t wrong, just as long as you aren’t solely looking for approval. Similarly, you may just want to take the next step and consider keeping it a secret.
There’s a lot of power in keeping your wants and goals private. The main benefit is that it carries your intrinsic motivation and New Year’s resolutions further.
Have you ever had this amazing idea for a resolution, only to feel your energy for it leave along with the words you say? I have. Plenty of times.
The goal here is to build up enough of a plan and confidence before talking about it with others. That way the train is already moving, you just have to stay on board.
Keeping your 2020 New Year’s Resolutions can be a daunting task. Motives change, life happens, and sometimes people can get plain jealous. The important things to keep in mind are recognizing where your motivation is coming from, apply techniques to keep it going, and keeping it a secret so it’s not taken away from you.
Climb aboard your new train. It’ll take you places.