By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN
We are close to the end of January, the month that many of us decide to make life changes and resolve to improve habits, thoughts and tendencies. How are you doing?
Anybody feel like your motivation is waning? Is the excitement you felt as you anticipated changing your life for the better harder to call on? Are you finding it more difficult to get going or to keep going in your new direction? Is it too easy to find an excuse or reason to slide backwards instead of continuing forward?
Let me offer some thoughts and advice to help:
Change is never easy!
Our usual patterns and behaviors are well worn paths and organized patterns in our brain. Any time anyone does anything new it’s harder than the old way.
For instance, how many times this year have you written or typed 2015 instead of 2016? You got into the automatic pattern of of writing 2015 after you practiced enough times. It’s going to take time, thought and practice for you to be able to write 2016 automatically.
This small habit that you changed in 2014 has only been part of your life for a year. And yet you practiced this habit enough so that now it takes concentration, thought and time to change. This habit is in an area that is not very important in your life. And still the old habit sticks making it harder to start the new habit.
When you are attempting to change another area in your life, an area that has been your habit and practice for years, it’s going to take a lot more time, practice, concentration and forgiveness when you fall back on old habits. It is not easy to change any organized, automatic behavioral habit. Add patience, kindness and self-forgiveness as you go through the process of changing any habit you have been practicing for a long period of time.
Resolve to start doing something, not stop doing something!
If your New Year’s Resolution describes eliminating a behavior you are headed for failure unless you add what you are going to do instead.
Choice Theory psychology explains that all behavior is purposeful, even those nasty and unpleasant habits you want to change. The purpose of ALL behavior is our best attempt to act on the world in an attempt to get what we want to more effectively meet our needs. Even though the habit you want to change is not ultimately helping you be the person you want to be, it is helping some, meeting some need slightly. This is why you continue behaving as you do because it works!
(Maybe it doesn’t work well, or maybe it works for one thing and interferes with another; people who worry that they will gain weight if they give up smoking cigarettes, for instance.)
Rather than resolving to stop doing something, resolve to start doing something. If you simply resolve to stop yelling at the other drivers on the road, what will you do the next time a driver cuts you off, or turns without using his blinker, or passes you on the right?
You’re still going to have the urge to yell, swear, or honk your horn. However, if you resolve to say loudly with feeling, “I bless you (or thank you if you prefer) as we to travel together safely on our journeys” you have a much greater chance at succeeding with your resolution. You don’t have to mean it with loving kindness. Just shout the loving and kind words, changing your road rage slightly.
Whenever there is a difference between what we want and what we are getting we have an urge to do something. And for many drivers that something is to shout angry words, flash finger digits and honk the horn. With your new resolution you are probably still going to encounter annoying and irritating fellow drivers. You will still have the urge to rage. So resolve to transform your anger into gratitude and thanks. You will be doing something. And you will have transformed the something you do.
Keep your BIG picture desire, dream or wish in mind when your motivation starts to droop
Remember why you’ve decided to stop eating all the white things (flour, sugar, salt)? You want to feel healthier and have more energy. Keeping this in mind can be useful and helpful when you are faced with a hot-out-of-the-oven, freshly baked biscuit.
Remember why you’ve decided to join the local athletic club and work out more? You want to be able to play with your children, bending, stretching, getting down on the floor with them and getting back up again, playing tag and all the other glories of play. Remember this the next time you wake up earlier than you want because you promised yourself you are going to the gym this morning, not rolling over to sleep just fifteen more minutes.
Remember why you’ve decided to call your brother every week, even for a quick hello and catch-up chat? You want to connect regularly and frequently instead of letting your relationship drift apart. Keeping this in mind on those days when calling feels like a chore and an inconvenience.
You chose this New Year’s Resolution because you have a picture in your head of what you want. Go back and look at this picture regularly and frequently to keep your motivation high and constant.
May you keep practicing your New Year’s Resolution
bringing you greater Mental Health & Happiness!