It's nearing the end of March - we're three months into 2019! It seems like a long time since I wrote blog posts on both my own resolutions, and why people probably wouldn't stick with theirs. This week, I'm taking it back to remind you of why resolutions are hard and what you can do if you've gone off track - this might be a well-timed reminder for some of you!
If you've managed to stick to any of the New Years Resolutions you set yourself this year then congratulations, you are very much in the minority. Most of the blogs I've seen on this topic suggest that 80% of people have given up on their resolution by February, although I couldn't find a study that backs this up. I've seen other researchers suggest that it's closer to 92% - not reassuring stuff, really!
So what are you supposed to do when your running goal has turned into Netflix marathons, or your idea of learning a new language has just stayed as an idea? I've got some suggestions:
Remember why you started:
When you were thinking about your resolution on the 31st December, there was a clear reason that you wanted to try it. It might have been because you were excited to try something new, or because you knew that changes needed to be made. Try to tap into the mindset that you were in when you set that goal in the first place - what was driving you to do it? Remembering why you started can go a long way towards getting you back in the driving seat.
Remember though, that sometimes the reasons that we do things aren't necessarily good for us. If you were setting your goal just because someone else had placed limits on you ("you'll never play the piano!") or because you thought it was what someone you love wanted you to do, then it's likely that the resolution was never truly yours in the first place. You don't have to do things for other people - do it for yourself instead.
Remember that it's supposed to be difficult
Change is supposed to be a little bit difficult, otherwise it's not rewarding. There are good reasons for the way things were before, even if those reasons are just "this is easier." You need to remember that if you gave up because you didn't automatically become amazing at the thing you were trying to do, that's part of the process.
Many people are guilty of expecting to just be good at things. It tends to come with trying fewer new experiences as you get older - because you're already reasonably good at most of the things you do, you assume that other things must be easy to master as well - how hard can it be, right? Turns out the answer is often "very"! If you've been struggling with this, remember that you're not supposed to be good at things straight away. Some things, like running or other physical activity, take a bit of time for your body to adjust, and can be a little painful in the meantime. Other things, like learning a language or a musical instrument, take a lot of practice even to be able to do them a little bit. If it was easy, everyone would do it - the point is that you're doing something different, which is good for your brain and good for your health.
Even if it's been a couple of weeks since you picked up the violin, or pulled on the gym shoes, or added to the "dream holiday" fund, it's never too late to start again. Pick it back up but start small - sometimes the sheer scale of something can be off-putting at first, and it's important to build it back up slowly.
Remember to let it go
Sometimes you pick a resolution that's probably not right for you. Either it was set for you by someone else (see above) or you genuinely realise after a few weeks that it doesn't fill you with happiness to think about doing it any more. To borrow a phrase from Marie Kondo, it doesn't spark joy for you. If that's the case, it's perfectly fine to acknowledge it and let it go. You're not failing - you're finding out what kind of person you are. Maybe you're not a person who speaks French, but you like reading about languages online and how they work. You don't run, but you volunteer at your local ParkRun. You can't play guitar but you really like going to gigs. Find your thing, and find your people, and the rest will follow.
So how am I doing?
The three things that I was planning to focus on this year were my physical health, eating foods that nourish me, and listening to more podcasts. You'll recognise that none of these are in any way SMART goals, to my shame! However, I think I'm doing pretty well. I've joined a gym (and remembered to keep going!), I'm trying to eat more plants, and I've started listening to two new-to-me podcasts. Once I've finished the podcasts though I'm probably not going to find any more - I like these ones, but I take information in better visually and I struggle a bit with remembering what's happened from one episode to the next - I'm too distractable when it comes to podcasts! That's the good thing about goals and resolutions - you can revisit them and change them if they don't work for you.
Let me know how you're doing with your resolutions in the comments!
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Dr Sarah Blackshaw: Clinical Psychologist, blogger, tea drinker, interested in dinosaurs and shiny objects