I ate macaroni and cheese last night.
Now, I didn’t specifically make a New Year’s Resolution to only eat green things that grow in the ground (after 39 years on this planet, I know myself better than that!) But I’ve been wanting to make up for scarfing all of my Mother-in-Law’s Christmas cookies, so I’ve been trying to “be good” for the past two weeks.
Like me, you probably know what it feels like to let a resolution slip by the wayside. Or fail at a goal. A huge majority of resolutions fail.
But this isn’t going to be one of those articles about how to be in the 8-or-whatever-% of people who keep their resolutions and stay strong. Just google that stuff if that’s what you’re into – there’s plenty out there about that. This is about how to keep moving forward if you’re one of the mere humans, like most of us, who have already gotten off track and wonder what to do next.
Like It Never Happened
You’ve probably heard, like I have, that when you slip up on a goal or make a mistake, you should forgive yourself and just get back at it the next day. That’s kiiiiiiiinda right. You shouldn’t beat yourself up, but you also shouldn’t make some big deal out of needing to forgive yourself. By putting too much focus on forgiving yourself, you could actually slip into “ruminating” and negative self talk, which is a self-defeating behavior. Instead, Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit, suggests that you just let it go and pretend it never happened. Just erase that day or that slipup, and proceed forward!
Sometimes when a resolution is hard to keep, or a goal seems impossible to hit, that means it isn’t the right resolution. Maybe you set an unrealistic goal, or maybe you just don’t have the structure in place to do what you said you wanted to do. I really like this article about “key dependencies” and how they can sometimes get in the way of our goals. And I don’t think dependencies have to be other people, either! For example, do you have a resolution to work out every day, but you are ALSO a person who wants to spend time with his kids? And volunteer in the community? And cook a home cooked meal every night? AND read a book a week? You might have resolutions that naturally conflict with other goals and resolutions. We assume that if we slip on a resolution, it’s a failure in our willpower. But that’s not always true! Sometimes our goals just bump up against the wall of reality. So just stop, and reevaluate if there’s an external obstacle to your goal that you didn’t realize.
Repeat after me: you are NOT a loser if you give up on a goal that isn’t working, revise it, and try again later. That’s literally called LIFE! Whether it happens in January or July, we’re all always setting out to accomplish something, gathering information, and adjusting course accordingly. So if you’ve already discovered that you and your resolution can’t be long-term BFFs, then let it go. In fact, the sooner you let it go, the sooner you can brush it off and move on to evaluating and selecting a better goal. Cut your losses now, because the more you beat yourself up, the longer you keep up the “I’m lazy, I have no willpower, I can’t do it…” self-talk, the more you’re doing damage to the part of your thinking called “self-efficacy.” Stop wasting time, and start getting prepared for the 2nd(or 3rd, or 4th… no judgement here!) version of your resolution.
I wish I could give up on the idea of resolutions all together, but even when I don’t CALL them that, there’s something about a fresh year that makes me want to set fresh goals. I’ll always have a plan for my new year, but if I don’t cross everything off the list, oh well. It’s still gonna be a great year.