Making New Year’s Resolutions Stick

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People love a transformation. Think about it: Would Madonna have remained the Queen of Pop for twenty plus years if she still rocked permed peroxide hair? Jetsetter Angelina Jolie was once an under the radar, blood loving actress but now she’s A-list Hollywood royalty. People crave change as much as they fear it and while every day gives the opportunity to do something different, New Year’s is the most popular time for switching things up.

According to statistics, last year 45 percent of Americans made resolutions. That’s almost half! And while many of us don’t keep them, that doesn’t prevent new goals being made every January 1st. Don’t blame magazines or pop culture for this phenomenon either. Yearly resolutions date back to the Babylonians who promised their gods they’d pay off debts and give back borrowed items. Many cultures, such as the Romans, and even knights of the dark ages made similar “do better” vows. This makes a case for us being hardwired to ascend and be a bit better than we were yesterday. But why is it so hard then?

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We spoke with Life Coach Heidi Reagan of Choosing Expansion, a one-on-one life coaching company, and  Bold Passion, a business that offers coaching for groups or at home use. With a decade of life coaching under her belt,  we felt she was the perfect guide to help us understand why we’re so interested in transformations, even when they’re difficult.

Hi, Heidi. Tell us a little bit about what your work entails?
Throughout our lives we find ourselves faced with difficult choices, life changes and sometimes with little or no idea how to move from one area of our lives to another successfully. During this time people usually reach out for assistance more specific than a friend’s helpful advice. Since my specialty is working with people in all types of transition, this is when I can be most useful in a person’s life.
Working with a life coach boils down to these few steps:
• Identifying the current areas that are presenting a life challenge.
• Gaining clarity about that area.
• Identifying the desired result.
• Creating a plan for forward movement.
• Assisting a client to achieve their new goals.

Why are New Year’s resolutions so popular? What is it about this time of year that makes people say, I’m finally going to start my own business or I’m going to learn this new skill?

There are several reasons people choose this time of year to hit the reset button. Firstly, and probably most simply, a numeric change in the year triggers the idea of a fresh start and that idea snowballs into New Year’s resolutions. In addition to that, by the time January 1st arrives many people have already been consumed with activities, projects and social engagements that usually began as early as November 1st. Often those commitments focus mainly on doing things for others. While that can be satisfying, often we realize that we have allowed our own needs or desires to be temporarily shelved and the New Year is the perfect time to refocus. Lastly, there is the natural cycle that comes in the winter months. In the winter months we produce hormones that cause us to slow down and with that comes a tendency to reflect and contemplate restoration of body and mind. This reflection also triggers new desires to begin the New Year with a new set of goals to accomplish.

In your line of work, what are people looking to change the most?

There are a few categories that are recurring themes but the one that almost always tops the list is body image and self-acceptance and love. While I work with both men and women, I have more women clients and with so many expectations still thrust upon women to look a certain way, many women are dealing with what that means for them and how to love and accept themselves for who they are as they are, here and now.

Change is a funny thing. On one hand, as a culture, we seem to be really attracted to it, whether it be getting a new drastic haircut or moving to a new city. On the other hand, we’re also very resistant to it. Why do you suppose that is?

Change is part of life and can be very fulfilling. When it is a relatively easy and reversible possibly change, such a haircut, we are more comfortable taking the plunge. However, bigger more impactful life changes such as a new job or a new relationship come with no guarantees and this can be a challenge. We want something new, but if we aren’t sure what the outcome will be, fear can take over.
No one wants to fail or be hurt but change requires a willingness to make ourselves vulnerable with no guarantees in order to expand our life. There are times in our life when we convince ourselves it’s just easier to stay in the same place even if it isn’t ideal or maybe even downright uncomfortable. This quote by Anaïs Nin about change is one of my favorites:

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

 

Unfortunately, we often wait until life is so painful to choose to forge a new direction and usually it is only because we have been too afraid to step out of what is familiar, no matter how unhappy it has caused us to be.

What are some of the things people do that prevent them from transforming in the ways they want?

Self-sabotage is number one and can manifest itself in several ways such as negative internal mind chatter; convincing themselves they don’t deserve anything better than what they have now. Procrastination is another. If someone doesn’t finish the steps needed to transform then maybe they won’t “fail” at the desired transformation. Another popular one is distraction. Distractions are apparent when we allow ourselves to get distracted by a family member or friend’s needs or “drama”. We can become so caught up in supporting or managing their emergencies we have an excuse for not accomplishing our own goals or being accountable for our own personal transformation. The bottom line in any distraction or choice to self-sabotage is always some sort of fear and the one of the most useful tools in combating fear is recalling a wonderful acronym False Evidence Appearing Real. We build up all sorts of what if’s in our mind and 9 times out of 10, they do not manifest but in doing so we have even more “reasons” not to even attempt a transformation.

What are some of your best tips for making a change stick?

Begin by setting manageable incremental targets to accomplish. While it’s important to have the end result in mind, be sure to break down the steps needed in order to celebrate each and every time you reach a new milestone. This will continue to feed the desire so you continue, thereby reaching the end result.

It’s also important to remember the reason for the initial change. Whether we desire more joy, ease, health or prosperity, there is always a desired feeling associated with a new life direction. When the transition becomes challenging, tedious or scary,  it’s imperative to recall the reason you chose to take the leap in the first place and envision what life could be like once you have established your desired transformation. The reality is, unless you have been entirely successful as a self-motivator or self-starter in the past, most people benefit from outside support to aide them in locking in a change. Consider finding others with similar goals for the New Year to support you through any hiccups that arise. Friends, family and a good coach will help you remember the reason you began this journey in the first place and help you to stay focused and consistent as you persevere.

 

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