If you’re a resolution maker, you know that it can be painful to make a commitment and not keep it. In fact, those with a trail of unkept resolutions behind them often find that they now resolve to…well, to never resolve again.
The problem, though, isn’t with the idea of making changes for the better in your life. The problem lies in how the changes are made.
Enter Leo Babauta of ZenHabits.net. In his Definitive Guide to Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolutions, he sums up the problems with resolutions:
New Year’s Resolutions usually fail because of a combination of some of these reasons:
- We try to do too many resolutions at once, and that spreads our focus and energies too thin. It’s much less effective to do many habits at once (read more).
- We only have a certain amount of enthusiasm and motivation, and it runs out because we try to do too much, too soon. We spend all that energy in the beginning and then run out of steam.
- We try to do really tough habits right away, which means it’s difficult and we become overwhelmed or intimidated by the difficulty and quit.
- We try to be “disciplined” and do very unpleasant habits, but our nature won’t allow that to last for long. If we really don’t want to do something, we won’t be able to force ourselves to do it for long.
- Life gets in the way. Things come up unexpectedly that get in the way of us sticking with a habit.
- Resolutions are often vague – I’m going to exercise! – but don’t contain a concrete action plan and don’t use proven habit techniques. That’s a recipe for failure.
Leo’s solution? Leo’s 6 Changes Method, which involves choosing one thing at a time to change, and making the changes very slowly. It’s about finding success by building habits in small steps, as opposed to one giant quit-smoking-lose-weight-eat-better-start-exercising-on-the-same-day plan that has a high risk of failure.
This approach of gradual, sustainable success is a great one that we’ve seen work time and time again for patients trying to make challenging lifestyle shifts. If resolutions are your thing, a quick look at Leo’s strategy, or his book The Power of Less, is time well spent.
And if your resolution is just to be happier? Pay a visit to Gretchen Rubin’s blog The Happiness Project for help. Her book by the same name hits the shelves this week – just in time to kick off 2010 the right way!