Happy New Year! Happy New Year!
The clock strikes midnight and just like that, the new year has begun. For a fleeting moment, we feel a strong sense of community – we hear our friends and neighbors cheering in celebration; fireworks speckle the sky, party horns sound, and we give a big, optimistic hug to those closest to us. Perhaps we spent a few minutes the day before jotting down some personal resolutions. “Hit the gym more often, start eating better, get back into yoga, be nicer to others.” We compile a little list, and the communal buoyancy of New Year’s Eve carries us into the following week. We ride a wave of intention, and we feel really good about ourselves. I mean, come on. We hit the gym on the 1st, had chicken and salad for dinner… went to yoga on the 3rd, ate an apple. Donated some old clothes to charity. Things are going well.
And then sometime in mid-January, we have a rough day. We get caught in traffic and angrily flip the bird to the maniac that cuts us off. We’re a bit too tired to cook after work, so we stop by McDonald’s – just this once. But as we all know, once the seal is broken the burgers just keep flowing. The fast food makes us feel slightly ill, so we skip the gym. Then, sometime in March, we wake up amidst a rancid pile of empty chip bags and Mt. Dew cans and think to ourselves, “What happened?”
The New Year Drop-Off – Collapse of Resolve
Okay, so maybe the collapse of our resolve isn’t quite that dramatic. But still, many of us have a difficult time sticking to our goals. Why is this? First of all, many of us overlook the fact that in order to make lasting changes, we must alter our entire lifestyle. It isn’t enough to say, “I’m going to quit drinking. Drinking is doing nothing for me, and I really want to stop it altogether.” It isn’t enough to say this if you’re still going to run with the same circle of heavy drinkers, and head to the bar after work to play pool. You might be able to maintain abstinence for a short period of time, but if your lifestyle doesn’t change, you will inevitably end up right where you were the year before. When considering a lifestyle change, ask yourself how realistic it is to tackle on your own. How deeply enmeshed are you with whatever it is you are trying to give up? Answer honestly, and ask for help when necessary. Sure, they are your personal goals, but you certainly don’t have to go them alone. Sticking to resolve often means reaching out and accepting guidance. Especially if we’ve formulated the same plan of action year after year (without being able to follow through in the long-term).
Out With Excuses
Secondly, we need to stop making excuses. When we begin to fall off and slip back into old patterns, it’s all too easy to frantically justify why this is happening. “How can I make new friends,” we might say, “All of my friends drink, all of my coworkers drink… where am I supposed to meet all of these ‘sober’ 20-somethings?” Sometimes, our initial resolutions will grow and expand and become deeper and more intricate than we thought – and in order to make lasting change, we need to become open to this evolution. “Quitting drinking” may become “attending weekly AA meetings”, which may then evolve to “getting a sponsor” and “working through the 12-steps”. Successful change means opening ourselves up to whatever path feels the most productive. It may seem intimidating at first, but catching our complacency and working hard to change directions will ultimately lead to unparalleled growth and fulfillment.
Broadening Our Resolutions
We tend to gravitate towards small changes, such as eating more vegetables or spending more time outdoors. And while small changes are undeniably important, we might be overlooking the bigger picture. Many of us lose motivation early on because we begin to feel defeated or overwhelmed. It is easier to stay on track when we actively prioritize our mental health. Are you happy? Do you love yourself? Do you feel that you deserve to reach all of your goals? Ask yourself some hard-hitting questions, and explore whether or not there is something internal that is dragging you down. Again, if you find that there is probably more to the story, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Lasting change takes time, self-exploration, and a great deal of commitment.
And remember – even if you do find yourself knee-deep in Doritos sometime in February, it is never too late to start anew. The next chapter of your life will begin as soon as YOU decide to turn the page.