Every year there are a million ads and conversations in the media surrounding New Year’s Resolutions. For some its to get healthy, loose weight, run a 5k, work on their relationship with their family, save more money, stop smoking, or engage in a year of “no-yell parenting.” Whatever it may be that your considering for this New Year, let’s take a minute and consider what makes a successful start to any change.
- Identifying a purpose: Considering the reason behind a change is essential to the long term success. When we understand what our goal really is (better relationships, less conflict, less health concerns) we are more likely to stick with our plan for change and to notice the small successes along the way
- Replacing our habits: A lot of habits that we want to change start as some way of coping for stress. If we want to do away with these habits for the long term, we need to replace them with something. If we’re often eat when we are stressed, it might be an option to begin going for a walk. If we often become irritable and yell at our loved ones when we are overwhelmed, then it may be an option to begin practicing mindfulness.
- Setting up rewards: Ultimately, we all need a reward. From children to adults, we are wired to receive positive reinforcement for our work. Most of us are not altruistic enough to do a job that we love without a paycheck. Making changes in our personal lives in much the same idea. We need some form of “paycheck.” Everyone has different language for rewards. Some people need rewards in the form of time with friends, a trip to the movies, a “cheat day”, etc. Setting up timelines for these rewards is also essential. If your setting up changes for children, rewards need to be consistent and frequent-maybe even multiple times a day. For adults, its essential that rewards are predictable. Setting up a consistent reward every week/2 weeks is necessary to keep us on track and working for something. Otherwise we are likely to “need a reward” after a difficult day and the structure of change quickly disappears.
- Accountability: Think about who in your life might be an excellent source of support. Long term change requires that someone be around to support us on days when we just want to give up and go back to our old ways. Accountability means that we are not making these changes alone. It gives us someone to check-in with, vent to about our setbacks, and to celebrate with us when we succeed.