By Nia Simone McLeod
September is known all across the nation as Self-Improvement Month. People everywhere are choosing September to make positive changes in their everyday life and move towards more happiness. This makes the beautiful season of fall a perfect time to reflect on the goals and ambitions that you’ve been striving for all year. Whether you’ve made no progress on your to-do list of goals or have been crossing them off left and right, there’s still time to make the changes that you want to make. But if you haven’t been doing as well as you’d like to, just know that you aren’t alone.
Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Last
Statistics show that only 9.2% of people achieve their new year’s resolutions and break away from those pesky bad habits. That means you’d be hard pressed to find someone within your friends and family who’s accomplished the goals that they’ve made back in January. If you’re wondering what those goals might have been, here’s a list of some of the most popular new year’s resolutions:
- Lose weight/exercise more
- Eat healthier
- Make better financial decisions
- Quit smoking
- Spend more time with family
There are many different reasons why people lose steam while pursuing their goals but some of the most common, as reported by Psychology Today, include low time management skills, ill-refined resolutions, and just plain being distracted. Due to the unpredictability of life, these problems are inevitable. But, they often stop your progress in its tracks and discourage you until you reach the next January 1st.
But the truth is that you don’t have to wait until January 1st in order to start again. Each day has the capacity to be your own personal new beginning. The concept of a “new beginning” has less to do with the date on the calendar and more to do with your mindset.
The Art of Small Changes
One of the biggest reasons people don’t follow through on the goals that they set for themselves is because they’re often too drastic. The fantastical veil of starting a new year and the celebrations that come with that transition often lead to people biting off more than they can chew. For example, instead of making an easily measurable, realistic goal like switching out one of your meals with a salad each day, many people will often jump to a sky-high goal like losing 20 pounds. Since this long-term goal seems to be quite far from your reach, you can easily lose track since you may not be making as much progress as you’d like as quickly as you’d like to.
As humans, we often need constant gratification in order to feel like we’re making progress. This makes us feel consistently motivated. A study done by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology found that short-term goals and immediate gratification inspire more persistency than long-term goals and delayed gratification.
Leslie Bobb, a local lifestyle coach, nutritional therapist, and certified brain coach, suggests that knowing the reason why you desire to achieve your goals is a necessity, “I always insist my clients be clear on their “why.” If you don’t have a strong emotional attachment to the result, then you’ll have a hard time staying motivated for the long haul. Define your reason and keep it handy and visible. Make sure that your goals are reasonable and you are clear on why you want to achieve them. That will make a huge difference.”
Temptation is an inevitability of life. You often can’t stop temptations from rearing their ugly heads but what you can do is change the way that you react to them. Bobb suggests planning ahead, especially when you know you’re going to be walking into a tempting situation, “Anticipate your triggers and make a plan for them. If you want to eat better, make a meal plan, shop, and then prep ahead of time. Consider when you may be around junk food or anything else that may throw you off your course. Be prepared with a contingency plan, like bringing a snack.”
Even something just as simple as changing your language around the temptation can help you face what’s ahead. A study published by the Journal of Consumer Research found that saying “I don’t” instead of “I can’t” when faced with a hard decision can convince your brain that you’re serious about your goals. They found that it gives you more power over your words and your ability to say no. This action is called an “empowered refusal.”
If you can, it may be better to avoid temptation altogether. Studies published in the academic journal Social Psychological and Personality Science suggest avoiding temptation altogether instead of choosing to exercise your willpower leads to an easier time of obtaining your goals. For example, if you’re looking to make better financial decisions, you may want to leave your credit card at home when you head out. This may work better than trying to test yourself. It all depends on your particular lifestyle and the goals that you’re looking to accomplish.
Whatever your trigger is, being aware of its effect on you is progress in itself. Planning ahead gives you a better chance of staying focused on your goals despite what you may be facing.
Self-improvement is whatever you want it to be. Maybe you’re looking to incorporate more healthy meals into your diet. Maybe you’re looking to get out of debt. Whatever it may be, you don’t have to wait until the new year in order to reset your mindset and start working towards those goals. All that’s standing between you and the things that you want to accomplish is a brand new mindset and perspective.
Also, the key to making a change is believing in yourself, as Bobb suggests, “Don’t leave yourself space for excuses. Give yourself the best chance you can at success and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.”
As the leaves begin to change and the temperature gets colder, take this transitional period as a chance to look in the mirror and get your goals back on track before the end of the year. It’s never too late to begin again.