Why new years resolutions suck and life plans are the way to change your life.
There I said it, someone had to, new years resolutions really do suck.
I know there’s people out there that will challenge this and tell me I’m wrong. I do agree they can be a great fresh start and clean slate for someone to implement change, but one thing I’ve come to realise when not just helping myself but so many people in my coaching practice set and achieve personal goals, it’s never been because of a single focused goal or pledge where there has been amazing results. In fact I’ve found this approach to goal setting extremely detrimental and this is why!
I know I’m not speaking on behalf of everyone as I’m sure some people really have found the new year to be a helpful time to kick start a goal, and have stuck with it for a period of time, but there’s a lot of evidence and real life stories about people starting off on a great foot, really motivated and kicking goals, to suddenly lose motivation and interest and fall into old habits very quickly. I was one of those people.
For many years I believed that every year was going to be a fresh start and I set numerous new years resolutions. I had multiple goals to quit bad habits including alcohol, smoking, drugs (prescription) and each attempt I found I just continuously fell into a heap and fell back into habits. I was floating around aimlessly constantly repeating the same cycles, same patterns, of getting up & falling down and kicking myself each time for not having the willpower or strength to push through.
What I didn’t realize and what I’ve now discovered to be the key is that the falling is not the problem, in fact it’s a positive thing and opportunity to learn, and the getting back up is proving to myself that I am actually pushing through.
This mindset change occurred for me about 5 years ago when my life took a massive turn around because I started realizing that the only problem with that cycle and why it wasn’t working for me each time, was the actual kicking myself when I’m down part. The lack of patience, self-love and compassion for myself and my efforts was what was contributing greatly to me not being able to be consistent and actually move closer towards my goals.
I also soon come to learn that there was a force much greater pulling me away from my goals and influencing my ability to push through and that was the power of the mind and how it was programmed.
Let me explain this so it’s a bit easier to understand.
Each time I consciously made the decision to make a change and act, my subconscious mind already had programs installed (like a computer) that were working against me and the constant battle of trying my best and “failing” was actually my own self sabotage. Deep down I believed I did not deserve to have the things I wanted and more importantly my goals were not coming from a positive place. An example of this was my attempts to implement an exercise regime and lose weight. My goal to exercise was centered around the belief that I was not good enough how I was and I believed that due to some extra pounds I was disgusting, unattractive and unworthy of genuine love.
So, my new year’s resolution to lose a few pounds was being driven from a desire to be accepted by society and myself rather than to be healthy and well. I told myself numerous times that I was doing it for the positive reason, but subconsciously I was overrun by my primitive instinct to be accepted. Every time the driving/motivating factor was outweighed by this basic human need therefore no effort was sustained long-term. Like so many I was influenced by societal pressure and ‘norms’ of what beauty and health look like. I saw magazine models as my role models of what I was aiming to look like and I looked up to women who were 'successful' and had their shit together and constantly compared myself to them. I listened to advice on what was best for me from advertisements from health and wellness businesses marketing their products to promise me instant results, and as a result, I was lost in a world that I didn’t feel I even fit into.
All that changed when my body started to give out and I experienced chronic debilitating back pain from what they said was due to a hereditary spinal degenerative condition that would have me end up in a wheelchair in my late 30’s/early 40's.
I could barely walk or do everyday activities as I couldn’t lift anything over a few kilos in weight without experiencing extreme pain and ending up crippled.
This physical disability was a blessing in disguise, and even though that experience of almost ending up in a wheelchair at the time influenced my deep dark decent into a depression where I didn’t think I would come out of, It helped me to discover who I was before I was told who I should be. I learnt that there were more important things in life, and that we shouldn’t take anything for granted. Each day I was able to move a bit easier, I was grateful, because I knew what the bad days felt like, so I started to really appreciate the good ones. I took those opportunities to go for gentle walks and strengthen my muscles with light strength training, and my reason behind it stopped being because I hated myself and needed acceptance, but because I wanted to take care of myself and starting getting in touch with my mind, body and spirit. I noticed that my entire mindset changed and I was able to recognize the things that were excess in my life and discovered that through this experience I was able to really empathize with people and help them feel supported through difficult times also.
I set my focus on healing my body and mind from the trauma and pain physically and emotionally and implemented the tools I was learning gradually to the point that now, 5 years later, I’m physically fit, healthier and happier. I no longer struggle with severe mental of physical health issues and take much better care of myself. And as result I lost weight, which was the original goal anyway which it often is a result of shifting your intention to self-love and care.
The reason why I share this with you is to show that the only thing that genuinely helped me get fit, feel better and get well was shifting my intention to ensure it was coming from a positive place. That task is not easy however without looking into your core beliefs and driving factors and for many people they don't know where to even begin. Additionally, it’s very challenging to implement healthy habits (or stick to a resolution) without having a clear picture of what you want or a clear plan of how you can get it.
A tool / strategy I want to share with you is how to create a life plan, where you can organize and set goals by looking at the bigger picture.
Firstly, let me explain what a life plan is first…
When we think about all the areas in our life and all the goals, commitments, people and situations in it, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when trying to juggle it all. This overwhelm comes from not being able to see how each thing is connected and how it connects to the bigger picture of what your life looks like and how you want it to look. One of the main reasons I’m not overly fond of smart goals as my only method of implementing change is because I find it too specific, segregated and not always easy to implement when there’s several underlying driving forces that are either motivating us or demotivating us!
Life plans are a way to put all the information together and to have one simplistic tool that you can refer to and track your progress. In my signature program “life house” I share several tools and resources with my clients to help them develop their own life planner and organize their goals more efficiently. I want to share some of these resources with you as well and if you click on the links at the bottom, you’ll find some free printable's to help you get started. To help you get started too I have put together a list of 10 of my top tips (tried and tested methods of effectively getting back to basics and assessing your 'why' and your underlying driving/ motivating factors. Goal setting is much more effective when you're able to reconnect with yourself and the world and really ask yourself why you are even doing it, otherwise it can be seen as simply putting a band-aid on the problem and avoiding the things that really matter and are really holding you back.
SOME TIPS TO HELP YOU GET STARTED!
1. Before writing down any specific goal, a really helpful way to help determine your 'why' and what it is exactly that you want is to find yourself a quiet spot where you can sit and write without being disturbed and imagine your future self say 5, 10, 15 years down the track, and in particular in your final years. Ask yourself some questions, what would you be doing, who would be in your life, what experiences would you have had, what goals have you already smashed and how are you feeling? Use this reflective exercise to help determine what things are really important and what brings joy in your life.
2. Another great way to help find your why/passion is to come up with a list of things you love to do, that make you happy and fulfilled, then schedule those things into your calendar wherever possible, and make them as important as your mundane appointments/ events.
3. Keep a simple system for organizing your everyday tasks, when our systems are complicated and doubled up it can help us feel imbalanced and overwhelmed. Get back to basics and simplify everything, this makes room for actual goals that matter!
4. Get out in nature, make some time to get away from it all and immerse yourself in nature and allow yourself to simply think freely about all the things you appreciate and want more of in your life. Being in nature can help you get a different perspective on everything and remind you that you are part of a bigger picture!
5. Find a support person who you trust and can assist you to implement change, this can be a friend, counselor, coach or anyone you feel is a positive influence. Support is often the key to success when trying to implement change
6. Get active, naturally by being active we are able to focus and think clearly, so prior to making any plans/goals, go for a walk and switch off for a bit, get the body moving, as it will help you become clearer about how you really feel.
7. Access as many resources as possible and engage in some self-learning activities either by reading, watching talks etc, this will help inspire you to open your mind to other possibilities for your life and open more doors of awareness and knowledge. You may even find your goals/ intentions can shift when you learn about new things of interest to you
8. Stay on top of your daily tasks so it makes more time for extra activities and things don't get too backed up. By developing a daily routine that covers all the things that have to be done, you will find you have more time for yourself and for the things you love.
9. Practice self care regularly and schedule it into your day where possible. Self-care is often the after thought when you finally "have time"....but it's important that you make time!
10. Visit your goals regularly, allocate time to check in with yourself and your progress. When we maintain our focus and monitor our progress it automatically helps us stay motivated.
And finally, keep your goals together, and use tools to help you set them and implement them! An extremely helpful tool which I use is a Life Plan, developed from my program "life house", it's where I get creative and really put my ideas/ dreams/ goals etc together so they can be worked on! Here is an overview of how to create your own life plan!
HOW TO DEVELOP A LIFE PLAN
Step one: Conduct an inventory
Start by determining the different areas of your life and brainstorm all the things that make up that category and create a snapshot of how it currently looks.
Categories can include:
Health and wellness, Finances, Family, Work, Volunteering, Social life/ connection
Note: This can also be done as a vision board where you find pictures and create a collage of how you feel the area looks now. For e.g. Health and wellness, smokers may find a picture of a cigarette, lungs etc or you may find a picture of someone you can relate to and put that in the vision board or an image of a face with emotion on it. This exercise is designed to help you get a clearer picture of where you currently are. Make sure you include as many positive things as possible to show the balance.
This may sound very different to the normal approach where you start by brainstorming the things you want or the goals and starting on a positive note. It’s important that we do this step because what we can often get caught up in is the guilt and hatred towards ourselves for having the life we have and not take the time to recognize that in order to overcome low self-confidence, we need to accept and love ourselves as we are and remove the things that no longer serve us. Only by coming from a place of self-love can we move closer to letting go of the things that are harmful, otherwise we are simply going to continue the cycle of self-sabotage.
Once you have completed this step and feel confident you have a snapshot picture either written or visual of how your life looks, the next step is to determine what you need in each area.
Step two: Determine your basic needs
If you are doing a vision board version, find some images that represent the basic things we need to survive like food, water, sunlight, connection etc and put these images aside if they currently are not in the bigger picture. Then using this template, pick one of those things and put it on a separate sheet of paper and create a tracker and make this your main focus/intention for your life, recognising that as you start implementing this goal, notice how some of the other areas automatically are altered and as you notice the changes in your life, remove and images that no longer fit the current picture of your life.
Step three: Brainstorm goals/ visions
Collect images or write down all the visions you have for your life. Add all the things you want in your life and put them in a separate spot either on a different page, plastic sleeve etc and once you have worked on all your basic needs, move onto the other goals you have set for yourself from this pile.
This exercise is designed to help you realize that every action you take has an impact on more than one area of your life, and this alone can be really motivating seeing the progress and the bigger picture! It is also important to work through your basic needs first when starting out and keeping the goals simple, otherwise you can add to the imbalance of your life by putting more pressure on yourself.
For example, you may be working to implement a healthy strength training routine, however you currently don’t get enough water or nutrition to maintain the stamina, therefore the exercise may not be as effective or potentially something that is depleting your resources and energy without replacing it.
So I hope this has been helpful to you and found that by selecting goal that doesn't meet your basic human needs and not coming from a place of self-love and compassion, you may be shooting yourself in the foot when creating a new years resolution. Rather than focus on all the changes you need to make, see your life as a complete picture that just needs some editing. Make sure you ask yourself why you need to change something first and get very clear on your why and what you want it to look like, and more importantly, constantly remind yourself that you are the creator of your life, you get to design the picture and life you've always wanted. Best wishes, Em x
Below is the link to the ebook - How to create a Life Plan which includes templates you can use to start creating your own life plan! (Inventory sheet & habit tracker)
If you would like more information on the life house program, a 12 month comprehensive self development coaching program visit:
https://www.healthretreatathome.com/programs-packages (Life house Program and other courses)
Join our private Facebook group for more resources and support!
Like us on Facebook:
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/healthretreatathomecoaching/