It’s the time of year to make resolutions. Many of us, armed with our new diary system, learn a new language CDs, healthy cookbooks and shiny new gym memberships, start the year with a new burst of enthusiasm for the things we would like more or less of in our lives. Unfortunately, for many people, a large percentage of these sincere intentions – seem to fall by the wayside; accompanied by a sense of failure and feelings of guilt. These feelings typically subside – overtaken by busyness, distraction and changing priorities driven by life’s uncanny habit of throwing up the unexpected.
Undaunted we return to the resolution ritual the following year, but how often have you noticed that many of the same resolutions keep popping up – lose weight, spend more time with family etc?
Dr Johnson (author of the Dictionary), who was apparently a massive sleepyhead, always used to resolve to “rise early” the following year – a promise he never managed to keep. A perennial favourite is to lose weight. The normal way of approaching this is to basically draw up a plan – to eat less and exercise more. Unfortunately research has shown that a year later most people, having initially succeeded in reaching their weight loss targets, have put on the weight they lost plus an extra 7%! It has even been found in a study of patients with a heart condition that only 1 in 7 follow their doctor’s advice to the letter regarding taking their medication.
So what is going on? Why do people with so often fail in achieving things they genuinely wanted and had a real commitment to do?
There are many aspects of goal setting (eg being unrealistic, too rigid or not specific enough) that I will discuss at another time, but here we are talking about a failure to achieve something we are really clear that we WANT. It seems that at some point something more important than resisting that extra bar of chocolate or using that expensive gym membership gets in the way, and the willpower simply runs out.
What I have discovered is that in these instances – when we are not achieving the things we really WANT and not doing the things we sincerely set out to do, we find ourselves do all manner of other things instead. Behind this there is usually some attachment to the way that things are now that creates a resistance to change – almost like an immune system. When I work with people I help them to reveal their psychological immune system; helping them challenge some of their beliefs and assumptions on which it is based and gently establish new, more empowering beliefs that are supportive of doing the things that ultimately lead to them achieving the things that are important to them.
So next time you seem to be hitting a wall of resistance to achieving what you would actually love to achieve, stop trying to push through it, doing what you have been doing, and ask yourself “do I still really want to achieve this goal?” (it is possible that it is no longer as important to you). If the answer is yes, then, perhaps with the help of a trained coach, inquire into what ‘hidden commitments’ you may have that are keeping you attached to keeping things the way they are now.