In Goal Setting, Self-Care

It would be great if our New Year’s resolutions came to fruition this year.

Changing behaviour is difficult and we all struggle with it. We are often taught that if we only work hard enough and have strong enough will power and self-control, then we will find success.

However, nobody ever talks about what it takes to have strong will power and self-control.

Our Upbringing Is A Great Influencer

When we can consider potential barriers for successful change, our upbringing would appear to be a great predictor of our success or lack thereof when seeing through our New Year’s resolutions.

If we grew up never having a safe space to fail, experience positive thinking, or the benefit of having a role model to demonstrate how to set and pursue proper goals, we might never know what success looks like within this context.

Another Factor Is Our Brain Make Up

The latest brain science teaches that our brains are in constant conflict between our “impulsive brain” which offers us immediate gratification and our “thinking brain”, namely, the prefrontal cortex.

These two areas of the brain are constantly prompting us in different directions. So, what can we do to work within these challenges and make lasting change?

man struggling to accept being uncomfortable with keeping his new years changes

Learn to Accept Being Uncomfortable

Change is uncomfortable, even scary. Many people are enthusiastic about setting New Year’s resolutions, but when the time comes to adopt their new behaviour and incorporate new habits into their routine, they just can’t do it. This feeling, itself, can make their goal unattainable.

It really does takes more than a can-do attitude to achieve success –it takes an element of courage.

It won’t feel good to start something new, whether it is getting in shape, or going back to school. It won’t matter how much will power we have if the discomfort is too much for us to handle.

This is why it’s so important to learn how to accept being uncomfortable.

Mindfulness Practice: Learning to Accept the Present

Using a mindfulness practice can help us accept whatever we are going through – whether it is pleasant or unpleasant.

Mindfulness is the act of observing and learning about ourselves, as we are, without judgement. It can help us to learn we are not our feelings and to remain calmer when faced with difficult urges and emotions.

The more we practice mindfulness, the better we become at accepting the present and the more able we are to ride out a storm of emotions without capsizing.

Learning to be uncomfortable is essential for successful change.

If you are trying to change your diet or start something that you have been putting off for a long time, you will feel cravings, urges, fears and anxiety.

Accepting the discomfort that comes with the change, as opposed to trying to get rid of it, will offer you a leg up on finding the long-term success that you are after.

Working With A Therapist

For some people, feeling uncomfortable can be debilitating and this will always hold them back from trying new things and changing old habits. Working with a life coach or therapist can offer a supportive environment to get to the root of being uncomfortable and help to untangle fears and past learned behaviours, while gaining new tools to move forward.

Next time you are going through change, try this:

The next time that you are facing personal resistance to a behaviour change, try pausing for 1-3 minutes and notice how the discomfort feels in your body. Try naming your experience and use some breathing techniques to stay with the feelings of discomfort. You can handle uncomfortable feelings! Remind yourself what you are doing and why you are doing it and try again.

woman writing down her goals in order to help her achieve the change she is longing for

Bring Your Goals With You Every Day

It is important to remind ourselves why we are making a change in our lives. People make all kinds of New Year’s resolutions that require a serious lifestyle change, including:

  • Eating healthier
  • Losing weight and reducing blood pressure
  • Earning more money or saving more money
  • Joining an exercise class
  • Quitting smoking
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Developing a new routine
  • Finishing a training course for work or your hobbies

There are many, many different New Year’s resolutions people conceive and each involves a new behaviour which may be incredibly difficult to maintain and stick to.

Make a List of What You Are Changing and Why

When you look at this list every day you can be reminded of your goals and motivations. Studies show that when we can identify what we value, we are more willing to accept being uncomfortable.

If you are someone who has fears of travel, but you know that getting on an airplane will bring you closer to seeing your family, it is more likely that you will be able to overcome the associated discomfort.

The outcome becomes more powerful than the immediate feeling.

Next time you are going through change, try this:

Spend some time thinking about what you would most like to change and ask yourself why this is important to change.

  • How would your life change if you did this?
  • How will this change bring you closer to the most important parts of yourself that you value?
  • How will this change help you be the best version of yourself?

Write these answers down in a journal that you use daily, in your phone, or small note cards that can be kept close by.

Don’t tuck these away. Rather, read them daily and focus on the feeling that arises from thinking about the results of the change that you are working through. Aligning the feeling with the action will help you visualize your results during the difficult moments of discomfort.

woman lying on couch after suffering a setback in her efforts to work towards her goals

Know That You Are Going To Fail

This one is both the hardest and most important ingredient to having successful transformation. Most people experience a set-back, or criticism and give up entirely.

Success is not a straight line and failure is part of the path to success.

The occasional slip is part of the process.

It is confirmed that we will all experience setbacks, so we need to build this into the process of change and approach our mistakes with compassion and kindness. We can’t stay motivated to do difficult things when we are constantly beating ourselves up.

Getting Things Wrong is Part of The Process

This doesn’t take away accountability for our actions, but it does offer us a safe space to get things wrong. It means that you are on your own side and have your own back when things get difficult, and you encourage yourself to get up and try again.

Next time you are going through change, try this:

The next time that you are failing to meet a goal, or starting to fall into old habits, pause and consider how you would talk to a good friend who is going through the same things as you.

What kind of language would you use? What kind of advice would you offer? It is likely that you would be supportive and encouraging of their efforts to face their struggle squarely. You probably wouldn’t remind them of how many times they’ve fallen short in their pursuit of their goal.

Use this same approach for yourself.

Show yourself some compassion. A supportive approach will help you get back on track towards your goals. The safer we feel when we err,  the more likely we will be able to harness the courage to try new things and persevere towards seeing our goals through.

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