Updated: Jan 8, 2021
As with the start of most New Year's, even ones as crazy as this, some of us would have decided that we wanted to make changes to our life or career. A New Year brings with it an opportunity to make a fresh start and wipe the previous year's slate clean. Out with the old habits and in with new ones, creating items that we would like to either start doing or stop doing, convinced that this year would be different.
So why is it that most of us fall at the first hurdle and the minute something happens to throw us off track, we plunge straight back into the bad habits that we wanted to change in the first place? Why is there always something that gets in the way, an event or a trigger that gives us a good enough excuse to give up and help justify it to ourselves and our friends?
If you take out unique and unprecedented events, the answer is quite simple, its either because they are unrealistic or we didn't want to change in the first place. We also put too much focus on the things that we think we 'should' change (through peer pressure or guilt), rather than the things we 'could' or even want to.
So, it's no wonder we fall at the first hurdle and give up because we are setting ourselves up to fail and rather than start the following day again, we give up altogether, beat ourselves up and say, there is always next year!! I am no different; I have been one of those people for most of my life setting out to make positive changes, failing and then finding a great excuse for why. I had been setting myself too many unrealistic or 'should' goals, rather than ones I wanted to or could achieve.
So how can we stop this vicious never-ending circle, accomplish our goals and finally have no more excuses? Willpower will get you some of the way, but that alone is extremely hard to sustain for long periods. Therefore, what else could you do to be successful? Whilst I don't have all the answers, here are some suggestions that could help to set yourself up for success:
Re-Visit Your Goals
Go through your list of everything that you would like to change or improve and ask yourself this for each one.
1) Is it realistic? – i.e., Do you have the ability or experience at this time to achieve it? Are there any roadblocks that could get it the way?
2) Do I want to change this, or is it only there because I think I 'should' change it? Do you want to do Dry January or are you only doing it because you think you should do it and your friends are? Do you want to stop or just cut down?
Then get rid of anything on there that is either unrealistic or on there because you think you 'should' do it.
Choose Where to Focus
Once you have a new list, go through them and prioritise the ones that are either the most important to you or those that will make the most significant impact or difference. If you still have a large number of goals on your list, choose the ones you have the best possible chance to accomplish and in the shortest amount of time.
Focus on these first; you can always come back to the others later. Where your focus goes, your energy flows, so the less you focus on, the more energy you give and increase your chances.
Give Yourself the Best Chance of Success
Especially in today's world, we are inundated with events and situations that could make a difference to being successful or not. You can't predict everything that will happen, but you can give yourself the best chance to be successful. If you want to stop drinking alcohol for a month, choose a time that gives you the best chance of success and not of failure. Starting a month of sobriety probably wouldn't be wise if you had many birthday parties coming up!! If you want to stop eating junk food and lose weight, having lots of crisps and chocolate in the house will probably not help either.
Any goal or target that will have a significant impact on your life is going to be a challenge because if it was easy, you would have done it already. Therefore, know that you are likely to have moments on your journey that you fail. When you learn to ride a bike, there is a good chance you will fall off a few times before you finally master it. It's not the falling that's the problem; it's the not getting straight back up again that lets you down.
The sooner you accept that you could fall at some point, the better chance you have to be successful.
We are all unique; we all have our strengths and development points and different goals and motivation. Therefore, comparing yourself to other people adds unnecessary pressure to yourself that you don't need. Your goals should only be for your benefit, not someone else's. It doesn't matter how and when you achieve them, achieving them is what's important.
It can be tough to motivate yourself on your own so give yourself a better chance of success and share your goals with friends, family, a co-worker or even a Coach. There is nothing better than a group of cheerleaders, or someone to hold you accountable, keep you on track and motivated along the way.
So if you are really committed to change something, its achievable and you set your self up for success, you won’t ever need to make an excuse again.