There’s obviously something very symbolic about the start of a New Year that compels people to rethink their life. When else do you find such a mass of people resolving to do things differently? And yet for some reason, this compulsion is not so dire as to keep people committed for the long term.
According to a survey conducted by time management experts FranklinCovey, 35 percent of New Year's resolutions are broken less than a month after they are made. The survey enlisted the answers of 15,000 respondents and found that only 23 percent of New Year's Eve resolutions were kept. That is slightly more than one person out of five, which means that nearly four out of five people couldn't stay committed to their desired change.
For many of us change doesn’t come easy. One theory about change is that it takes about 21 – 28 days to make a new behaviour into a habit. If you apply this concept to the survey, we would assume that 65% of participants were successful in keeping to their resolution. However this was not the case. After more than 30 days of practicing the new behavior, an additional 42% of the participants failed to change. Looking into this theory a bit deeper I found it came from a piece of research by a surgeon who in 1960 was investigating how long it took a patient to adjust to the loss of a limb. So is this theory relevant to the changing of habits?
In 2009 a study out of the University College London recruited 96 volunteers who wanted to make a variety of different changes from drinking a glass of water each morning to doing 50 sit ups before breakfast. The researchers found that on average it took 66 days (of daily repetitions) to form a new habit so that it became an automatic part of the participants’ lives. However although the average time to make a new behavior was 66 days there was a wide range of timings between 18 days and over 200 days. What this leads me to believe is for some people change comes easier than for others; the rate of success may depend on what type of change is being made; and more so the meaningful connection to the change will be directly related to the pace of success.
A prime function of life coaching is to help people successfully make change to their life. A key component is the person’s desire to change. When people set a New Year’s resolution there is most definitely a desire to change. However in many cases, the desire can be superficial or driven by the opinions and norms of others. Sure we all know why we should lose weight or exercise more but is just knowing it’s good for you enough to keep you on track? When helping my clients strive for long term change, I help them connect to core values or deep beliefs that support the need for change. These types of intrinsic motivators help to keep a person focused not on what they are giving up, but how the change is meaningful to them. When we are conscious of the connection to what we truly believe in – that is, how the change impacts a bigger purpose than our egos – our chances of success increase immensely.
So if there is something in your life you want to change don’t wait for the New Year. Start now and follow these steps to help you stay committed.
1. Clearly articulate the change you want to make. Don’t just say “I want to lose weight”. Define how much weight you want to lose and identify key ways you’re going to make it happen. For example “I want to lose 15 pounds in two months and I will stop binging on junk food and start preparing my meal plan for each week. I will bring lunch and snacks to work, drink six glasses of water a day ….” This changes the conceptual goal into a clear, realistic and attainable action plan. The key is to make it attainable in relation to the realities of your life. Don’t create an unrealistic action plan to go to the gym five times a week (for example) when your days are already hectic because you’re working full time and going to school at night. An unattainable action plan sets you up for a guaranteed failure.
2. Think about why this change is important to you. Go deep into your heart and find true meaning to this change. Connect to authentic values within you that are important to honor (that maybe you haven’t been honoring). Keep going deeper and deeper until you feel the emotional connection to the outcome of the change.
3. Put your action plan into your calendar and set reminders. This will help you remember to keep practicing what you’ve set out to accomplish.
4. Set up a support group. This could entail someone you know who has the same goal or someone who will check in with you to hold you accountable. Choose someone who you know will be willing to invest their time in you.
5. Create small achievement goals and reward yourself for your accomplishments. For example, maybe after two months of consistently walking for 30 minutes three times a week treat yourself to something special like a relaxing massage; a great top you had your eye on or maybe even a celebration with your support buddy. Make it something focused for you – you’ve earned it.
6. Be fair to yourself. Remember that change isn’t always easy and if you fall off track, assess why, dust yourself off and get back on your way!
Best wishes for the New Year from Cindy Gordon of Culture Shock Coaching, LLC
Cindy's goal is to live in a world where every person is engaged in a career that brings them personal and financial success. When this happens, it creates successful companies, successful relationships and successful communities. Cindy knows first hand how being in the right career can change your life for the better. For 20 years she was in a profession where she was not able to be fully authentic. In 2006 when she found life coaching, she gained a new sense of self confidence, pride in her work and happiness in her life. Cindy's passion had led her to work with both business leaders and individuals to help them gain insight into their personal and corporate values and to understand how to honor these values in their work.