So the joke goes:
‘How many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb?
One. But the lightbulb has to ‘want’ to change.’
Funny, because it’s true. But still only part of the answer to how we create the ‘new and improved me’ that we all crave at this time of year.
For another big part of the answer, watch Trainspotting. Or Trainspotting 2, it comes out January 27th.
Spoiler alert – the will to change isn’t likely to get you very far, unless you are in the right environment.
Ok, most of us aren’t trying to kick a drug habit by heading for the hills with a big bag of money, but successfully leaving old habits behind sometimes calls for drastic action. If we don’t change the context of how we live, how can you hope to behave differently? In the same established routine, we quickly default back to established habits.
Change the scene, create a new set of rules, job, or structure to our day and our habits stand more chance of being able to flex with the changing scenery.
What is it about the act of setting ourselves goals in January? Why do we all find it so annually appealing? Our own experiences might suggest that many goals go unachieved, yet the tradition lives on.
Happy New Year 2017. We’ve wiped the slate clean, written off anything that didn’t quite go to plan last year and set off on a brand new journey with hope in our hair. ‘This time’ we’ll make more progress. This time we’ll stick to the plan. Just don’t look back at what you set yourself last year. Don’t look around at the piles of unread books, or the waistline that is spreading rather than shrinking.
A lot of people voted for change in 2016, so let’s see if this will filter down in to how we view the changes we set ourselves.
Does it matter that the goals we set ourselves are usually wildly optimistic? Just because everyone is raving on about the latest Triathlon course doesn’t mean your average Joe or Joanne should feel compelled to try and win it. And just like the stock market, our weight can go up, as well as down. We can’t all be supermodel slim. So why do we judge ourselves against impossible dreams?
Be wildly optimistic by all means. Set yourself the most extreme challenges. But don’t judge yourself by your own ridiculously high standards. Set a goal then be pleased you achieved any of it. It’s better than jeering at the side lines from well within your comfort zone.
Get some help. Have a support team. Fall off the wagon, get back on. Commit. Write it down. Tell people what you are planning to do. Once they stop laughing, tell them again. The fear of social humiliation will keep you focused.
Keep an eye on the detail. Break big mountains down in to small mole hills. If you need to take this to extremes, have a look at BestSelfCo whose hyper journal will keep you focused on taking relevant action every day towards the larger goal. As long as you remember to fill it in.
And this year, how about we celebrate the victories as we go along? Celebrate getting to the start line. Campaigns like This Girl Can have shown how effective that can be. Let’s not inoculate ourselves from new activities we might enjoy, because we tried, but fell at the first hurdle.
Let’s celebrate creating the space for a new habit to take root. Let’s give a cheer for ‘3 out of 5’ planned sessions at the gym as not bad progress. Let’s give ourselves a pat on the back for managing to juggle all that we do every day, without all the wheels of daily life falling off.
In the words of Dory, who isn’t in Trainspotting, or the sequel: “Just keep swimming.”
Here’s to success with this year’s resolutions, however you define it.
Happy 2017 from all at Avinity.