Being well into January, may I ask you a question? Have you given up on your resolutions and fresh starts yet?
My girlfriend, Elizabeth, shared her resolutions with me to eat right, lose weight, exercise and quit some bad habits that haunt her daily routine.
Oh glory, I have heard this before … from myself!
But good for her, I say. Go for it Baaaby!
I quit with all the hard and fast resolution stuff a few years ago because somehow my fresh starts always grew stale fast. And when they did I was left disappointed and frustrated. When it was all said and done I’d beat myself up over my failure to follow through.
Maybe you do the same thing?
But what if we got to the root of why we fail with these fresh starts? Maybe if we nail down the reason why we unintentionally dump good intentions, then we can find the solution to keeping them and making the changes that truly change our lives for the better. Oh wouldn’t that be nice?
Upon introspection of my own failures I see two main reasons that resolutions and fresh starts go bad. The first one has to do with stressors.
You probably could have guessed that.
I read a book once about how we make and change habits. It was all about the exchange.
The secret to making and breaking a habit is, exchanging one for another — something new for something old.
We won’t keep the new unless we keep it long enough for it to become old. Why? Because old is comfortable. New is not.
When we feel stressed from being, say, overly tired, pushed for time, depressed, overly hungry, angry, better yet hangry or lonely (you can fill the blank for what gets to you most) we have a tendency to revert back to what comforts us — old habits.
Stress causes us to run for the cover of comfort.
If our new habits aren’t well solidified, stressors prompt us to fall back into what we know is bad but familiar rather than having the strength to reach for the new that’s better.
The second reason our new starts go stale is a matter of the heart.
Our heart will trick us into believing that a new habit is already old before it is actually old enough to be trusted or tested.
If my resolution is to stay away from sugary things (I have a ginormous sweet tooth) and I am able to accomplish this for a week or so I’ll lose the desire for said sweets. It feels comfortable to go without them. Therefore, I feel like I can have a small amount and it won’t bother me. So, maybe I’ll have a cookie. When I eat it I surmise that, yes, it is good but, maybe not as good as I remembered. At this point I don’t feel the need for more. Then a day might go by and I will rationalize, since I don’t feel the need for sugar I must have broken my habit and I’ll allow myself to indulge again. The problem is again becomes, again and again. Soon I’m right back to where I started. My heart has deceived me.
Maybe you have found yourself in this scenario. Perhaps it wasn’t sugar but something else.
This cycle gets played out over and over with whatever habit we try to implement or break.
Now that I’ve given you every reason to give up on your resolutions and fresh starts, can I reverse this by instilling you with some hope?
Here are some preemptive strategies that will help us make the changes we desire.
Keeping all the above in mind, don’t expect too much too soon. Be realistic not idealistic. It’s better to make progress than shoot for perfection. Plan for small obtainable success. Set small goals.
This is time management which I admit I struggle with sometimes. There are parts of me that love the rush of the rush. However, when we fill our schedules to the brim with no breathing room, we have a tendency to falter in our perseverance. There needs to be room in the day not only for what is planned but also the unexpected that is bound to happen. Room for when the car breaks down, a friend calls with a problem that takes an hour long phone conversation to solve, kids need an emergency babysitter. You get the picture. Pressed for time we will throw out the new diet for the comfort of a Big Mac or a bowl of ice cream.
Find what motivates you to succeed.
My brother-in-law tried time and time again to quit smoking. Nothing worked. Even while staring cancer in the face he couldn’t stop. Then his young son (my nephew) got asthma. My brother-in-law never lit-up again. That was his smoking habit’s Kryptonite. The health of his child was the motivation he needed.
Give Yourself Grace
We will all mess up. Count your failures as a learning experience. Reevaluate and try again.
We all need to be cheered on. Our most faithful cheerleader is our Heavenly Father. Share your ideas with Him. Pray and ask for His help. When God is for you, who can be against you?
Then reach out to a friend who will catch you when you fall and loves you enough to get tough with you when you need it.
In this way we can stop our fresh starts from going stale fast; keeping them long enough that they become our old and comfortable. You can do this new thing. I believe in you.
“Behold I am dong a new thing; Now it springs forth, do you perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).
(I have been without sugary sweets for about a week now.Woohoo!)
Looking forward, pressing on and trusting God in every bump and twist in my road.