Succeeding with your New Year’s resolutions

We are now a month into the new year. If you made a new years’ resolution and are on target, congratulations! If you find yourself beginning to slip, read on.

There is a science to this process of succeeding with a resolution. Knowing the science is like having a map to follow, a GPS that tells us what the best route is and when we’ve made a wrong turn.

Blue brain

How do we develop this map, make use of the science? We can begin by asking what may seem like an obvious question: What does it mean to succeed with a new years’ resolution? Success means that 1) we reach our end goal and 2) are able to maintain it. Two components, each needing consideration.

Deep change and die-hard habits
People usually make resolutions that involve life changes, like getting healthier or improving our lives in one way or another. A life change is not superficial. It involves the very core of who we are, of changing perhaps long-held habits, tendencies that seem to have a life of their own. For example, if we want to eat better, what we put in our mouths affects us very deeply, involving not only physiological processes, but also an emotional element, i.e. hello cravings!

Examining the road map of success
Having an understanding of the fundamentals can arm us with the right mind set and some effective tools.

Are your resolutions realistic – all things considered?
Assessing our goals in light of our life circumstances helps us determine whether everything lines up. Every day when we wake up – and given that we slept well – we have freshly charged batteries to live another day. How we expend this energy greatly impacts what we accomplish. If we have high stress at work, less will be available for personal goals. Or maybe it’s the opposite. We struggle with family problems, then expect to be fully motivated and excel at work.

So we might formulate our first tool as: If, at first, you don’t succeed, reduce the goal. Our self image often prevents us from taking the simple step of expecting less of ourselves when we are not measuring up to our self-imposed goal. Usually we fall into self-criticism – an energy drain with no return on investment – instead of admitting the truth. The old saying: “The truth can set us free” has practical merit.

Body type strategies
We are not all built the same. Understanding our body type can guide us in setting our goals and, more importantly, tell us what we need to stay the course. In Ayurveda, India’s ancient, time-tested healing tradition, there are three main body types: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each has its own unique physiology and emotional disposition.

A Vata, for example, has lots of initial enthusiasm and is great at getting started but can easily get scattered and move on to another goal, never fully landing on any one. A person who is predominately a Pitta type has great determination and self-discipline but can sabotage themselves with too much impatience or too high expectations and quit half way through. Kaphas are loving, forgiving types yet they have a slow metabolism so getting started is usually the hardest thing.

To discover your Ayurvedic body type, here is a short online quiz:

After you assess your body type, if you want to learn more about body types and motivation, you can go to an article I wrote:

Why sweat it – Use your intuition
Our intuition is a powerhouse, a valuable resource that many of us don’t tap into. It does take training and practice to hone it into an accurate, reliable skill. But it is well worth the investment of time and effort. Our intuition is capable of connecting many dots at once making it an extremely efficient tool to navigate life’s challenges.

How to program your intuition: A simple way to begin working with your intuition is to program yourself before going off to sleep at night. Envision your end goal (not the problem). Breathe and relax your body, and as best as possible, feel what the end goal would be like, feel like, if it were true in the moment. Finish by telling your intuition to guide you in fulfilling it. It’s best to practice this every night until you get proficient.

Support Makes All the Difference
A Kapha friend of mine, with a life-long tendency to put on excess weight, decided finally to hire a personal trainer. It changed his life. Not only did he lose forty pounds – slowly, in a healthy, maintainable way – but now, a year later, he is still on track. Surprisingly, it’s not so much the lost pounds that we all noticed. He also became cheerful and energetic, and his trademark slumping posture all but vanished. He became a different person. But take note, he did it with help.

You may ask – what about all those people who just forge ahead independently, without support? Those amazing athletes? Well, they are probably Pitta body types. Pittas have determination and drive in abundance. If you feel envious, just know that they can also be impatient and critical.

Even Pittas, however, can fall into despondency or inaction and never get started. Their overly high expectations can be paralyzing. A Pitta I know has wanted to change his career for ten years now and is still unhappy. He claims he can’t make up his mind, that nothing seems to light up for him. But nothing can light up for any of us if we never give ourselves an opportunity to step up to the plate and swing a bat for the first time, feeling awkward and inept. Pittas hate feeling like that. Even determination-filled Pittas need support.

Lastly, consider hiring a therapist or life coach to help you identify any self-defeating habits and beliefs operating under the surface. If, as a child, you were told things like: “You’ll never amount to anything.” or “Life is just one burden after another.” these attitudes become lodged in our subconscious and continue to operate in us as adults without our awareness. One sign that they are operating is when we find ourselves doing the opposite of what we intended and feel powerless against a nameless force within us.

Refrain from comparing yourself to others
I’d like to end with a quote that I encountered many years ago and found valuable in helping me not to compare myself with others. When we stop comparing ourselves to others, we start being more who we truly are.

Success distance traveled quote

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