A Promise to Yourself

The beginning of a new year – As a life coach and motivational trainer, I’d be remiss to say I don’t love new beginnings! It’s the kind of holiday I live for – people, all sorts of people, making mostly-conscious decisions to live their best lives – to treat their body right, to travel despite fear, to save money even when there seems to never be enough, to say yes, to say no, to hold boundaries, to live minimally, to live extravagantly…I love it!! I love goals, choice, and dogged determination. 

However, very few of us well-intended goal setters keep those lofty ideas set on January 1. It’s estimated that only 8% of people who set new year’s resolutions keep them. Clearly, this is not a difficult mathematical equation but I’m just going to state the obvious here, that means 92% of people don’t keep their resolution. The steepest decline in that number is between week 2-4 of having set it. We’re not only giving up on our best lives in huge numbers, we’re doing it in droves about one hot minute after we set the goal to live our best lives. We are wild beings. 

This gives me pause. 

I file through thoughts and questions like:

  • Why do we fail?
  • What is happening out there in the big bad world that leaves 92% of us miles short of our target?
  • Why do we set these goals in the first place?

I finally land on a better question: How do we succeed at reaching our goals?

That question gives me something to sink my teeth into. On the daily, I get to witness people set and reach amazing goals, live fully, reap what they’ve sewn, and step into their lives (sometimes for the first time, sometimes after getting lost for a bit). I see people reach their goals all of the time. With this perspective, I decided to try to ascertain what is different about all of these people I work with (including that wild woman in the mirror) that DO reach their goals. What are they doing? How are they making such successful change? I found three commonalities:

  1. Readiness: The desire to create and sustain change in all of its beauty and ugliness is internally motivated, not externally. January 1st is an external motivation. The day comes and tradition tells you to set a goal – resolve to do something better. Real change comes when internal motivation is the drive. Internal motivation is a strong desire to change because YOU WANT TO. You want to stay in this marriage. YOU want to be around for your grandkids. You want to have joy in your life. You might not know how (and mostly, we have no idea how) but the desire finally outweighs comfort and you move into, and are willing to stay in, uncharted and uncomfortable territory. 
  2. Models: People who successfully create change use some sort of model rather than just a general, non-specific, kind of, sorta gonna do better approach. By this I mean you have a plan to follow. You create or use a model that helps create a desired mindset. It might be a mantra, a self-coaching model, a healthy eating plan, a calendar, a format for conversation, a plan for if-this-then-that, a guiding question, etc. There is a specific way to support yourself. AND (this is an important “AND”), you make room for failure in this model. One, or two, or three weak moments don’t mean utter loss. Failure is expected because change is hard (really, incredibly freaking hard). 
  3. Help: People who succeed have help. You hire bad-ass life coaches, go to therapy, invest in trainers, recruit your friends and family, join social media groups, listen to podcasts, read books, start your own damn groups, and so on. You find a way to get the words of wisdom and motivational push and pull you need. You create a web (made of words, or people, or prayer, or process) that can catch you when (not if) you fall. Because…you’ll fall. Falling is part of flying. 

That’s it. These three things are the main differences that arise in my own experience, in those I serve, and in the research. 

Don’t set the goal because it’s a new year. It won’t work if that’s the only motivation. It is highly likely that you will not do what you’ve told ourselves you will do. You will break your promises to yourself. When you break the promises you make to yourself, even the smallest ones, you set a precedent for yourself. You subtly or overtly remind yourself, that you can’t be trusted. That your words are conditional. And with that evidence in front of you, your cycle continues. 

Seriously, don’t do it. 

Don’t set the resolution unless there is a real desire to change, until some sort of model is in place, and until help and support has been arranged. 

Start with curiosity. Ask yourself:

  • Am I ready? 
  • What’s my motivation? 
  • What is the first step in the process? 
  • How do I create change that is aligned with who I am? 
  • What has worked for me in the past? 
  • Who do I need on my team? 
  • How do I create support? 
  • What wisdom is available from others who have walked this path?

Only make the promises to yourself that you can keep. These small steps may seem insignificant but they’re not. They compound and build momentum. Rather than setting a larger goal of working out every day and simply leaving it at that, start with small promises:

Promise One: This evening you will spend time with your calendar and create a schedule for the next month that incorporates working out and the time it takes to prepare and clean up from that. 

Promise Two:  Get your workout bag prepared the night before. 

Promise Three: Consider if an accountability partner at work would work well for you. 

Promise Four: By Wednesday, ask that person to be your accountability partner.

Continue like this – one small, achievable, planned, supported, step after another. As you keep each small promise, the ability to trust yourself and keep your word strengthens. Set the stage – both internally and externally for success. Afterall, January 1 is just an arbitrary date, outside of your control. Do you have what you need in place to keep your promise – your resolve? Exploring your readiness is way more important in your success than a day on the calendar. 

When you’re ready, you’ll know and that is the best day to resolve to live your best life! That day begins your new year. 

Happy New Year (whenever that may be)!

Want More?

Contact Tiffany at Evolutionary Consulting to learn more about personal and professional coaching and organizational training.