How Are Those New Year's Resolutions Coming Along?
Be honest… Did you make it to the gym all five days last week or did you binge watch The X-Files for the 20th time? Did you meet your meal plan or did you secretly lock yourself in your office and eat two donuts?
In the spirit of full disclosure, instead of going to the gym, I worked out my triceps as I stuffed my face with popcorn while binging on old seasons of The Biggest Loser. Falling short of your resolutions happens to almost everyone. All we need to do is wake up the next morning and start all over again, right? But what makes tomorrow better than today?
Why do we make the same resolutions year after year only to fail?
Tony Robbins - businessman, philanthropist, and self-help maven - states in his book Awaken The Giant Within that the reason people do not follow through in their efforts is due to the fact that they “… keep trying to change their behavior, which is the effect, instead of dealing with the cause behind it” and that “failure to understand this force dooms you to a future of living in reaction.”
At some point in your life you associated a pain or pleasure with a particular action and no matter how much you want to do something, you will either avoid it (if there is pain) or continue to do it (if there is pleasure).
Take a moment to let that sink in.
You may be thinking What is she talking about? I love the gym! I just can’t seem to get there.
Well, sure. You may absolutely love the gym, but look a little bit deeper. You may find that maybe that injury you experienced with that personal trainer over seven years ago is now manifesting itself as a negative experience and holding you back from returning.
Let me share another example. I smoked more than a pack of cigarettes a day throughout my entire twenties and I am not going to lie, I loved smoking. It relaxed me, it was fun, and I was naive enough to think that it made me look cool. The thought of quitting was a ludicrous idea.
At the same time, tons of studies were being released about the dangers of smoking and second hand smoke. Legislation was enacted to prohibit smoking in bars and restaurants. Instead of being ignored, I now got dirty looks from the people around me, especially my family and friends.
But that wasn’t enough to stop me because every single one of my attempts at quitting failed.
Until the day my boyfriend not only decided to quit, but he banned me from smoking in the apartment.
I was aghast.
“You do realize that we live in Boston and it’s the dead of winter,” I said. “What am I supposed to do?”
“Go outside or go to the roof. You just can’t do it in here,” he said.
So up onto the roof I went into the rain, the snow, and a wind chill factor of 5°F.
One particularly frosty night, I got locked out. This was in the time before cell phones so I couldn't just call him to let me in and my neighbors were immune to my shouting.
I was stuck on that roof for over an hour before he came looking for me. Why so long? He had fallen asleep on the couch.
By that point, I’d had enough. This wonderful pleasure of mine had turned into a royal pain in the ass, so when I decided to quit a few months later, I was finally successful.
This realization is all in retrospect of course, but as I was reading Tony’s book, I couldn't help but think, how could I be so successful in overcoming an addiction when I was not successful in other areas?
Starting today, as you think about your resolutions and why they seem to fail year after year, take this exercise to the next level.
What am I really avoiding?
What experience am I attaching to this pain?
How does (or did) it make me feel?
How can I turn this pain into a tool for success?