Resolution Reboot and the "Tree of Change"

According to Forbes Magazine, only 8% of people actually succeed in accomplishing their resolutions.  Yet, so many of us continue to make them year after year.  The problem may lie with the definition of the word: res·o·lu·tion ˌrezəˈlo͞oSH(ə)n/ noun 1. a firm decision to do or not to do something. How rigid is THAT?  And this is often where people "fail": They say, "I'm NEVER going to drink or smoke or eat junk food again!" or "I'm going to workout EVERY day!"  

Trying to go from zero to 60 overnight and thinking in black and white terms can create a ton of stress. Your body physically resists harsh and sudden changes by producing extra cortisol.  At the end of the day, change is hard, and your body and mind will try desperately to maintain homeostasis.  What we suggest instead: Set progressive goals that you can accomplish gradually, in small steps, that are centered on improving your quality of life--and using THIS process to create them:

(* It sounds like a lot, but it's worth it--because it will help you actually reach those goals instead of joining the majority of people who abandon their goals (i.e., change) in a hot second because it's just not SUSTAINABLE.)

  • STEP 1:  "WHY": Why do you want to change?  Create a list of all the ways in which your current behavior is harmful and depriving you of pleasure, then create a second list describing why changing it will reduce harm and bring you MORE pleasure.  Are you using self-hate, shame, or guilt to motivate yourself?  How could you change your internal language to reflect self-love and love of life? Creating meaningful goals in line with your values--and remembering that you are your #1 "why"--motivates you far more than doing something because you "should".
  • STEP 2: "WHO": Ask yourself, "Am I motivated to change by my own happiness, or am I just seeking validation from other people?"  Unfortunately, chasing other people's approval can become an infinite and unwinnable game.  
  • STEP 3: "HOW": Ask yourself, "How did I get here?" What are the ROOT CAUSES of the behavior?  Too often, we address the "symptoms" while failing to address the "illness". Think of a little kid who responds with "BUT WHY?" to every question: Get to the bottom of it! For example, you may want to lose weight, but: Why do you consider yourself overweight? Do you struggle with consuming an excess amount of food? Why?? Are you stressed, are you tired, are you coping with an emotional trauma? You will likely find it very difficult to maintain any progress unless you address these questions. This is probably the hardest step, and you might stay here for awhile. In fact, your goal or resolution might change entirely when you really think about the roots. That's okay! You deserve to work on a goal that digs deep.
  • STEP 4: "SUBSTITUTION": Instead of asking, "How can I initiate or eradicate a behavior (a symptom)?" ask, "How can I treat the illness in a less destructive way?" Once you dig down to the root cause--maybe you're super-stressed out at work--taking away the only thing that helps you cope with that stress is a set-up for failure.  Consider this: Is there a different outlet than smoking/drinking/eating etc., that could help you manage this?  Maybe it's yoga or painting or even power-lifting!  You might even benefit from some professional counseling to deal with more serious issues.  Frame your goal as something that you want to move toward rather than away from, and you will probably fight against yourself a whole lot less.
  • STEP 5: "STEPS": Think about how you can break your goal into steps.  Boil it down as much as possible, and start with making the very first step a pattern.  If you want to start working out every morning, perhaps start with getting up a little earlier everyday to get used to the new routine.  You could spend six weeks just acclimating to the new sleep schedule, and during that time, you can plan the next step, e.g., writing a workout routine or scoping out a new gym.
  • STEP 6: "WRITE IT DOWN": Write it down somewhere where you will see it every single day as a reminder. You chose this goal after deep thought, and you deserve to reach it. If you need some help getting organized with this process, try creating your own "Tree of Change" (see infographic at top).
  • STEP 7: "SHARE IT": Share it with a friend, partner, or family member--and post it on our Sustainable Pleasure Facebook group. We are all working on something, so why not join forces and support each other?

Wishing you a very happy and sustainably pleasurable 2017!