New Year’s Resolutions are fun to make, but for most of us, that’s about where they end. The execution is where everything usually falls apart. So, how do we create lasting change?
Identify the exact changes I want to make. I’ll be specific - instead of “exercise more” I’ll say “attend at least 2 yoga classes each week and a power ½ hour every other week.”
Identify my obstacles - these can be logistical or emotional.For me, “I have trouble making time for yoga when work conflicts arise. I’m intimidated by some of the yoga classes that are offered at the times when I can attend.” Yes, even I am intimidated by some of the classes out there, though I shouldn’t be - this is MY practice, and I can spend as much time in child’s pose as I want. I don’t go to class to impress others, I do it for me.It can take a lot of honesty to get to the root of why it is hard to follow through on your goals, but if you want your change to stick, you have to be honest about why you fail.
Make a plan for my success. When I schedule time to do something, as long as I actually put it in my google calendar, I’m almost certainly going to do it. I have picked two classes each week to attend, and scheduled them to repeat. I have challenged myself to make one of those classes a class that intimidates me, because getting through it just once will show me that there is nothing to fear. It might be necessary to ask for help here, especially if your goal is more complex than showing up. If you are trying to change your diet or expand your business, for example, you might need outside expertise. In that case, schedule time to find that help and, if necessary, create a budget (or barter) to pay for it.
Connect with the feeling of success.As I schedule my classes and resolve to make time for them, I feel the high that comes after a good class, the camaraderie with the other students, the loosening of tension in my body and the strength that I am building. I feel the satisfaction of making time for myself and following through on my goals, and the contentment when my body looks and feels healthy.It is important to feel the success, not just to think about what it might be. The more you experience those feelings of success and then reinforce them with your new habits, the easier and more lasting your change will be.
Be gentle but firm.There will be days when getting to my scheduled class will mean not eating lunch or closing my own studio. On those days, I will be gentle with myself as I recognize that going to my scheduled class is not the most important thing. I will eat lunch, or go to work, and I will remind myself that I will go to class next time. However, there will be other days when I’m feeling a little tired or when it will be snowing, and I will want to use those excuses not to go to class. On those days, I will be firm with myself and stick to my schedule.
Celebrate! Why not give myself some incentives for success? It takes the average person 66 days to form a new habit, not 21 as the myth goes. I will break that 66 days down into smaller blocks of time in order to hold my interest. 17 x 4 = 68, so I’ll use four blocks of 17 days each. At the end of each 17 day cycle, I will get something awesome for following through on my goals. If I miss more than 2 classes per cycle, I don’t get my prize, but I can still celebrate my accomplishments and look forward to the next 17 days, the next prize, and the ultimate goal of creating my new habit. I’ve decided that my incentive prizes will be: a new pair of yoga pants, a trip to the movies to see any comedy I want (laughter is the best medicine!), sleeping in on a Saturday and a massage. The last one is the biggest and the one to celebrate over 2 months of consistently working to build better habits.
After 68 days, I’ll decide if I want to continue with my 17-day cycles of dedication and celebration or if my habit is strong enough without them. I’d love to hear about your resolutions, plans, prizes and celebrations! You can email me or post them to the Yoga High Facebook page.