We’re nearly one month into 2019, which is a great time to check in on those goals and New Year’s Resolutions we set for ourselves at the start of the year.
How have you been doing so far with your own New Year’s Resolution? If you’re like most people, you may already have a failed New Year’s Resolution.
But, what if I told you that getting off track, what we might usually consider “failing,” is all part of the process? Would you give your New Year’s Resolution a second chance?
Even if you haven’t been working towards your goal for 2019 over the past few days or weeks, it’s important to acknowledge that you’ve still made plenty of important changes. The problem is that they’re likely “under the surface” shifts in our motivation and we don’t usually give ourselves credit for this important part of the behavior change process.
Take a look at the “Stage of Change” model below, which shows all of the different stages that are involved when we change our behavior–
Here’s a short explanation of the different phases:
Precontemplation (not ready): In this stage you may have heard from others that you should make a change, but you’re not seriously considering doing anything about it.
Contemplation (getting ready): You’re considering making a change and imagining what it might be like if you did make that change.
Preparation (ready): You´ve started gathering information and support and are almost ready to take the first steps.
Action: You´ve taken the first steps to put your plan into action.
Maintenance: You´re in this stage when you have been diligent at carrying out action related to your goal for at least six months.
This model (also knows as the Transtheoretical Model) was developed by researchers Declemente and Prochka in the 1970’s and demonstrates just how complicated it actually is to create lasting behavior change.
It’s also a good reminder that the “action” phase is only one part of the process of making a behavior change!
I like to introduce this model to my clients because it brings to light the fact that behavior change is a nonlinear process. We can move back into contemplation stage at any point without that meaning that the pursuit of our goal is a lost cause. It also makes space for “relapse,” which means that even once we’ve moved into the maintenance stage, it’s still normal to get off track, and again–we can always move back into action.
Moving Into Action
So, now that you’ve realized that there’s still hope in salvaging your New Year’s Resolution, you might be asking—how do I move back into the action phase?
Here are a few suggestions for how to get back on track with your goals for this year.
STEP 1: I’d encourage you to have some compassion towards yourself for how difficult it is to set a goal for ourselves and not achieve it.
Try taking a self-compassion break and soothing any frustration or disappointment you feel. Remind yourself that this is a normal part of being a human being and be kind to yourself by saying something like–“this is really hard AND I’m capable of getting back into the action phase.”
A Chinese proverb that I really like to share with my clients (and remind myself of) in moments like this is this:
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
STEP 2: Try asking yourselves the following questions:
- How would your life be different if you were able to stick to this resolution? How does it connect to your values?
- Does what you’d gain from this change actually outweigh what you’d lose?
- Are you ready to say goodbye to the things that are necessary to make this change a reality?
- Is there anything that you could put into place to help you stay in the action phase longer? (social support to lean on, using an app to help track your progress, etc.)
STEP 3: You might find that you’re still struggling to move into the action phase, or to stay there consistently.
If that’s the case, it might also help to reach out to a professional for support in identifying what keeps getting in the way, and to create a plan for overcoming these obstacles.
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