Wednesday, December 15, 2010

If at First You Don’t Succeed: How to plan a successful New Year’s Resolution for self-change

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

There is a reason the self-help industry is booming with success. It thrives due to your general lack of success! We are desperate for self-change and are constantly on the lookout for a new solution to improve our image, appearance, worth, and overall station in life. The problem is that many of our attempts to change ourselves end up failing. For example, how many times have you tried to change the same negative habit that just keeps coming back? How many times have you tried to quit smoking and haven’t been able to yet? Have you kept your usual New Year’s resolution to go to the gym three times per week?

The source of failures...

After failing, your biggest error can be not evaluating the reason for the outcome. Typically, you may attribute your failure to external factors, such as, the ineffectiveness of the self-change program you used, social distractions, responsibilities, work, the weather, the kids, the husband or wife, etc.

The lack of evaluation of what caused your failure sets you up for another disappointment. Failing to pinpoint the culprit, you tend to repeat the same mistakes again.

The most important thing to realize is that you are responsible for all your outcomes and experiences. Therefore if you fail, the reason you fail is internal; something you personally did to interfere with your ability to succeed.

What are the things you do that sets you up for failure? Based on my many personal failures to change myself and observations of those around me, I’ve come up with six reasons I believe people tend to be unsuccessful in achieving many of their goals.

1. UNCLEAR or VAGUE GOALS. To get to where you want to go, you must clearly define your destination. You must invest time to understand where you want to go and what you want to do. If you don’t know where you are going, any path will take you there.

2. IMPATIENCE. You want change now! Once you have some idea of what you want to change, you demand to see results today. Unfortunately, self-change is usually a slow process. You must continually work in order to change your beliefs, negative habits, and attitude. This takes time and requires patience, self-confidence, and self-acceptance. If you do not accept yourself as you are, you will have a tough time reaching your goal without getting discouraged and giving up before you even see any progress.

3. FALSE PERCEPTION of the effort required to succeed. At the time of your resolution to change, you are so energized over your new commitment you mistakenly assume change will be easy. You do not fully consider the day-to-day effort that will be required to achieve your goal (in addition to those other day-to-day things you have to do). Self-change does not happen effortlessly; it requires serious work, commitment, and persistence. The reward, however, is invaluable.

4. Unrealistic QUANTITY-to-TIME ratio. It is simple and desirable to assume the big change you want to see will come in short time. Upon realizing it will take a little longer to achieve the desired goal, you tend to get discouraged and quit. The time it will take to see change is relative to the size of the goal you have set. For example, becoming the CEO of the #1 company in the world will take a little longer than becoming the mailroom manager. While both are worthy goals, keep in mind that not all goals can be achieved in the same amount of time.

5. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. Once you make the resolution to change, you have strong confidence in your ability to succeed. It doesn’t take long however, for this initial faith in yourself to wane. You soon get discouraged by the slow progress and the amount of work required to succeed, “It’s just not working!” you say to yourself. You may also start questioning your ability to succeed. Unfortunately, if you don’t think you can succeed, you won’t. You’ll give up before you see any results. This will only confirm your thoughts about your inability to achieve your goal. When you fail, you’ll say to yourself “See, I knew I would not be successful.”

6. MISPERCEIVED BENEFITS. Why do you want to change yourself? Do, you seek to attract the right partner? Do you pursue a more prestigious career because you will obtain validation from your friends and family? These types of self-change are propelled by the wrong reasons. You want to attain something that is outside of your control. How can you be sure you will attract the 'right' partner if you change yourself? How do you know your family and friends will give you the validation you seek based on your career choices? You’ll be disappointed when you realize the response you were hoping for does not materialize. If you want to change yourself, it only makes sense to use an internal guideline of what you want to become. Changing yourself for another’s benefit is a recipe for emotional disaster.
The six factors listed above will greatly impact your chance of reaching your goal. The most important thing to understand is that these causes are internal to you and therefore, controllable.

You are in Charge!

Remember: you are accountable for your behaviour and results. No one or no thing, other than you, can stop you from being the person you truly want to be. To achieve any goal, you need to create a clear picture of what you want to attain. Be prepared to put in the required amount of effort for as long as it is necessary. Patience, persistence, self-acceptance, and determination are vital. If you are to achieve your goal and maintain the result, you need to keep working at it.

Now, before you start a new attempt at self-change, think about why your previous attempts at self-change were unsuccessful. If the problem came from the inside, how can you expect a solution from the outside to be effective? Would you use a band-aid on your car’s hood when the engine breaks down? Of course not! If the band-aid solution will not work for the car, it will most definitely not work for you.

Interested in more information on self-change for teens and young adults? Contact Life Coach in Toronto, Ivana Pejakovic and learn how to get your children to become a success!

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