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This year I hesitated to make any New Year resolutions. Why? Because for the last five years, at least, they remain the same:

Write the book.

Lose the weight.

Exercise more.

The only thing that changed was the pounds I wanted to drop. They increased yearly. Now it’s 20 pounds! I felt defeated. Depressed.

But something has happened to make me feel positive in reaching my goals after all. When I took my walk yesterday, I put in my ear buds and tuned my I-Phone to The Peoples’ Pharmacy podcast. The show I heard had aired on December 31st and was entitled “Willpower Science.” For the next forty minutes or so I listened to Kelly McGonigal PhD, psychology instructor at Stanford University and a health educator for the School of Medicine Health Improvement Program, discuss reasons why we often fail in keeping our New Year’s resolutions.  The take-home message that most attracted me was twofold.

First, think about what you really want. What you are willing to do to achieve it? And what will your life be like if it happens? Not just next year but in two years from now. How proud will you feel if you do achieve your goal? Or the regret you will feel not having made the change.

(I must add here Dr. McGonigal suggests small goals like exercising five minutes a day and increasing slowly. Success breeds success.)

Second, we need to feel self-compassion and self-forgiveness. When we slip up, we shouldn’t chastise ourselves and give up but realize we are human. Guilt and shame undermine our ability to get back on track.

Okay, none of this is really new. But the science behind these statements helped me better understand how willpower works or doesn’t work. Check out Dr. McGonigal’s web site and her book, The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, And What You Can Do To Get More Of It.

It was serendipitous that I connected to this podcast. I’ll apply the lessons I learned so I don’t have to repeat 2012 resolutions in 2013.

I wish each of you a new year free of guilt and stress.

Be good to yourselves.

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