2021 was being welcomed in a way that has not happened before in my lifetime. There was a sense of hope that the world will begin to right itself. Skyrocketing Covid-19 cases around the world and even a new breakout in Australia may have dampened that optimism somewhat but most people are still hopeful that 2021 will be a better year than 2020. I could see this by the number of people out exercising this morning and working on their New Year’s resolutions.
We can’t control the world, in fact, the only thing we can really control is ourselves. Some people made the most of 2020 by changing something in their life for the better. They hung in there even when the world seemed like it was going to hell in a handcart. They can look back with a sense of satisfaction in having achieved something worthwhile.
Others soothed themselves, stressed, and worried. As a result, they probably didn’t hang onto their 2020 resolutions and haven’t come out of the year as well.
New Year’s Resolutions often revolve around reforming habits like unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, using addictive substances, overworking, etc. All these habits have one thing in common. They’re avoidance of discomfort in favour of pleasure.
Pleasure vs Happiness
There’s nothing wrong with authentic pleasures like spending quality time with friends and family, enjoyable outings, taking care of yourself, hobbies, educating yourself, exercise, and even relaxing at the end of a full day’s work. Pleasure-seeking becomes problematic when it doesn’t move you towards sustainable happiness. Instead, you use pleasure to reduce discomfort and to avoid dealing with behaviours that you know need to change for your overall wellbeing.
We often justify this kind of behaviour. We tell ourselves that we have to put up with whatever’s causing us stress, and pleasure-seeking is the only option available to feel better about it?
Your partner’s abusive, but you can’t leave because you’re in love. Your job may be horrible, but you have to stay because it pays well or there aren’t any other good jobs around. You’re locked down, bored and frustrated so it’s OK to calm yourself with sugary snacks. This kind of thinking is incredibly destructive because it’s managing stress with destructive behaviours. It’s a poor substitute for sustainable happiness.
Making Sustained Change
Making New Year’s resolution is easy. Sustaining change isn’t so easy but long term it’s easier than continuing to seek pleasure and comfort via unhealthy behaviors. Motivation also plays a part in this. A lack of motivation is often brought about by unresolved fears that lead to a “head-in-the-sand” mentality.
One of the reasons that New Year’s resolutions don’t stick is because you start them during the holidays. At some point, life as you knew it before, re-starts. You have to find the time and the discipline to incorporate your new behaviours into your old life.
If you allow yourself to believe that there’s not enough time to maintain your New Yeat’s resolutions, or to address big issues, the next best thing is a bit of pleasure-seeking right? Wrong; pleasure-seeking is like a low-grade addiction to a multitude of things. Of course, everyone needs some pleasure; a bubble bath, a piece of cake here and there, and to watch some Netflix. But spending significant time doing these things when there are bigger things that you know need addressing, is going to lead to trouble down the track.
Creating a Wellbeing Scale
A well-being scale is typically a scale between 1 and 10, showing a vision of yourself at your perceived worst and your perceived best. 1 is the lowest and 10 is the highest.
Create a vision of yourself and your life that’s balanced, happy, and healthy. This is you at an 8-10. Now think about what you at your worst might look like. You don’t need to see yourself as a homeless drug addict. A smoking, workaholic that lives on takeout food and has no friends will do. This would put you down at a 1-2. Now place yourself on your scale according to where you see yourself at present.
This can be confronting, especially if you’re a long way short of your best version of yourself. The gulf between where you would like to be and where you are can seem insurmountable, but all sustainable change begins with just one small step.
Begin with the Biggest Problem
New Year’s resolutions work best when you focus your efforts on what you can control. Stay in your lane and let other people figure out their own resolutions. What’s the thing about your life that upsets you the most? What can you do about it? It’s likely that you’ve tried many times to address this issue and, for whatever reason, you haven’t been successful.
This isn’t unusual. It often takes many tries to make sustainable change. Change isn’t easy, if it was everyone would be doing it. And everyone would be walking around as their best version of themselves. If you could take just one small step towards that vision you have of yourself at your best, what would it be? Each step you take will lead on to another and before you know it you will have stepped your way into your best self.
Identify your Needs
You will have much more success with any behaviour changes if you can identify your needs and learn to be resilient to discomfort, which is a form of stress.
You can download your Needs Profile Questionnaire in the sidebar. Or if you’re ready for more check out our Stress-less training. You’ll still get the Needs Profile Questionnaire, but you’ll get a whole lot more as well.
Choice Theory Online is all about making choices and changes to improve your life. Don’t let the New Year’s resolutions you make this year fall by the way by February. If the first two options don’t appeal, you can get a free original meme each day to help maintain your motivation right through to 2022.