For years I made sweep­ing New Years res­o­lu­tions. Los­ing weight was always on the top of list. The rest of the list con­sist­ed of a vari­ety of things I want­ed to change in my life. The items on the list were bound togeth­er like a sailors knot by the “should” word. My res­o­lu­tions pro­vid­ed an oppor­tu­ni­ty to bring my shame out of the clos­et and write it on a piece of paper for all to see.

To make the effort even less sat­is­fy­ing, I would fail mis­er­ably, often by the mid­dle of Jan­u­ary.

But there is hope. With grey hair and age comes wis­dom. Over the years I dis­cov­ered the 3 secrets to mak­ing last­ing, sat­is­fy­ing and ful­fill­ing New Years res­o­lu­tions.

 

One, start small.

This sounds kind of crazy at first, but hang with me. You need to lose 20 pounds. On your res­o­lu­tion list you write down, exer­cise 30 min­utes a day, cut out sug­ar and white flour. Reach your goal of los­ing 20 pounds by July 1. By Feb­ru­ary 1 you’ve been to the gym twice, giv­en up one oppor­tu­ni­ty for a cook­ie and haven’t lost any weight. What is wrong?

20 pounds is too big a bite. When we are taught to set goals it is always reach for the stars. And that is ter­rif­ic, except when it comes to REALLY chang­ing behav­ior. Change is hard. Big changes are even hard­er. When you decide to make sweep­ing behav­ior changes, you are set­ting your­self up for fail­ure. When you make a small com­mit­ment, one that is easy to keep, you are set­ting your­self up for suc­cess. By tak­ing the big goal and mak­ing it a small bite, you are expo­nen­tial­ly more like­ly to achieve our goal.

iStock_000016466843LargeHere is an exam­ple from my own life. I have been an inter­mit­tent med­i­ta­tor since I was 40. Like the inter­mit­tent set­ting on your wind­shield wipers, I turn on the med­i­ta­tion prac­tice, then off, then on, then off. You get the pic­ture. A few months ago, as I was in the off stage and I knew it was time to begin again. I set my goal to med­i­tate 30 min­utes a day. I failed mis­er­ably. I was so out of prac­tice, 30 min­utes seemed like an eter­ni­ty. To make mat­ters worse, it was so hard, I avoid­ed med­i­tat­ing. Each day I didn’t med­i­tate, the self-talk of shame would arise with­in me. Self-talk like, “you know you should be med­i­tat­ing, why didn’t you get up ear­li­er, what is wrong with you!” It was awful. I felt worse about myself by the day.

Tired of being mired in my own neg­a­tiv­i­ty, I stepped back and real­ized I had not tak­en my own advice, start small. I set a new goal, 5 min­utes a day. I put a post it on my bath­room mir­ror to remind me of my com­mit­ment to myself. Since it was a small change, it was easy to do. I stuck with it. After a few days, 5 min­utes didn’t seem long enough. When the alarm went off, I wasn’t ready for the med­i­ta­tion to be over. I went to 7 min­utes. I am now up to 12 min­utes, and ready to kick it up a notch. Because it was small, the change was easy. Because it was easy, I kept my com­mit­ment to myself. As a result, my self-talk has been sup­port­ive, the “at a girl, you can do it” kind of feed­back. Most impor­tant­ly, I am reap­ing the ben­e­fits of dai­ly med­i­ta­tion in my life such as being more peace­ful and hap­py.

Maybe I will nev­er get back to 30 min­utes. Who cares? That was just some­thing I read in a book some­where that worked for some­body. But I am Mack­ey. I have to find out what works for me. When I set the goal I was so focused on the mea­sure­ment, 30 min­utes, that I lost track of the pur­pose, joy and hap­pi­ness.

The sim­ple truth is that the only path to a big goal is in the small steps. By break­ing the big goal into lit­tle pieces, you set your­self up for suc­cess. Keep­ing promis­es is a way to build trust. There is no one you need to trust more than your­self. Be kind to your­self. Love who you are in this very moment. Fill your mind and heart with grat­i­tude for your life. From this place, choose one thing to change and make it a small bite. Watch the mir­a­cles hap­pen as you build trust and last­ing change in your life.

In hon­or of small changes, I’ll explore the oth­er two secrets over the next two weeks!

In joy and pros­per­i­ty,
Mack­ey

To read about all three secrets click here.