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As we sit on the verge of a new year, I'm wondering if everyone else feels as bombarded as I do by the need to change. Every product, service, and idea ever made that proposes to benefit your life is promoting the heck out of itself right now. In this time of resolutions, is it even socially appropriate to say you don't make New Year's resolutions??
I'm going to put myself out there and say I don't make New Year's resolutions. As a behavior specialist, I believe we decide to change our behavior when it becomes a problem for us. If it's not a problem for us, why would we change it? If you tantrum when you don't get your way and that leads to you getting your way eventually, why would you change that behavior? It works! If eating dessert every night makes you feel better than dieting, why would you change that behavior? If robbing banks gets you money and you don't get caught, why would you get an honest job? If you speed and never get a ticket, why would you slow down? Our habits and decisions work for us, otherwise we would stop doing them!
Another issue I have with typical resolutions is that they are usually intended to change something we don't like about ourselves. When I researched the top resolutions, they were (in order): diet or eat healthier, exercise more, lose weight, spend less money, learn a new skill or hobby, stop smoking, read more, find another job, drink less alcohol, and spend more time with family and friends. Only 3 of the 10 are focused on doing more of something we actually want to do! The rest focus on doing less of something we are most likely doing out of habit because we choose to.
I do make resolutions. But I make them when I'm ready, not because the world tells me I should be ready. When I researched the percentage of New Year's resolutions that fail, the number was between 80 and 92%. Humans are habit machines, and just because we decide to do something differently doesn't mean we have the skillset, motivation, or knowledge to do it. And it doesn't mean we are really ready to make that change!
I read something many years ago regarding our innate ability to focus on trying to fix the things we struggle with instead of trying to improve the things we are good at. It referenced your child coming home with a report card containing four As and one D. Most people respond by making a plan regarding that pesky D. Tutoring? Staying after school? Possibly even punishment? According to the article, the focus should be on the four As. These are things your child shows skill in and probably some level of interest. These are the things to build their future on. These areas are most likely going to lead to their future career. In addition, research shows that kids with ADHD receive 20,000 more negative messages than kids without ADHD. Let's turn that around and focus on those four As, shall we?
I remember I almost failed biology in 9th grade. I'm very interested in many aspects of science, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the career path I chose for myself. I went to college as a communications major (I have no idea what that was about!), then changed to accounting (I enjoy math), then settled on psychology after taking an introductory course my sophomore year. Everything I've done with my life since then has centered around psychology. I don't care what grades I got in history, science, music appreciation, etc. I am a firm believer that grades and GPAs are a leveling system for students who are not on the same level! I don't think it would have benefitted my life to master all the science material, history material, etc. that was presented to me in high school or college given what I do now. (I'm not even convinced I needed all those English and math classes, but that's a topic for another day!)
Our focus this January is on Januar-ME! It's not on all the bad habits our students need to change or the things they should stop doing. It's about focusing on what they enjoy and want to improve upon. Some of the students enjoy drawing but don't think they are very good. Maybe they will set a goal to take a class or watch some videos and learn new techniques. Some of the students are trying out our new yoga classes because they enjoy being active. When we create goals based on what we enjoy and/or what we are good at, we are so much more likely to stick to them and benefit from them. And, most importantly, we will feel good while we are doing it!
In 2019, don't choose a resolution because you are expected to. Don't choose something you don't really want to do. Choose something you will enjoy learning more about or spending more time doing. Choose something that makes you feel more like the wonderful you that you are, not less. And choose to do it when you are darn well ready!