Self-Improvement: It's All in Your Head
Updated: Nov 10, 2020
You’re going to break your New Year’s Resolution.
I’m not trying to demotivate or scare you—this is just statistically true. There’s something punishing about how our society views them. I’ve made dozens and dozens of resolutions over the years and always end up with the same boring, predictable outcome. I make a resolution in January, determined to fix my life, and I end up breaking it by March—if I’m lucky. Working in PR, I’m used to booking segments come February or March about how to keep resolutions, because everyone seems to be stuck in the same repetitive cycle.
Do you know why this is happening?
Because we’re getting in our own heads. And society isn’t helping.
We are naturally drawn to the concept of a fresh start, and the New Year is just too seductive to ignore. Hey, I get it. I’m all about self-improvement. Even though I’m regularly checking in with myself throughout the year, I also use the New Year as an opportunity to refresh my goals. But there are a few reasons why so many people break their New Year’s Resolutions:
“New Year’s Resolutions” are binary. You either succeed at them or you don’t.
People have too many resolutions. We want to solve every problem every year.
The strictness in them makes them unsustainable.
It’s time we adjust our expectations and learn how to actually set yourself up for success at the beginning of the year. Just like anyone else, I want to capitalize on the fresh start of January. There is something motivational about this time of year. Over the past few years, however, I’ve started to shift my mindset so I appreciate small wins, keep moving forward, and make every year the best year yet.
I (clearly) have an issue with the word “resolution,” and that’s because resolutions are made to be broken. Instead, I set goals and intentions every year. I’ve seen people choose a single word to guide their year; I think this is inspiring, but have never been able to choose one word that encapsulates all I’m trying to accomplish. It’s the same idea, though. While I struggle to pick one word that encapsulates everything, this year I am working on balance, health, and fearlessness. You have the option to set a guiding theme (or themes) for your year, with related goals underneath it. This lets you focus on one or two things you really want to improve; focus will increase your chances of sticking to your goals.
Loosen the reigns
I’m a perfectionist, which is why resolutions stress me out. I already put pressure on myself daily, so why would I want to do something in the name of self-improvement that puts added pressure on me? When you create a resolution with such a strict metric of success, you get in your own way before you even start. Ambitious goals are admirable, but life happens. Let’s take fitness, for an example—everyone’s favorite New Year’s resolution, including mine. I’ve struggled with body image my entire life. My genes are unfortunately not in my favor when it comes to “looking skinny,” a fact that’s been drilled into my mind since I was in seventh grade, when my dad started the routine of telling me to drop and give him 25 in the kitchen. His heart was in the right place; he didn’t want me to end up like him. But it made it difficult for me to have a healthy relationship with food. I’ve tried every diet out there, but none of it was sustainable or realistic for my life.
Nothing ever stuck, so I decided to FINALLY enlist some help in changing my mindset. I went to ShiftLife, a holistic medical center built for busy executives, to get my body tested in every sense of the word. They have helped me reframe what “healthy” means in the first place, and to understand the root issues of my health problems. Being “healthy” looks different on me than it looks on you, and I am releasing the guilt associated with not being model-skinny. Most importantly, I’ve learned to loosen the reins a little in this area of my life. My goal is not to be skinny, because I don’t think I will ever get there! But healthy and happy with the way I look is enough.
No one accomplishes their goals 100% of the time. Chances are, you’ll slip up at some point. If you have a fitness goal of working out 3-5 days per week, and miss a week (because you know, life happens), it’s not productive to beat yourself up. Remaining open will let you see that just because you miss a day doesn’t mean you’ve “failed” at your resolution, and it definitely doesn’t mean you have to give up on it all together. Try again tomorrow.
I want to be intentional with the goals I’m making. Self-improvement shouldn’t stress us out or make us afraid of failing; it should excite us. If your goal is sending you into a panic about accomplishing it, it’s not the right goal for you at this time. These days, when I set goals for myself, whether it’s at the new year or not, I make sure I’m excited about them. That way, you can be sure you’re doing it for you, and not because you think you should or because anyone else told you you should do it. When setting intentions for your year, make sure you set aside deep thinking time. This is essential to make sure you’re making decisions only for you.
As for my intentions for this year? I want to be more fearless. I want to find balance. I want to continue growing my company. I’ve built these goals through hours of self-reflection and personal experience. I’m a certified workaholic and didn’t start my business for decades because I was too afraid to. So from now on, I want to channel a sense of fearless energy and bring to my life a sense of business that will ultimately propel my business, because it’s all interconnected. These goals are personal to my life and are natural progressions with what I’m working on at the moment.
Most importantly though, I want to be kinder to myself. I’ll be the first to admit that I have a history of beating myself up, but I’ve come to understand this is more detrimental than useful. If I stray from my goals one day (or week), I will try not to beat myself up. It’s possible to be both improving and to have made a lot of progress already. It’s important to celebrate how far we’ve already come, just as it’s important to keep striving.
Self-improvement isn’t about grit. It’s not about perseverance. It’s not about ambition.
It’s about your mindset. Changing your mindset about how—and why—you want to improve will change your whole life. Knowing the greater goal behind your goal will transform the way you approach it daily.
Self-improvement starts in your head. When you shift your mindset, you’ll learn how to bend, but never break. And if you’ve already broken your resolution this year, guess what? Tomorrow is a new day.