Reflecting on Failed Resoutions
January is without a doubt the busiest season for new habits, new exercise routines, and new experiences because of New Year’s Resolutions. We all resolve to make a change in our lives and better ourselves on January 1, but how many of us make it to January 31 with those same habits and routines still in place? Unfortunately, not many of us do. It takes about 4 weeks of consistent repetition to create a habit or routine but most people lose steam with their resolutions after 2-3 weeks. Excuses are made, old habits creep back in, and we end up losing our focus on our new goals. It’s more common that we have given up on a resolution than we have incorporated it into our lives. Has this happened to me? You bet. I’ve given up flossing daily more times than I can keep track of – 4 years of braces will kill any motivation to floss in the future (although it wasn’t my resolution this year, I received a sound scolding from my dental hygienist on Tuesday and now I’m back at it).
So, if you’ve lost ground on your resolutions, what can you do? You could certainly try to put it back in your life, but studies show that simply resuming our resolutions without reflecting on them first leads to quitting them more quickly. You did it once, you’ll do it again – if anything, humans are creatures of (familiar) habits! So take that important first step of reflecting on the resolution or goal that you made – why did you not keep up with it? For my difficulties with flossing, the reason has always been time. I felt that it took me longer to floss than I really wanted to dedicate to it, since I still have to use threaders to get around a lingual bar on my bottom teeth. I would get up and go in the morning (no time for it there) and by nighttime, I was tired and just wanted to get to bed (nope, not doing it there either).
After you identify the reason (or reasons), your next step is to figure out whether or not this goal is worth addressing again. As Jen Farrugia discussed in her blog at the beginning of the month, resolutions should be made about things that you enjoy or things that are important to you for the best chance of success. So does your resolution fit either of these categories? If it doesn’t, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board and find something that does fit (check out Jen’s blog for tips!). If your resolution does fit into either category, then you should carefully think about how you can tweak things to address the reasons that you failed to keep up with it in the first place. As my reason for failure with flossing was time-related, I examined the ways that I could play around with time to make it work. I couldn’t do it any faster but I could restructure my routine to put flossing before brushing my teeth at night, which is something that I NEVER skip. By putting it ahead of an ingrained habit like brushing, I’ve ensured that I will push myself to do it every night and I’ve increased my chances of success.
Last but not least, never forget that you can create a resolution at any point – it doesn’t just have to be at the start of a new year! I find that I come up with my best and most successful resolutions throughout the year. Maybe it's because I give myself more time to think about it and there isn't the pressure of the "New Year's Resolution" weighing me down. Or maybe it's because springtime feels so full of possibilities and is very motivational (it's the season of rebirth, after all!).
To all of you, best of luck on your reflections and resolutions this year!