New Year's Resolutions: Building on Success with Two Sentences a Day
2013 is only hours old. There are millions of people that have made New Year’s resolutions, vowed to change their lives – for the better – by losing weight, stopping smoking, becoming more organized or exercising more. They have set goals and are sure this will be the year they follow through. Many of these people have already given in to the “failed resolutions.” Maybe they had “one last cigarette” this morning or decided that the diet can wait until tomorrow.
Dr. John Norcross, a professor and clinical psychologist at the University of Scranton looked at New Year’s resolutions and found that almost one-half of all adults make a resolution but only a about one-half of those people actually achieve their resolution. Why? Why is it so hard to make positive changes in our life?
Reflecting on Failure
One of the biggest reasons (I think) that resolutions fail is because, when we create a resolution, we focus on our failures. We look at our mistakes and what we have done wrong as “terrible things” that must be changed. We look at all that we haven’t accomplished. We frame our resolutions around all we don’t like about our life. Our resolutions, therefore, are a constant reminder of what we perceive as our weakness or shortcomings.
Focus on the Small Successes
A year is a long time. In the past year, you have had 365 days and in those days, there must have been successes, must have been things you did right. There were probably times you felt proud of yourself, felt you “did a good job” or were simply happy with the effort you put forth. But as you make your resolution, you may be instead focusing on the times you didn’t accomplish your goals. This year, instead, focus on what you did right and build from there.
For many adults with ADHD, low self-esteem is a major stumbling block. Years of trying and failing, not living up to other’s expectations and having jobs and relationships start with a bang and end with a fizzle have wreaked havoc on your ability to see any success in your life. But each day there are probably numerous ways you have succeeded, no matter how small. For example, maybe you got to work on time, got the kids up and out the door with all their belongings and homework, you may have made a great dinner, knew where your keys and your cell phone were without a major search. You may have completed a project at work, remembered to get gas in the car, cleaned the house or called a friend you haven’t talked to in a year. Life is full of small successes that seem inconsequential and are forgotten or ignored. But it is these types of successes that build our self-esteem and make us feel better at the end of the day.
This doesn’t mean that you won’t have days, times or things that don’t work. You will still make mistakes. But using those mistakes as positives, rather than negatives, can help you move forward. Henry Ford said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
When mistakes happen, ask yourself, “Why did this go wrong?” “What did I learn?” “What can I do differently next time?” Use your mistakes as a learning tool to improve your life, not as something to be embarrassed about or as a way to view yourself as a failure.
Two Sentences a Day
Most of us spend time each day reflecting on our lives. We may do it while we are driving, sitting in traffic, standing in line or when doing mindless chores. We think about where we are, where we want to go, our goals and what obstacles are standing in our way. Each day, write down two sentences – one with something positive and one on a goal.
Writing down one positive statement each day helps you remember the little successes. When feeling down, when it seems nothing is going right, take the time to read through your positive statements. It can help you remember what you have accomplished.
Use your mistakes to create goals. Think about what you learned and how you can improve how you do something and write it down. Frame your sentences to show how each mistake can be a positive learning experience.
When we begin to reflect on what we did right, we learn to appreciate all the successes in our life – big and small – and celebrate each one. We improve our self-esteem and how we view ourselves. By writing down these successes we give ourselves the opportunity to remember and focus on them. With today’s technology, it is easy to write down a positive statement each day. Use your smart phone to send yourself a text or email or keep a journal, writing down what you did right as soon as it happens (or shortly after if you are driving.) This year, learn to focus on your strengths, your accomplishments, your successes.