It’s that time again when we set goals for the New Year and make our resolutions. Roula Marinos Papamihail, CHHC shows us how to tap into the ancient Greek wisdom of evdaimonia for successful resolutions.
With the holidays and the end of the year fast approaching, thoughts are on preparations and festivities. Thanksgiving, Christmas, dinner parties, and children’s fun, are all priorities and at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Thoughts of New Year’s resolutions tend to be lower in priority. However, the act of making New Year’s resolutions is tradition for many and usually occurs a night or two before the end of the year.
Evdaimonia is the ancient Greek word commonly translated to human flourishing and/or excellence.” It’s often used as the term describing the “highest human good.” It can be safely inferred that most individuals who DO resolve to change their behavior yearly are in “search” of evdaimonia and its resulting associated happiness.
If you make yearly New Year’s resolutions with the aim of flourishing (a.k.a. personal growth) and happen to be part of the large percentage of individuals who fail at maintaining them after a few weeks, read on to see why and what you can do, to prevent it from happening in 2017. The application of ancient Greek wisdom will help you more likely to succeed.
Why Your New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Stick
What are two reasons most people fail to stick to their resolutions?
Lack of prior thought and preparation.
Thinking of New Year’s resolutions one or two days prior to the New Year and not practicing your new goals, is an inevitable set up for failure. While there are some people who experience “lightning bolts” of motivation and seem to change unwanted and/or instill new habits overnight, the majority struggle with implementing and maintaining the changes.
Essentially, New Year’s resolutions are a means for habit formation and/or habit change. Trying to impulsively instill a new habit, overnight (for example, January 1st), on a whim doesn’t work. Writing down your goals from NOW and actively practicing them starting TODAY will help. Habit change takes practice and will power it’s like a muscle; the more you exercise it the stronger it gets.
Internal vs. External Motivation
An additional reason many fail to maintain their resolutions is that they haven’t accurately identified and/or acknowledged their reasons for wanting to change – either internal or external.
The start of a new year is an example of an external motivator. The change in the calendar is a cue to reflect on the previous year’s accomplishments (or perceived failures) followed by the desire to change and/or implement new behaviors for the upcoming year.
For others, a desire for habit change is the result of internal motivators. Extreme examples include the addict who has “hit bottom” and sees no way out, the doctor that diagnoses the fatal illness that was a result of poor lifestyle choices..
While there is no right or wrong way to motivate yourself, becoming familiar with what is motivating you both internally and externally, will help you stay on course. Research shows that when it comes to behavior change, a combination of both internal and external motivators are involved.
Get Your Basics Down
Foundational habits such as getting enough sleep, eating healthy, exercising regularly, and drinking enough water are a must when trying to instill new “higher order” habits. It’s hard to stick to a new goal when you’re blood sugar level is low and/or you’re on 4-5 hours of sleep a night regularly.
Check in with yourself and readjust your New Year’s goals accordingly to make sure that these foundational habits are in place first. Lack of any of the above will not only make any behavior changes difficult to implement but almost impossible to maintain.
Harnessing the Wisdom of the Ancients
Ancient Greek philosopher quotes have stood the test of time and their application in the modern world is still relevant. The following quotes are ultimately, examples of ancient life philosophies; belief systems meant to be lived by, not just studied. They’re effective with helping you stick to your New Year’s resolutions.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
The simple daily disciplines that must be performed for successful resolutions are overlooked or disregarded by many. Most fail to realize is that the daily, repetitive, mundane nature of habit formation is a must for ultimate behavior change.
For example, is one of your resolutions to lose weight?
Then break down the outcome of your goal (weight loss) into simple manageable steps. Then repeat those steps every day. You may choose to lose weight by cutting out dessert and replacing it with water. Repeat this action daily; it will lead you to succeed with your resolution.
“The same activities that take us from failure to survival would also take us from survival to success if we just keep doing them.”(1) Keep in mind that feelings of discomfort are normal when learning a new habit. However, they’re transient — and learning to become “comfortable with being uncomfortable” for a little while, is a must for successful New Year’s resolutions.
“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” – Theophrastus
A common reason, why people failed at keeping their resolutions is that they “didn’t have time.” This really means “they didn’t want to.”
We all have the same 24 hours in a day, and why some can accomplish 10x more in a day than others is a difference in priorities and NOT in time. Be honest with yourself and truly identify your resistance to behavior change for what it is (lack of prioritizing and not lack of time), is the first step in successful goal attainment.
NOTE: Understand that goals are just another term for self-care (time for yourself). This may also help you to manage your time more effectively. Many tend to forget to include themselves when taking the time to help those they care about the most. Make time for your goals; it’s just another way to honor one of the most important people in your life — yourself.
“The soul never thinks without a picture.” – Aristotle
Ancient Greek visualization techniques are many and the science today supports their effectiveness. The brain regions stimulated when we visualize performing an action is the same area stimulated when we actually perform the action.
Visualize the actions needed to get you to your outcome. This is key when using this tool. For example, visualize yourself leaving your house and driving to the gym, regardless of how you feel, This is more effective in comparison to visualizing yourself “ripped”. Or, visualize yourself avoiding sugar, regardless of where you are. This is much more effective than visualizing yourself “skinny”. Not only are you visualizing yourself committing to the process, you’re also taking into account possible roadblocks and bypassing them, preparing you to overcome any inevitable, upcoming distractions.
Practice these tips for evdaimonia
The research on habit change continues to grow and the evidence continues to show that there is no quick fix, one-size-fits-all, when it comes to reaching our goals — whether that’s a goal we strive for starting New Year’s Day, or any other day of the year. Keep this in in mind, on a daily basis, and ultimately commit to it. You’ll likely achieve what you set out to do. It will help you realize just one of the many parts of evdaimonia – a good flow of life.
“Practice yourself, for heaven’s sake, in little things; and thence proceed to greater.” – Epictetus
(1) The Slight Edge. Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness. Jeff Olsen.
Email Roula today to help get you on the path to evdaimonia and achieve your health-related goals for 2017.
More from Roula Marinos Papamihail:
She trained at Functional Diagnostic Nutrition, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. and holds a Masters in Clinical Psychology from the University of Indianapolis. She’s also the proud mom of 4 little boys. Roula is currently accepting new clients in her office, at home, over the phone, or via Skype. Visit her website at www.myhealthysoma.com.