I’m sure you’ve all read the articles that talk about why we almost NEVER keep our New Year’s resolutions. According to studies, about 90% of us will fail to achieve the goals we set on January 1st. Raise your hand if you’ve been guilty of this in the past.
This year, we are going to set ourselves up for success so that we aren’t among the 90% who give up on their goals.
Yesterday, we already began that work by figuring out our WHY for participating in Dry January this year. Today, we’re going to examine the psychology behind sticking to our goals and what we’ll need to do to be successful and then end with a journal activity for today to help move forward.
Sound good? Cool. Let’s start.
Why Do We Fail To Achieve Our Goals?
You may have some ideas already in your head about this, but it’s worth exploring further. At the start of the new year, we have such good intentions. This is the year we’re going to finally lose the weight or increase that savings account. It is electrifying, exciting, invigorating.
So why do 90% of fail to keep going when we know that sticking with this plan will make us happier and improve our quality of life?
There are a lot of brilliant articles out there with answers to this question, but the one I read in Shape Magazine gives the best summary of the reasons that I’ve found.
Here are a few reasons from the article “Ten Reasons You Don’t Stick To Your New Year’s Resolutions” in Shape Magazine that resonated most with me in regards to our Dry January challenge.
- You’re attempting to achieve this goal on your own.
- Your goals are way too big.
- You give up too easily.
- You don’t have a clear plan for achieving your goal.
- Lack of honesty. Translation: You don’t really want to achieve this goal.
- You don’t believe in yourself.
I have some thoughts on all six of these that apply specifically to Dry January and the mindset we’re going to need to get through the month of January without drinking.
Trying To Achieve Your Goal By Yourself
Quitting alcohol is hard, no matter what your relationship with it. So much of our social lives are centered around drinking. Then we have to contend with the stigma of not drinking or openly admitting that we may have a problem with alcohol.
No matter your reasons for doing Dry January this year, it is important that you don’t try to go it alone. You need people you can turn to when you feel your resolve slipping and you need people to turn to when you want to celebrate your achievements.
If you haven’t done so already, please join the Soberish Facebook Group. It is a closed group, so your privacy is respected, and filled with amazingly supportive people who know exactly what you’re going through. There are also other Dry January participants there that you can commiserate with.
Change can feel very isolating, which can make you want to throw your hands up and say f*** it. Don’t! We’ve got your back on this.
Your Goals Are Way Too Big
I know the intended meaning of this in the original Shape article was to make sure that you’re not setting your expectations too high, as in, no you aren’t going to lose 50 pounds in two months.
I want to examine this from another perspective, and that is the dreaded “forever” word that comes with quitting something. There are some of you for whom alcohol is not a major problem and you will probably go back to drinking after January. That’s totally fine. You can skip to the next section.
But for the rest of you, I want to have an honest discussion about quitting alcohol that can feel overwhelming. You mean I’m NEVER going to drink again? I’m quitting FOREVER?
There is a reason that most recovery programs advise people to take it one day at a time. If you allow yourself to meditate on the idea that you’re never going to drink again, chances are you are going to panic. You’re going to be drawn to the lure of “one more time.”
If you allow yourself to spend too much mental energy focusing past today or this week or even the month of January, you are going to feel like you’re not ready and be more inclined to quit.
TODAY, you’re not drinking. That’s all you need to worry about.
You Give Up Too Easily
This is me %1,000, me, me, me – the thing about myself I dislike the most. My resolve can be WEAK.
Do you know how many times I contemplated deleting the part about quitting Diet Pepsi on our Day One article because I just don’t want to do it and feel like I can’t? At least five times today alone.
This goes back to taking it one day at a time and having a clear plan. What are you doing to set yourself up for success this month?
I’m stocking my fridge with apple juice and throwing out all soda. My husband’s mixers? Switch to beer this month, darling. In my journal I’ve written out a plan for how to handle going out to eat, making sure to always have my water bottle with me, and have pages dog-eared in my journal to look at during moments I feel like I’m going to give in and crack one open.
You need to make a plan for yourself, which we started to do yesterday, but now I want you to get incredibly specific.
- How have you set your home up for Dry January? Did you get rid of the booze and any triggers?
- Do you have easy access to your reasons for participating that you can turn to whenever you feel tempted?
- What is your plan for situations where you would normally drink? What will you have instead?
- Have you started a Pinterest board for all the swanky mocktails you plan to try out this month? (if that’s your thing)
- Who is your go-to friend/partner/support system for the moments when you feel especially weak?
If you can answer all these questions, you’re going to increase your chances of success AND feel better prepared to handle the tough stuff.
You Don’t Have A Clear Plan For Achieving Your Goal
This ties into the last section and a lot of the work we did yesterday, but it bears repeating. As Benjamin Franklin is noted for saying, “A failure to plan is planning to fail.”
Every single day, you have to work on this through journaling, checking in with your support systems, and making sure that you know how you’re going to handle the day without drinking. It’s not particularly time-consuming, but it is critical.
You are doing something incredibly challenging. You are a badass. But the only way you’re going to get there is by having a plan written down.
If you missed yesterday’s article, click here and get to work.
Lack Of Honesty: You Don’t Really Want This
This is a tough one and I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty of this many times in my life, especially around fitness resolutions.
I’ve had to sit down with myself and say, “Alicia why are you REALLY out here running?” The answer was mostly because I thought that this is what people do to feel better, but I never stopped to ask if it made ME feel better. The answer is no, it doesn’t. But you know what does? Lifting weights. So that’s what I do!
You have to enjoy the process on some level to keep going and the end result has to be something you genuinely care about.
For the majority of you, I know you’ve reached a point with alcohol where you think you need some changes, maybe even to quit for good. Always go back to your WHY if you start to feel like you don’t know why you’re doing this to yourself.
Which brings me to a big, ole WARNING!
Do NOT confuse not wanting it with self-sabotaging thoughts of giving up.
The weak resolved, addict in me would read something like this and say, “See, Alicia you don’t REALLY want this. It’s not time.” Then I would go back to whatever damaging behavior I was engaging in before (smoking, drinking, dating terrible people).
Don’t get it confused. This is not permission to quit early. This is just a reminder that you have to genuinely want to achieve the goals you’re working towards in order to be successful.
You Don’t Believe In Yourself
Anybody else feel like their own worst enemy at times? We all have a story in our minds about who we are, and even though we authored this story, it can feel impossible to rewrite.
The story in my brain has been that I’m not tough. I quit too easily. I lack willpower. Everything I’ve started, I’ve ended up abandoning way sooner than I should have (if at all). That story snowballs, but I will spare you the melodramatics.
We’re all guilty of this. We’ve all created a story, and for many of us, we are the villain of our own stories. It’s time to chip away at that. I hate when people suggest that you just cut it out! Stop today! Change your thinking!
Well, sure, if I could. Advice like that usually ends up making people feel worse because they’re not able to shut it off. It’s not a switch to flip. I’d read things like that and think, “Oh sure, not only am I a total wimp but I can’t even do THIS right!”
Every day, we’re going to work on refuting the story we’ve made about ourselves piece by piece. It is not going to be instantaneous or easy or miraculously come to us in the middle of a meditation session. But we’re going to get there.
You can do this! And if you’re worried that you can’t handle thirty-one days without booze, then focus on today. Just get through today and we’ll handle tomorrow when it comes.
Journal Activity For Achieving Your Goals
Every day, I want you to journal. It can be stream-of-consciousness unloading of thoughts and feelings onto the page, or a retelling of the day’s big events and what they meant to you. If you’re already in the habit of journaling, continue your daily practice however you’d like.
If you’re not accustomed to journaling or want a bit more guidance for handling Dry January specifically, I’ll have prompts and ideas for you each day centered around the theme of the article. Today’s theme: achieving our goals.
Writing Prompts For Achieving Goals
- Was there ever a time you failed to keep a goal? What was it? Why do you think you failed? What do you wish you had done differently?
- What will it mean for you to complete Dry January successfully this year?
- Of the six things listed that keep people from achieving their goals, which resonated the most with you and why?
- What is the story you’ve created in your mind about who you are? What, if anything, would you change about this story?
- What has your relationship with goal-setting been like in the past? What do you think has contributed to your ability to keep or not keep goals?
Here’s a Ted Talk discussing goal-setting and the fear of failure which you may find useful: