Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “Becoming The Most Powerful and Confident You”
Every year when the holiday season rolls around, we begin to hear about New Year’s Resolutions and often folks are sharing their big, exciting goals and plans they have for achieving these goals. Lots of my clients and course members reach out for help too, to achieve their thrilling visions for the new year.
Last year, I had the pleasure of joining Kerry Evers on her Behavioral Change Architect podcast as we talked all about New Year’s Resolutions and why they so often fail, and how to change that so your top goals can be attainable.
First, what’s important to realize is that approximately 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail and most fail by February. Many people over the years (including myself) have written about new approaches needed to achieve our big goals and resolutions, including naming them something else, engaging with them in new ways and viewing them differently.
Personally, I don’t make New Year’s “resolutions” per se because there’s so much hype and pressure around them that I find they rarely work. I choose to approach it more like a year-end review — of what I’m most happy with in terms of what’s been achieved and created, and also to examine what has not gone well, and what has transpired that led to failed expectations and hopes.
I then make some key decisions on what I want to expand on in my life — a key “theme” regarding where I want to put my focus, energy, time and financial investment, for the next year. I think of it more like answering this critical question:
What are the key themes that I want to expand on and bring into focus next year, and for what specific desired outcomes?
Then I create a concrete plan with steps with measurable milestones for achieving what I believe will generate more happiness and reward. And I get outside help when I need it, to continually assess these goals, plans and steps. This is the approach that works best for me.
That said, over the past 16 years in my therapy and career coaching work, I’ve seen that most of us simply can’t bring about significant change or growth in our lives if one key thing is missing—
understanding at a deep level exactly why we operate the way we do
and recognizing what keeps you locked in specific “negative,” self-sabotaging, or self-limiting behaviors that resist or sabotage change. Once you understand more intimately your mindsets, values, beliefs, habits and greatest fears, and also some key programming from the past that may be hurting you, you will begin to realize why certain goals are going to be very hard for you to achieve, and even harder to sustain, unless you commit to a deeper level of change.
Below is some key information from my Finding Brave podcast about how our past and childhood experiences continue to shape us as adults, and impact our personal and professional lives, often out of our awareness, and what to do about it (click the image below):
What’s going on at a deeper level that makes so many New Year’s resolutions fail and what are the top 3 reasons they die on the vine?
#1: It’s your consciousness that needs to change before your behavior can change
Einstein once said: “We cannot solve a problem on the level of consciousness that created it.” As an example, let’s say you’re in a job that you hate, and you’re being mistreated by your boss on a regular basis. And this isn’t the first time you’ve been in a horrible job. You say at year-end, “That’s it. I’ve had it! Next year I’ll find a new role with a great boss, doing work I love.”
While that’s a fabulous goal, it most likely won’t happen unless you change aspects of yourself first, so that you will be able to attract—and sustain—more positive, beneficial treatment in your life and your work. So often, people who are chronically mistreated at work have been mistreated throughout their lives as well, even as far back as childhood. It’s typically a problem that’s very old for them. This chronic condition can emerge from childhood if our boundaries were violated in some core way and we were never able to speak up and stand up for ourselves because it was not safe to do it.
In these cases, especially where there was narcissism in one or both parents or influential authority figures, people grow and develop in ways that make their tolerance for mistreatment greater than those who were raised in a healthy, nurturing manner. And many have a narcissistic wound to heal.
My therapist friend and colleague, Janneta Bohlander, has shared that in many of these cases, “people’s ‘picker’ is broken.” Meaning, these individuals often continue to “choose” or move toward or attract (unconsciously, of course) the wrong people, work cultures, bosses and jobs that are damaging and replicate the same type of dysfunction they grew up in. Sadly, until we are able to heal what has hurt us from the past and revise and transform our approach, we’ll continue to perpetuate the very challenges that we most want to run from.
#2: You don’t have an accountability structure to help you sustain change
Big changes and important goals don’t just happen. They require sustained action (and a different kind of action than we’re used to or even prepared for) that can move you forward toward the goal in the face of the challenges, struggles and pushback that inevitably come.
That sustained action is difficult to achieve on our own because it stretches us way out of our comfort zone and out of our habitual ways of dealing with life. We often cannot “see” or grasp a new way to act, make decisions, communicate, etc. on our own.
While some people can hold themselves accountable on their own, I’ve seen that the bigger the goal, the more necessary it is to have consistent, outside and empowering accountability help, especially over time as the initial excitement of the goal fades and the going gets rougher.
Whether your goal is to be happier, healthier, wealthier, stronger, more successful or more fulfilled, achieving big stretch goals typically requires you to become someone who is different from who you are today. To do that, outside support is so helpful. The right kind of helper (versus the wrong kind), encourages you to see what you cannot about yourself and to connect with the highest version of who you are and can be, and also where you’re sabotaging or holding yourself back from your own growth.
The right accountability partner believes in you and your big goal before it’s “hatched,” and serves as an honest and true mirror that reflects back to you how you’re currently approaching things and responding. The best accountability partner helps you expand your toolbox and capabilities so you can react to challenges differently and in a more intentional, empowered way.
We don’t generally make significant change alone or in a vacuum either. Most of us need great outside help and an ongoing accountability structure to keep going toward our highest goals just when we want to bail.
The reality is that the more we stretch our wings, the more we bump up against new challenges we’re not prepared for.
#3: You are actually scared of, and completely resistant to, achieving this big goal and you won’t let yourself
You may consciously want to achieve a particular goal, but if you’re internally scared to death to bring this goal to fruition, or feel you don’t deserve it, you just won’t let yourself do it.
Years ago, I read Gay Hendricks’ great book, The Big Leap, and learned so much about our “upper limit problem” and the four common barriers to achieving what we consciously think we want. I’ve since interviewed Hendricks numerous times (both on my Forbes blog and in my Finding Brave podcast) and I continue to learn more about these four hidden barriers, which are:
Hidden Barrier #1: Feeling Fundamentally Flawed
The biggest and most widely-shared fear is that many of us feel there is something fundamentally wrong with us and that we’re undeserving of great success and happiness. This fear causes us to hold ourselves back from fulfilling our ultimate potential because we feel we inherently don’t deserve it.
Hidden Barrier #2: Disloyalty and Abandonment
Another widely-held fear is of being disloyal to or leaving behind people who have been there for us in the past. We pull back from greater success because we fear we’ll end up all alone, or abandon our roots, leaving behind people whom we love or care for.
Hidden Barrier #3: A Belief That More Success Brings a Bigger Burden
A third fear of creating more success is the concern that it will somehow be a greater burden. Many people unconsciously believe that more success brings more problems, challenges, stress, and conflict — for ourselves and others. So they’re resistant to pursuing new outcomes as they fear they aren’t capable of dealing with the potential stress and burden.
Hidden Barrier #4: The Fear of Outshining
Common among gifted and talented people, this fear often emerges from a strong subliminal message they received as children from their families that if you shine too much, you’ll make others feel bad or look bad.
I’ve lived each and every one of these hidden barriers, and know firsthand how challenging it can be to revise these beliefs and barriers and overcome these fears.
As Hendricks shares, most of us have internal upper limits to the degree of success, love, wealth, kindness, health, etc. that we’ll allow into our lives. I believe that this is one of the core reasons, for instance, that those who win the lottery are more likely to declare bankruptcy within three to five years than the average American, and that 70% of lottery winners end up broke. There are all sorts of outer, behavioral reasons for this phenomenon, certainly, but I’ve seen that the internal reasons are more potent. In this case, holding great wealth can be extremely challenging for those who haven’t built the fortitude, behaviors, boundaries, actions, and belief systems that will allow them to sustain that level of wealth.
In the end, it’s an internal job first that’s required if we want to live out our own definition of great happiness and success. We can take all the well-advised steps in the world, but without cultivating the positive and empowered beliefs and behaviors essential to creating a solid foundation for success, it will remain very difficult to reach your most thrilling goals.
Do you want to make an exciting New Year’s resolution that you can actually achieve in the new year?
The best step to take to achieve a big stretch goal is to understand very deeply why you want this goal and what motivates you to achieve sustained progress towards that goal, and then address proactively your greatest fears about reaching it.
Figure out now what’s in the way of believing: 1) You are truly worthy of it, 2) That you actually deserve it, and 3) You will be able to handle what comes when you achieve it, including other people’s reactions and your own internal state when you finally make that goal a reality.
Once you address your internal blocks and fears to achieving your big goal, the external path becomes much clearer and less challenging.
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To achieve your highest goals and potential, visit KathyCaprino.com, and read her latest book The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss.
For hands-on coaching and training help, join Kathy’s new 8-week LIVE online course The Most Powerful You (starts February 1st) and close your power and confidence gaps today. Sign up here for Kathy’s newsletter for updates about the course and open enrollment.