In the UK, a study by Bupa.com found that around 80% of residents give up on their New Year’s resolutions already after the second week of February. Tragicomic for sure but I was born in Närke, you know, the grumble belt, where the jargon is often attributed, “it’s never too late to give up…” So how on earth did I manage to defy the paradigm and steel myself for life and death climbs in the Himalayas? How is it that we often fail in our noble goals soon after we decide? And what can you do to keep the steam up until the goal becomes as required as the air you breathe?
It is a late rainy autumn day in the early nineties. The drops of water fall over a dense spruce forest somewhere in Dalarna. I jog on the spot to keep the heat going and the frost on the ground testifies to the night being below zero. I just pooped on one of the rudimentary outhouses that the organizers built for the nervous orienteers who will soon be heading out into the woods to look for controls. I know that when the weather is at it’s worst, then half of it is already up. That’s why I’m going to win today, I think, and then I smile evilly and clench my fist as if I’m making a pact with my convictions.
But the weather conditions are the same for everyone, and despite that, many want the race to be over before it even started. How did I do? Great! The Spice Girls sang, “So say what you want, what you really really want?” But hand on heart, how much do you really want to achieve your New Year’s resolution? It’s a bit like asking an audience, “raise your hand if you want to learn Mandarin”. A few raise their hands. The crowd is smart. They realize that learning Mandarin requires labour, time that they could spend doing something else, time that they have to take away from other things they value in their lives. Then I ask, “raise your hand who would like to know Mandarin now, on the fly, like in the movie Matrix, where they program a skill in their head in a few seconds?” Everyone raises their hands.
Your New Year’s resolution is not a home delivery, it requires dedication and hard work. So ask yourself: how badly do you want it?
There are several reasons why people give up on their New Year’s resolutions:
1) Unrealistic goals: Many people set unrealistic goals for themselves that are difficult to achieve, which can lead to frustration and in the end we give up when we realize that we still won’t succeed.
2) Lack of Accountability: Without someone or something to hold you accountable, it can be easy to give up on your goal.
3) Lack of planning: Often we lack a concrete plan for how to achieve our goals, which can make it harder to stay committed and measure our progress.
4) Fear of Failure: The feeling of failure can be overwhelming, causing some people to give up before they even start.
5) Old habits: Habits are deeply rooted in our behaviour, and breaking them can be challenging, especially if they have been a part of our lives for a long time.
I argue that we have been fed “shortcuts” and that “free is good” in society, and the above is often that we fall for commercialism that wants to sell us a lot of unnecessary crap and uses our laziness as a weapon. Laziness is a poison for one who wants the best peaks in the Himalayas and the antidote is continuity. But many are afraid that it will be hard, long and superhumanly difficult.
So what are the success factors of not giving up?
1) Finding your “why”: It is important to have a clear understanding of why you want to achieve your goal. Understanding your motivations can help you stay focused and committed even when the going gets tough.
2) Break down goals into milestones and milestones: Big goals can feel unattainable, which can lead to feelings of discouragement or giving up. Breaking down goals into smaller, more manageable steps that you take each day can help make progress more attainable and keep you motivated.
3) Cultivate your resilience: Resilience is the ability to rise from adversity and failure. Cultivating resilience can mean developing coping skills, learning from mistakes and maintaining a positive mindset.
4) Building a Support System: Having a support system of friends, family or peers who can encourage and motivate you can be a powerful tool in sticking to your goals.
5) Hold yourself accountable: Holding yourself accountable for your progress can help you stay on course and avoid giving up. This can mean measuring your progress, setting deadlines and rewarding yourself for achieving milestones.
Winston Churchill’s winged words, “never give in, never, never, never” are something my father has instilled in me since childhood. I repeat it like a mantra, because if you repeat something many times, it is said to become a truth.
Big goals require big sacrifices. Big goals require you to do something different than what you are doing today. Big goals require you to become a different person than you are today. So when you wake up in the morning, you have to guard your thoughts, your words and your actions. It is your “last line of defense” to avoid falling into old habits. This is the opportunity to continue creating your new life. It happens every morning. I don’t care if you have to write your goal on the bathroom mirror, on the toilet paper, or if you have to leave a reminder note with your promise in the pot that you are going to cook your porridge in.
You have to find a strategy that reminds you why you promised yourself your promise. You need to find a strategy that reminds you that you are not a person who gives up just because it’s raining outside.
Fredrik Sträng Alpinist – Speaker – Coach