Overcoming Obstacles to Change: Staying Committed to Resolutions

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The New Year is a natural time to pause, reflect, and make a resolution for change. As an Ayurvedic Practitioner, I see people daily who are looking for ways to better their lives. This could be through the food they eat, the way they carry out their day, or how they process emotions, but the common thread throughout it all is that they are looking for a way to change.

Through my experience and the wisdom of Ayurveda, I’ve identified three categories of obstacles people encounter when trying to commit to change. They are outlined for you here, along with ways to overcome, just in case you feel something hits close to home. After all, your resolutions are only as good as your ability to stick to them, so it’s worth taking time to troubleshoot before you run into problems.

For those of you familiar with Ayurveda, you’ll see these parallel the three doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha. Also, if what you read here interests you or inspires you to learn more, check out my book, The Ayurvedic Self-Care Handbook, or my even more in-depth online program.

You have the right ideas for change, but you lack the structure you need to implement them.

If there’s a shadow side of being creative and full of new ideas and concepts, it’s that it’s often accompanied by a resistance to structure, and planning. While usually out of the desire to be spontaneous–and the spontaneity really can be exciting–not having a routine makes it too easy to be distracted by new and shiny things and difficult to focus on one resolution. We see this most commonly in the vata dosha (ether and air elements). If this describes you, here’s what to do:

  • Pare down your resolutions by category. Choose the category that means most to you or aligns best with what it is you need in your life right now. Then, work with only one thing first. Trying to advance your spiritual life, fitness level, and revamp your diet all at the same time could leave you feeling frazzled and scattered. Narrowing your focus will help keep you grounded and still leaves you with options for implementing more of your ideas later.
  • Plan and prepare. You’re more likely to follow through if you’ve set aside time in your schedule (remember to allow a little more time than you think you’ll need) and have all of the ingredients you need for success. Take a few minutes to put your gym clothes in your bag the night before, or make a meal plan for the week and dub one day as your grocery shopping and meal prep day. You’ll be surprised at how small steps of preparation can free up calendar space and make it easier for you to keep your resolutions. Not to mention, allow time to for to be spontaneous without sacrifice.
  • When it comes to scheduling and timing, play into your natural strengths. If you’ve never been a morning person, it’s probably not the best idea to commit to getting up extra early for a meditation or yoga practice. Or if you know the afternoon is your time for low energy and lack of focus, don’t choose this time to work on that writing project you’ve been trying to complete. Consider this because the when can be as important as the what.

You’re so goal-oriented that you become rigid and push too hard for change.

It almost sounds counterintuitive, but your drive for achievement may be getting in the way of you keeping your resolutions. Or in the least, staying healthy while taking steps toward them. This problem is common with those of you who almost exclusively participate in activities that are productive or educational in some way. When you commit to something, you’re going to do the best you can. The thing is, we can’t do everything well all of the time. Having the expectation of doing so can get you down when it doesn’t work out, and your push to make everything perfect can make you burned out and sick. Pitta dosha, this describes you, so check out these tips:

  • Set yourself up for success. You like the reaching the finish line, so make the race one you can win. When you feel like you can be successful with one small thing, add or make a new goal. Try your best not to make resolutions that are out of range for you.
  • Instead of adding new things to your routine, think of taking some things away or modifying what you currently do. As the one that likes productivity, chances are you already have a lot of things you are doing for the betterment of your being. Perhaps taking a responsibility away should be your resolution. And if not to subtract, tweak something that was once working for you but lost its sparkle.
  • Always be sure you’re incorporating play, or make at least one resolution that isn’t goal oriented. This will help balance out your overachiever ways. You’ll be surprised at how refreshed and focused you are if you do something that isn’t productive once in a while. In fact, one might say that play will actually increase your productivity.

You have the best intentions, but the motivation just isn’t there.

First, let’s not view this as all bad. When someone is inherently good at being grounded and settled, it’s typically more difficult to adjust to change or have the self-motivation to get started. If you’re a kapha dosha, this probably sounds familiar to you. You need a nudge to switch up the things that aren’t working for you, and here are some ideas how to go about it:

  • Ask for accountability. You’re most likely to stay on track when you have someone checking in with you. This could be your family reminding you or asking you about your goals, or could be a friend that agrees to meet you at the gym. Whomever it is, it will be helpful to have their support. Even though this is about making you feel better, you like to please others, too. You’re less likely to miss the gym if you told a friend you’d meet them there. Plus, when you see how proud others are of your achievements, you’ll be motivated to keep going.
  • Promise yourself to give it a two-week trial period. This is enough time to feel an effect from your new routine, even if only subtle. And if you feel better, you’ll be more excited to continue. Giving yourself trial period will almost be like tricking yourself into change, since after this amount of time it may already feel like it’s a part of your everyday.
  • Choose a way to make the resolution feel more exciting. Find a change of scenery for that project you’re working on, or refresh your tools for the job. For example, if your goal is to journal or write more, get a new journal and pen. This isn’t to promote consumerism so much here, more that sometimes finding a way to make it extra special can be all you need to commit.
In truth, I've always felt a little dread around the New Year. The magic of the holiday season has come to an end, and the idea of starting over feels somewhat daunting, And, my God, Auld Lang Syne depresses me. I've never subscribed to the "New Year, New You" tagline, but I have tried using this time of year to feel restored and ready. In an effort to put less pressure on myself at this time of year, I made a shift a few years ago to simply use this time for play. I do creative projects, I try new recipes, reorganize my closets (yes, this feels like play for me), work on puzzles, watch movies, read books. All without an ounce of gilt for not being productive. What a difference this makes!

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