As a Certified EMDR Therapist, published author, and executive leadership coach, I know that most professionals will fail when it comes to keeping their New Year’s Resolutions.
They will join the billions of others around the world who make New Year’s Resolutions, and then by January 14th, will feel the utter disappointment, shame, and guilt of letting themselves, or their loved ones down.
Let me clear: The failure doesn’t come from a lack of will power or motivation. It’s not because they are callous, or insensitive. And it’s not because they are incapable of change.
New Year’s Resolution failures happen because the change required by the resolution contradicts a core negative belief that informs the person’s identity.
Imagine the new entrepreneur who knows that she needs to pitch herself to a potential donor or lending partner. She will pump herself up on New Year’s Eve with positive affirmations like, “I’m smart enough; I will show them just how much of a return on their investment I can get them; My service will provide immense value to our community…”
But then her Inner Critic sabotages her meetings, because unconsciously her negative belief she has about herself is, “I’m not good enough.” So she will either stumble through the meeting, freeze up, or shut down during hard questions, or should the meeting not yield the results she hope for (even though the reasons were purely economical) she will make it personal: “I messed up here…I don’t have enough education or experience…etc.” Deep down she feels she isn’t good enough.
How about the business owner who’s received an ultimatum from his wife to spend more time at home with her and their children (or else…). For the busy professional, who’s enterprise’s success is directly correlated with his presence, this can seem like an unfair demand. But in the interest of saving his family, he resolves to spend more time at home rather than in the office.
Everything seems to go well at first, but then the stress builds a couple of weeks into the new work-life balance. Tension builds and builds, and then he snaps. He shouts at his wife and scares his children. He thinks, “She doesn’t care about how much energy goes into providing for this family, and all she thinks about is how I’m not home enough…I don’t matter to her.”
What about the CEO who’s resolution is to meditate more, and appoint specific roles to employees to relieve her stress throughout the day, but a few days into her new meditation practice, she cannot resist checking her email for updates.
You guessed it, her negative belief “I need to be in control,” sabotages her New Year’s Resolution. Now she feels like a failure, she’s out of control (ironically), and she is more stressed than when she made the resolution!
Can you start to see how your negative beliefs may be sabotaging you from success this new year?
Here’s the skinny on Negative Beliefs:
They exist to help you organize yourself in relation to your world. Thus, if you are wanting to lose weight this year, but your negative belief is “I’m a failure,” you’re going to fail. Your mindset must change to “I can do anything because I’m capable.”
They didn’t materialize out of thin air. Your beliefs were generated by how your brain interpreted past experiences. If they were successful, positive experiences, then positive beliefs were likely to follow (I’m intelligent, I’m capable, I’m enough), but if they were negative, the beliefs will be negative (I’m stupid, I’m a failure, I’m not enough.) Quick example: when I was consistently bullied in school because of my weight, my negative belief became, “I’m disgusting and worthless.”
Negative beliefs are generated out of neuronal connections in your brain. Neural pathways form to shorten the response time to keep you safe in relation to your environment.
They don’t have to be permanent, but they don’t disappear on their own either. Most people think that self-awareness or repeating mantras or positive affirmations coupled with intense motivation will be enough to change behaviour. Just like the CEO who vows to disconnect from her work through meditation, can’t seem to relax her mind enough to cease checking her email and micromanaging her team. This is because change must happen on the neurological level – specifically by changing her memories related to her belief system of “I have to be in control.”
Like most of my clients, this CEO would likely have found that her experience of having to survive in a household with an alcoholic parent as a child, informed her belief that she had to be in control (or nobody was). Her attempts at meditating and “relaxing control” flew in the face of her neural pathways that were formed as a child in order to keep her alive–and in control.
Conclusion & Encouragement
In order to avoid the disappointment of a New Year’s Resolution failure, you must eliminate the negative belief that is underlying the behaviour you wish to change. I recommend Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR).
I wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!
Robert is a highly adored EMDR expert, published author, and the owner and CEO of Grigore Counselling. He provides executive-level counselling, leadership coaching, and consulting designed to get real, lasting results for his clients in a matter of days instead of months or years.