Here we are again, a new year. That means we are 'determined' to grow into a new and better version of ourselves for many of us. "This year is THE year!" —we tell ourselves. Yet, every year approximately 64% of us will abandon our resolutions and return to our old habits within a month.
There could be a multitude of reasons why we fail to follow through on our goals:
We have no plan or system for how we will achieve our goal.
Expectations are set too high, and we give up when we don't see immediate results.
We try to do too much at once.
We set goals based on the expectations of others instead of for ourselves.
Lack of a support system.
We're detachment from our "why."
Failure to act.
The pain or discomfort is more than we wish to endure.
ALL these reasons are directly related to our level of emotional intelligence—specifically, self-awareness, self-regulation, and motivation.
When we set goals, we often start with the end in mind. The visions that appear in our minds—having achieved our goal— provide us with a flood of positive emotions. However, if we lack awareness, we may overlook the actions and discomforts that make achieving that goal possible, the time it will take to meet our objective, our connection to why we set the goal, and the resources we may need to achieve our results.
Self-awareness is more than understanding our emotions. It allows us to separate our desires from the desires of others, identify and accept our strengths and weaknesses, and recognize our core motivators.
When applying self-awareness to setting a goal, ask yourself:
Why am I doing this?
This can be a tricky question if we lack self-awareness. We may unknowingly convince ourselves that we're setting our goals for ourselves, yet our core motivators may be very different. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, you may tell yourself you are doing it for your health. While improved health may be a benefit, your core motivator may be out of fear. The fear that your partner may not find you attractive if you don't lose weight, that you aren't worthy unless you look a certain way. Motivators such as this are not healthy because you aren't doing it for yourself but the acceptance or expectations of others. Any goal motivated by insecurities is likely to fail. While it may give you the boost you need to get started, it is not expected to carry you through because your why is not out of self-love and passion.
What is realistic?
Just because you can do something in a set time frame doesn't mean that you should. Many of us fail to consider the day-to-day tasks and happenings that may get in the way of achieving our goals when planned or expected. This starry-eyed agenda directly reflects a lack of awareness and dismissal of reality.
While it may be possible to work a full-time job and write a book in a year, you need to factor in the days you don't have the energy to do so, other priorities that may pop up during your intended writing time, distractions, etc.
To avoid this pitfall, give yourself grace and wiggle room. Using the example of writing a book, if you know you can write 1,500 words a day, IF nothing else came up, set your average to 5,000 words per week. This does two things:
It gives you some slack to account for the unexpected happenings of life.
It gives you more flexibility in your week. One day, you may only write 500 words, and on another day, you're able to accomplish 2,000.
What can I expect from myself and the process?
Being compassionately honest with ourselves is key to following through with our goals. We need to be aware of how we will react to the evitable discomforts, obstacles, urges, and setbacks we will face. None of which means we are a failure, but we are human. How will you choose to respond when you encounter any of these challenges? The more you're aware of your behaviors and reactions, the more you can mentally prepare to address them, leading to self-regulation.
Self-regulation helps us to get out of the emotional ruts that give us tunnel vision and make the idea of moving forward debatable. Remind yourself that this too shall pass. Nothing lasts forever, although, in the moment, it may feel unbearable.
How you self-regulate will depend on the situation and how you are feeling. If you are burnt out because you are pushing yourself too hard, self-regulation may be taking it easy for a day, giving yourself room to relax, or readjusting your schedule or workload. If you're feeling depressed and hopeless, you may need to readjust your focus through words of affirmation and focus on your progress, regardless of the amount.
Emotional intelligence is all about being smart with our emotions and understanding that some lead to irrational beliefs and actions. By developing our EQ, we don't let these temporary feelings stand in the way of achieving our desired outcome.
Lastly, motivation. As we mentioned earlier, understanding why you are doing something is critical. Emotional intelligence is all about evoking intrinsic motivation over extrinsic motivation. You are extrinsically motivated if you do something to receive validation or acceptance from others or an external reward. The problem with extrinsic motivation is that once you have obtained your goal, what prevents you from returning to your old ways? However, when you deeply connect to why you are doing things, you are more likely to persevere and go beyond your expectations.
There is a good chance if you do not follow through with your goals, they weren't that meaningful to you to begin with. Everything leads us back to awareness and asking ourselves important questions to discover who we are, what we want, and how we plan to achieve it, whether that be a New Year's Resolution or how we want to live out the rest of our life.