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Groundhog Day and Scary Shadows

article_groundhog1February 2: Groundhog Day. An odd celebration based on an old Pennsylvania Dutch tradition that pits our weather forecasters against a very large rodent. Each year, a chubby groundhog is pulled from his warm burrow and if he sees his shadow he will get scared, retreat back in his home, and we have six more weeks of winter.

This year I realized that us humans are really no different. But our Groundhog Day starts much earlier: on January 1. To ring in the New Year, we make some kind of declaration that we are going to go on a diet, lose weight, get fit, quit smoking, drink less, or any number of goals of personal change. But when February arrives, we come out of our burrow, see our shadow, get scared, and go back to what is comfortable: hibernation.

The resolution failure rate supports this theory. In 2007, Richard Wiseman studied resolutions of over 3,000 people and found that 88% actually fail to achieve their goal. Like the groundhog, these individuals retreated and are left to deal with winter however they can get through it. Unlike the groundhog, for most the winter lasts much longer than six weeks.

Many theories suggest that goals must be set intelligently to ensure success. The SMART approach is referenced most often keeping goals specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time oriented. While this is an excellent reminder for us on how to set our goals, it doesn’t necessarily help us stay on track.

Yet staying on track is the most difficult part of goal achievement. Yes it takes discipline, determination, and direction. But it also takes a simple acknowledgement. Fear. A goal is the creation of change and change can be scary, even terrifying. If we can do a better job of addressing our fear, of recognizing that change can be hard, change is not comfortable, and that change requires us to do different things than we are used to, we can do a better job of hitting our goals.

After setting those SMART goals and resolutions for a New Year, a new you, understand that this fear of change is actually just a fear of your own shadow. When you do get to the fear, the excuses, the reasons for derailing your achievement, keep in mind you are just seeing your own shadow. And it is guaranteed you will see it. It is up to you to either let it scare you or bask in the sun and welcome spring: a new you.