I hesitate to write about New Years Resolutions as by now, most of us have had enough of them. It’s not even the end of January yet personally I’ve already read enough articles on the New Year, New You theme.
Yet, before you dismiss this post, pause a moment. Despite the overwhelm of trite phrases, January is a great time to refresh your thinking. There’s a natural energy arising and as human beings, more intricately linked to the seasonal cycles than we care to admit, we can harness that energy and momentum.
So although I get tired of the same old phraseology, I am a fan of taking some time at the beginning of the year to refocus my attention. After all, I only have so much time/money/energy and I like to use it well.
The problem with the way most people set New Years Resolutions is that they design-in failure. We like the idea of making changes but we don’t pay enough attention to realising them.
I’m getting much better at making my Resolutions stick so I thought I’d share with you the techniques that work for me.
7 Ways to make your Resolutions Stick
Get crystal clear about why you want to make this change.
What will this new habit mean for you?
What will it lead to?
What will it make possible?
Who else apart from you will benefit?
Make sure you are doing it because YOU want to (and not because you are going along with a suggestion made by your other half/work colleague/friend).
2. Capture it
Write your goal down. This takes it out of your head and makes it into something concrete. Phrase it in the present tense as if you are already doing it now. For example I eat a healthy lunch each work day rather than I’m going to eat a healthy lunch at work
Then expand your goal statement using the following formula:
I do (X) because I want (Y) and this is important to me because (Z)
I (have 3 drink-free nights a week) because I want (to sleep better and improve my mood) and this is important because (it means I’m happier and healthier).
Compare this to
I’m going to try to have 3 drink free nights a week – which is the sloppy, demotivating way we so often phrase our resolutions!
3. Resource it
Whether it’s money, time or energy, your new goal will need proper resourcing.
Buy the running shoes, diary the time to prepare a healthy packed lunch or do a yoga session now, before you start implementing the changes.
4. Just do it!
When you make a decision to change something about your life, that’s a change on a cognitive, thinking level. You need to embed this cognitive change through behaviours. Change needs practice. As you practise your goal, you create new neural pathways in the brain. Like a fresh path that you make as you walk through long grass, the more often you tread it, the easier it becomes.
Make a list of the new behaviours that you need to do to fulfill your goal.
Using the example
I eat a healthy lunch each work day because I want to have more energy and not go home so exhausted. This is important to me because I want to feel good about myself and enjoy my leisure time more
the behaviours you need to introduce could include:
shop for lunch items twice a week
prepare lunch each night before dinner
set a reminder so I eat lunch each day between the hours of 1 and 2.
5. Start Small
You want to exercise at least 3 times a week? Lose half a stone? Have more family time? Ease yourself in. Start by exercising once a week and maybe just for 10 minutes. Have half a day a week where you cut out fattening foods. Clear one evening in the next week where you can be available for family. By starting with something completely achievable, even too easy you might think, you create a solid foundation.
6. Future proof your motivation
In the early stages of behaviour change, there’ll be many times when you’re sorely tempted to give up. When you’re out for that run and just want to turn around or you just got in after a long day and that bottle of wine in the fridge is singing out to you….we all have those moments! This is when this simple yet effective exercise comes into it’s own.
Before you even start on your new habit, write down a list of at least 10 benefits. Tap into your own personal motivators, whether that be health, financial, family, performance, spiritual. I’m really interested in human biology so when I was starting to exercise regularly I listed all the health benefits. Struggling to run uphill, I would go through my list of 10 ways in which my body was benefiting. It took my mind off my discomfort and got me through. Write down your 10 reasons and in tough times, go through them at least once.
7. Celebrate your success, however small!
It’s not easy to change established habits; it will take time, discipline and resilience. The least you can do is to give yourself a pat on the back every time you take a step forward. Don’t wait until you’ve achieved your goal; celebrate the successes along the way, however small. Just getting your gym kit out the night before is a success (even if you didn’t even make it to the gym that day!) Resisting a bar of chocolate is a success (even if you later had a couple of biscuits later on!) Questioning the necessity of an evening work phone call is a success (even if you had to go through with it after all!)
Notice what you do well and recognise each day’s successes.
All set? Here’s to a New Year and New You!
P.S Just a thought, you can make Resolutions at any time of year. Try birthdays, the first day of Spring or a significant anniversary.