Rescuing New Year Resolutions

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As we come towards the end of the first month of a new year, we’re all normally running out of money because we got paid early in December, spent too much over Christmas and are now clinging on for payday. But we know payday’s coming.

At the same time, many of us are also running out of enthusiasm for those resolutions we made at the end of last year – some made with real hope and meaning, some that only made sense in a drunken haze.

But unlike the payday, many of these resolutions will never see the light of day.

Now there’s loads and loads of psychology around this and as fascinating as it is, reading all about it isn’t really going to move you much further forward unless one of your resolutions was to learn about psychology. Equally, you’re more than welcome to go and read up on a few things if it grabs your fancy at the end of this piece. If I’ve got your attention this far then I just want us to keep rolling forward.

Where does it all go wrong? Ironically the ones that tend to last the longest are the alcohol-induced ones we made with a group of friends on New Year’s Eve and to which we feel some kind of obligation: they’re a bit of a dare and our motivation is not to lose face.

But what of the other ones, the ones that we thought about and which would make a real and positive difference to our lives? Well when I’m coaching I always say aim high and that is often what we do with our resolutions: I will be a size xx; I will earn lots of money; I will….

The problem here is that these examples either lack proper definition – what is lots of money? – or are not feasible in a short space of time – go down 3 dress sizes.

Gyms are on the record as having a high turnout at the beginning of January and I know many gym regulars who give it a wide berth at that time – they return in February when the numbers have dwindled.

Hold on a minute, did anybody really think they were going to achieve their resolution in the first month? And if they did you would have to question whether they had really aimed high enough.

So, what can you do to aim high and not fail?

Well the first thing is to break that resolution (or goal or target, call it what you will) into baby steps. Achievable ones. What are the little things you must do to get to the end? Write them down, one will follow another will follow another and so on, hey, there may even be a few that you do at the same time. Sometimes this exercise can be done more easily by working backwards from your end goal if you’re struggling to see a way to start from where you are right now.

Now you have a list of actions that are achievable. Doesn’t that make a difference? Then you need to put some timescales on them, make it a bit challenging. That’s what keeps us interested. And motivated. But remember, achievable. That way one will lead to another.

There’s a sense of satisfaction in crossing off things that have been done, maybe your goal has ten steps leading up to it. Each time you cross one off then you’re one step closer. Or in this case 10% closer – that’s quite a big number. It’s probably not too long until you’re halfway there. Now how good is that going to feel.

Stop reading right now and think about that: how good you’re going to feel achieving each step of the way. Exactly – that good!

And trust me, you’re going to feel even better than that when you get to the end and your target is in the bag.

The other thing to bear in mind is that to effect any change is ultimately about changing your behaviour and we all know how much we like to stay in our comfort zones. It’s an accepted rule of thumb that it takes 28 days to make or break a habit. And what we’re doing with our resolution and the actions towards achieving it is making a new habit. So why expect so much out of the first month? It’s by the end of that month that it’s going to start feeling easier because it seems like second nature. In other words, if it seems a bit difficult or odd or unusual, well, welcome to the ‘change club’ – that’s a perfectly normal way to feel. At the start.

Here’s an easy example: when you decide to start eating healthily and decide to cut out the sweets, if you currently eat five chocolate bars a day and you cut them out entirely your body (and mind) is going to react when you go from five to zero. But if you go from five to four and adjust, then you’ll be ready to go from four to three, and so on. It really is as simple as that. And achievable.

So, if your New Year’s resolutions aren’t working out, don’t give up – remember, everything in your life is a reflection of a choice you once made. If you want different results, make different choices. Or, if you keep on doing what you’ve always been doing then you’ll keep on getting the same results, you know, the ones you don’t like.

Maybe now is the time to get re-started or if you forgot to set any or couldn’t be bothered, there’s no time like the present to get started. One step at a time. And who knows what this new year might bring you. There’s eleven months of it still left to find out.

 

I have lots of tips and suggestions to help with setting goals and remaining focused on resolutions, particularly in the opening 28-day habit cycle.  Please feel free to drop me a line if you want to discuss.

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