Now that the Champagne has been popped, the turkey leftovers are thankfully done with and the decorations are due to come down, we reach the last milestone of the year – New Year’s resolutions.
Traditionally this is a time to reflect on the changes we want or need to make.
Ambitious plans are laid to cut down the booze or chocolate and to step up the exercise, but most are doomed to fail within weeks.
That is when the body’s urge for its old tempting friends overrides the mental plans we resolved to stick to.
A study by the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88 per cent of those who set New Year resolutions fail.
But New Year’s resolutions don’t have to fail — that is, if they are realistic in the first place.
People often fail because they try to make too big a leap too quickly or rely on just willpower. Instead people need to change the way they think about their desired goal.
If you rely on willpower alone, the changes won’t last. It is a change of perspective that allows us to make personal breakthroughs. As Albert Einstein said “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.
Follow these tips for keeping to those resolutions:
1. Be realistic
Focus on one resolution rather than trying to change everything at once! To give yourself the best possible chance to follow through on your resolution, start with the one that’s most important to you.
Focusing on the most important goal may actually help you to achieve the others naturally; when some habits change they can have the knock-on effect of also changing other habits almost unconsciously.
For example, if you start to exercise regularly you can find you also begin to eat better. You can break down a resolution into “mini-resolutions” so wanting to lose four stone becomes “I’m going to lose X lbs this month”.
2. Make it a positive and present
People often design resolutions incorrectly; state it positively.
For example, instead of saying “I’m cutting out fat and sugar” make this “I am going to include more vegetables with my meal”.
Phrasing goals in the present tense will also help because it will help to convince your brain you have already achieved your goal!
3. Get a step-by-step plan down
Goals can seem intimidating if you write them down as a list.
They are less daunting when you write down a list of actions to take to achieve success. Studies show that you will have greater success if you structure your aim in this way. Breaking a goal down into steps can help, over time, to turn these into a habitual behaviour.
So if you have a goal in mind, try restructuring this: turn the goal into an activity, and then break it down into actions needed. For an exercise goal this could be ‘buy new trainers, setting aside days / time you will go on walks, plan where you could walk, ask friend to join you’ etc.
4. Anticipate obstacles to stay on track
There will often be barriers en route to achieving your goal.
So anticipate these and make the time to devise strategies to tackle any possible hurdles.
This time investment is crucial; if you know how to deal with obstacles before meeting them you are much more likely to keep your focus and follow through on your aim. Be committed to your goal by…
5. Focusing on the benefits
Regularly remind yourself of the benefits associated with achieving your goals.
Consider writing or imagining a checklist of how life will be better once you achieve your aim. For example, “I will feel happier being able to breathe easily and enjoy playing with my kids if I stop smoking”.
Finally, it is likely that you are making health goals this time of year. Have you ever considered how incredible the human body is and what it does for you?
This is the real reason to make a commitment to health. You do not need to look like catwalk material; you can also be skinny and unhealthy.
The basics for good health are exercise and eating well which may well mean making changes.
Imagine your body as a car. You wouldn’t put the wrong fuel in – petrol into a diesel engine. Nor would you leave the exhaust to hang off. The same should apply to your body. So remember why our bodies deserve the best choices and commit to taking better care of yourself in the New Year.
May you have an inspired New Year!