Every year I make new years resolutions, and by February I can’t even remember what they were! Sound familiar?
There is something really reinvigorating about a new year. It’s a clean slate and the perfect time for a bit of self-improvement. So it’s not surprising that many of us set goals for our brand new year ahead.
Gyms are often very busy in January, full of sweaty weight loss dreams. So why then do they quiet down by February? Why don’t new years resolutions seem to stick?
I think the trick to achieving a goal (whatever the time of year) is twofold.
Firstly, make goals realistic. There is no point aiming to run a marathon by March if you haven’t run around the block in ten years. So smaller, incremental goals are far better and more achievable. Then once little goal milestones are achieved the overall goal is reinforced and we are motivated to continue on our path of successful behavioural change.
Secondly, have a back up plan. If you’ve decided to stop eating chocolate, and by January 3 you’ve just smashed a packet of Lindt balls leftover from Christmas day, there is a tendency to fall off the wagon totally. Many of us are ‘all or nothing’, so if we waver from our goal so soon we tend to just give up altogether. Rather than going cold turkey, the goal could have been, have just one Lindt ball after dinner. Having just the one forces you to savour it more too.
It’s also useful to remember that change is often difficult. We are creatures of habit so a shift from the status quo can be uncomfortable for us. So when it comes to unhealthy or potentially destructive behaviours it’s helpful to make a little pro and con list under the following headings.
What are the benefits of changing my behaviour?
e.g. By going to the gym I will get fit/lose weight/fit into my old favourite jeans etc.
What are the benefits of not changing my behaviour?
e.g. By not exercising I can have more time to lie on the couch.
So whilst there will be benefits to change and not to change it helps to write them down and articulate why you really want to set your goal in the first place.
Thus this year I will make a plan for my resolution rather than making a wish list of self-improvement. It will be personal and it will mean something to me. This year there will be no “success” or “failure” of my goal and rather just a continuum of my evolution. I will readjust my goal if I stumble and won’t make a big deal about it.
Happy New Year everyone,