Why we don't keen resolutions and how to kick the habit

It’s the time of year that we are all filled with hope and optimism of all that lies ahead. A time we commit to being healthier, more productive, more patient, compassionate and many other things. Or perhaps it is already a time of year when ‘New year’s Resolutions’ start to be broken or we start doubting how long our commitments will last.

Well don’t lose hope yet! If you have made ‘resolutions’ (or ‘intentions’ as we often call them now) then I would like to offer you a new approach that will make your resolutions more effective and will enable you to keep your resolutions so that you can enjoy the long-term benefits.

WHY WE FAIL

If you stop for a moment to think about the approach most of us take to these commitments, we are all doomed to fail. After weeks of indulgence and pleasure we expect to suddenly wake up one morning, often nursing a sore head, and we imagine that we will be filled with more motivation, more willpower and more determination than we have ever had before. Like a Disney spell all our dreams will suddenly come true.

However, if you are bored of breaking your resolutions year on year there are a few simple steps you can take to make 2018 the year those dreams really do come true. I will cover these in this and future posts and I am going to start with showing you how to use the next year fully to make those lasting changes.

12 MONTHS OF PROGRESS

As a positive psychologist and coach the biggest challenge my clients face is that they want it all, NOW! I would love to say this is possible but it simply isn’t. I know this not only from a scientific perspective but also from my personal experience. Change takes commitment, patience and perseverance but you can do it!

The tendency it to fall into one of two traps. The first is wanting one life changing transformation right NOW. This might be trying to leap from a lifestyle of doing no exercise, having an unhealthy diet and drinking 7 nights a week to instantly working out 4 days a week, eating no carbs and not drinking any alcohol. The second is wanting to make a multitude of small (or big) unrelated changes immediately. Perhaps this is being on time, cooking more meals at home, getting to bed earlier, being more patient, going to the theatre more often and taking up meditation.

Both these visions are inspiring but it is all too easy to ignore the hard work that is required to get to this destination we envisage. I therefore invite you to take a step by step approach.

 

STEP 1 – Consider how you want your life to look in 12 months time. How would you be living, working and relaxing, how you would act, what qualities would you have, who would you be with and what would that relationship look like?

Take some time to think about the detailed answers to these questions.

 

STEP 2 - Review this vision and consider why this is important to you and what impact these changes will have on your life and the lives of those you love? Start to imagine how will you feel having achieved these changes.

I suggest taking 15 minutes to write down your thoughts.

 

STEP 3 – Whether there is one goal you want to focus on like or a variety of small changes you want to make the next stage is to consider how this goal can be segmented or broken down into smaller goals. Ideally break this in to a minimum of 4 mini-goals and a maximum of 10.

For example, let’s imagine you are looking to improve physical health. The steps might be: - eat more protein-filled healthy snacks, cook at home more, cut back on alcohol, eat more vegetables, only have desert 3 times a week, walk up escalators, get up to stretch every hour during the day, go to the gym 3 times a week, get more sleep and swim twice a week.

Here are your 10 mini goals. You will see that this consists of 5 activity goals and 5 nutritional goals.

NUTRITIONAL GOALS: Protein-filled healthy snacks, Cook at home more, Less alcohol (max 3 nights a week), Desert 3 times a week & Eat more vegetables

PHYSICAL GOALS: Walk up escalators, Stretch every hour, Gym 3 times a week, Get more sleep & Swim twice a week

This is the start of your map to optimal wellbeing. We need to think of this as a map as you have a journey to make, there is no ‘Beam me up Scotty’ option, and you need to acknowledge that.

You are now going to choose just 1 change for each month. This will help you to move beyond the stage of needing extreme self-regulation and willpower and into habitualising the changes. In the case of this example you might choose to combine 1 physical and 1 nutritional goal and allow 2 months to commit to these activities. For example :

JANUARY & FEBRUARY: Less alcohol (max 3 nights a week) and gym 3 times a week

MARCH & APRIL: Eat more vegetables and get more sleep

MAY & JUNE: Cook at home more and walk up escalators

JULY & AUGUST: Desert 3 times a week and swim twice a week

SEPTEMBER & OCTOBER: Protein-filled healthy snacks and stretch every hour

NOVEMBER & DECEMBER: Consolidation period to strengthen the habits (and let’s face it December has enough temptations that we don’t need to make life harder for ourselves!)

So, you now know what you want to change and why this is important to you, you know what a positive impact it is going to have on your life, you know how good you are going to feel when you achieve this and you have a stage by stage realistic plan of how to get to your destination.

 

STEP 4 - The last detail is to celebrate your progress and success. Commit NOW to a reward that you will give yourself at the end of each stage. This might be a massage treatment, a new fitness outfit, a night at the cinema or meal out with friends. It can be anything at all but allocate your reward now.

You only get this reward if you commit to the changes you want to make so write down the motivation, your goals and your rewards. You may want to stick them somewhere you will see them each day or share them with someone you trust but above all remember you WANT to make them!

This truly can be the year that your New Year’s Resolutions last and I assure you that patience and persistence are the keys to success. If you are bored of breaking your resolutions then give this a try. This can be the year that it all happens for you so go on, make it happen!

For more motivation and wellbeing this year check out X-FIT FOR THE MIND or perhaps a FREE MINDFULNESS CLASS. Keep an eye on Less-stess.london and Step-Inside for more tips to keep you motivated in 2018 so you can feel that sense of achievement that you deserve.