Keeping your New year’s resolutions

Monday 21st January this year was billed as the most depressing day of the year, according to psychologist Cliff Arnall using a secret mathematical formula – the only thing on a high was a break in New Year’s resolutions.

Why is it that we typically break our resolutions before the end of January? One answer is that we tend to focus our minds inwardly and not outwardly – we think of how we can “be” different, rather than how we can choose to “make a difference” in the coming year. Reframing our goals to look at the outcomes of what we want to have happen, the positive effect that has beyond just ourselves and taking accountability for that choice, can be hugely motivating. It provides a different perspective on the goal.

Take for example losing weight – a classic resolution. Most of us will have a goal of losing a large amount – say 3 stone – and that large amount translates itself into a weighty goal, which starts to feel almost insurmountable before the New Year’s Eve party is over. Reframing that to a goal of losing some weight so you can participate in a 5k race with your friends or being fit enough to run the parents race on sports day or feeling really sexy in a new sarong on the beach conjures up a picture of a compelling future. It isn’t just you benefiting, it is your friend, your kids, your partner and all those admiring on-lookers. As a goal, you can engage with it and it feels different, real and accountable.

Another reason we break resolutions is that they are unrealistic. How realistic is it for you to lose 3 stone when you are no longer 16, you have had 4 kids and don’t play for the school tennis team any more? Start smaller and you are more likely to achieve.

Here are some tips for staying with your resolutions:

  • Start with a positive approach, even if you have failed in the past. Analyse what went wrong and why
  • Don’t make too many resolutions
  • Make sure your resolution is for you – it is great to run that 5k with your friends, but if you really don’t want to do it and hate running, it won’t motivate you
  • Write down your plan with milestones – visualise not just the end goal, but the steps along the way
  • Enlist support – your conscience, coaches and confidantes
  • Forgive yourself if you slip – adopt the 80/20 rule
  • Congratulate yourself and reward your milestones
  • Be honest – are you really prepared to make the change? Make a list of the impact achievement of the goal will have in your life and ensure you are totally happy with those changes

Usually the nation takes calculations such as Dr Arnall’s Black Monday with a pinch of salt. But Dr Arnall can congratulate his predictive powers as I recall Monday 21st January’s stock market crash, floods, further evidence of rising debt, a tidal wave of timber, the home secretary admitting to not feeling safe walking the streets after dark and M&S looking for answers as to why their underwear no longer provided proper support!

Make sure you take the smile off Dr Arnall’s face with a renewed energy for keeping your focus on your most important goal for the year ahead. Remember, when you can see the prize, you are more likely to keep up the fight.

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