New Year’s Resolutions can seem rather like a daunting pledge to overhaul our lives, to change ourselves and those annoying habits that we just can’t seem to break in the space of a year. The easiest part of New Year’s Resolutions is indeed making them, but the hardest part is sticking to them amidst our busy and frequently complicated lives. If you need more persuasion of how hard your willpower has to work to keep your resolutions, these statistics might convince you. A ComRes poll for Bupa in 2016 found that out of 2,014 adults interviewed about their New Year’s Resolutions, 86% admitted to breaking theirs less than one year in, while 43% admitted that theirs didn’t even last a month. I can put my hands up and admit that whenever I’ve made New Year’s Resolutions in the past – ahem, “I will read a new book every month” – I’ve just forgotten about them come February – life got in the way and new challenges cropped up that made my previous goals seem totally unrealistic.
Unfortunately, the beginning of the year is one of the worst times to make a major change in your habits because it’s often a relatively stressful time. It’s right in the middle of the back-to-work mayhem and getting back on track with things like finances, work and health after the Christmas break.
If you’re struggling to stick to your resolutions, if your will power is waning already, or if you haven’t even made any, then these 6 steps are here to help you successfully stick to whatever goals, resolutions or changes you want to make. I’ll be using them to help me stick to my own goals, of which I have 3 positive ones:
- Practice yoga everyday and vary it according to my needs, whether I need a soothing 15 minutes of lying twists or a longer Vinyasa practice to kick my ass into gear.
- End my day with meditation and a book, instead of Instagram.
- Start cycling to work, both to save money and be more active.
Here’s my 6 tips for how to stick to your goals.
Start small and get specific
If you’ve made resolutions that seem daunting and you don’t know where to start, strip them back. Sit for a few minutes with your eyes closed and just think of one or two things that you would absolutely love to change in your life. One thing that would bring you more positivity, happiness and peace. If you find yourself thinking “that’s totally unrealistic”, your goal is probably too vague. If your goal is to get fitter, what does that really mean? Do you want to get leaner, stronger, more able to run long distance or to lift 50kg in the gym? Make your goals specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART).
Break your goal(s) into a series of time-based steps
Focus on creating sub-goals that are measurable and time-based. For example, if you set yourself the goal of saving more money, mark down regular monthly points in your diary of how much you want to have saved by then. Keep focusing on how much you’re saving in the run up to that point, so it doesn’t creep up on you and come as a total shock. This is a great way to measure your success throughout the year, and you can edit your savings goal as you go along.
Anticipate your problems
If you are realistic with the problems that are going to crop up on the way, then you’ll be better equipped to deal with them when they do. For example, if your goal was to start running outdoors, and you know that when you get home from work this is the last thing you feel like doing, try running home from work a couple of times a week instead. Once you’ve identified all the times that will probably be hard, work out ways to cope with them.
To be more productive, take more breaks
Resolutions are usually based on productivity, for example exercising more or cooking more meals at home. However, doing more can lead to exhaustion and a lack of quality in the things that you do. The best thing to help yourself do more, is to do less. A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that frequent, short breaks throughout the day can make you even more productive. Try to incorporate frequent meditation breaks into your day, by finding a quite space to sit and close your eyes for 5 minutes, take some deep inhalations and long exhales and just let your mind and body start to reset.
Use your environment to help
This is a simple way to help you stick to your resolutions by using your environment to make things a little easier. Re-organise your surroundings to reflect whatever your goal is, both in a way that requires minimum effort for you to achieve it, and as a source of inspiration. Shawn Anchor, author of The Happiness Advantage discovered that just 20 extra second of “activation effort” – the energy it takes to get started – is enough to cause most people not to do an activity. So make it really easy to stick to your goals. For example, if your resolution was to do some form of exercise 5 days a week, pack your gym kit in your bag each evening before work, and follow some Instagram accounts that will inspire your workouts.
Tell your friends and family your goals
Tell your friends and family your resolutions and ask them to keep you accountable, by checking in with you every week via text or a short phone call. You can do the same for them, so that you’re both encouraging each other to keep going. This is a great way to keep you motivated when you’re feeling stressed or too busy, as you can talk about your difficulties and share advice. Yes, it takes some personal courage and vulnerability to share something that you might actually fail at, but to dramatically increase your odds of success you’ll want support from those around you. It’s easy to break a promise to yourself, but far harder to admit it to a friend.
Whatever your plans and goals are for 2017, don’t place any limitations on them. Make them as small or as life-changing as you like, and go for them. I hope these tips will help you succeed in achieving your goals and I’ll be cheering you on as I work on mine!
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