New Year Resolutions
At this time of the year many people make New Year resolutions, but research shows that almost nine out of ten people fail to achieve them. I’m sure most of us can relate to that. Who hasn’t decided at least once in their life to lose weight, eat more healthily, quit smoking, exercise more, reduce stress, get a better job or spend more time with their loved ones?
All of those ambitions are worthy. So why don’t people just go ahead and do it? Well, for a start, it’s not as easy as it sounds. If whatever people put into a New Year resolution was easy, then they would be doing it already and there would be no need for a resolution in the first place!
In effect, a New Year resolution is no different to any other personal ambition we may have. It’s just that the beginning of a new year represents an opportunity to make a fresh start with a positive affirmation that will help to improve our lives in some way.
Although setting-out with the best of intentions, the most common reasons for people failing to achieve their resolutions are that they set unrealistic goals, don’t measure progress or simply lose motivation. The good news is that there are a number of life-skills we can learn about and apply to achieve the outcomes we want.
Firstly, it’s important to have a compelling vision of what we want to achieve. To know where we want to get to, what it will look like, how it will feel. We need to be able to picture the end-goal in our mind, understand the differences it will make and the benefits it will bring to our lives. Most importantly of all, we need to tap into our emotions and know how it will make us feel. That’s how we create motivation and unrelenting commitment to achieve success, even when we encounter obstacles along the way.
Take losing weight, for example. As well as not being happy with where they are with their weight, most people achieve success through visualising how they will look, the new clothes they will wear, the activities they will take part in and the way they will feel about themselves. It’s about looking forward to how we will be rather than focusing on what we don’t want.
That’s why it’s important to set goals in a positive rather than a negative way. To think, write and talk about them positively in order to train and manage our minds, then to subsequently accomplish the changes we want to achieve.
Saying ‘no’ to some things in life can be very challenging. However, if we flip that and say ‘yes’ to an alternative that is more compelling and important to us, we can move forward with much more conviction. If we decide that we need to spend more time with a loved one rather than too many hours at work, for instance, then it helps to have a mindset that we are saying ‘yes’ to that person rather than saying ‘no’ to our employer.
Once we have a compelling vision we can set ourselves a goal. Where the vision is the overall aim and the goal is the specific detail. So, our vision may be to become happier whilst our goal will focus on, say, being a certain weight.
It then becomes important to set a SMART goal. Meaning Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound. A SMART goal might, for example, be to reduce our weight from 120 kg to 80 kg over a year, whereas simply saying ‘I’m going to lose weight’ is not
Once we have a long-term goal we can then break it down into smaller, manageable chunks by setting appropriate targets at monthly, weekly or daily intervals, depending on the circumstances and what works best for us.
Taking small steps forward eventually creates a journey and builds momentum. I usually find that, once people have made some progress, they can feel the changes happening. That builds confidence, strengthens motivation and inspires people to complete the journey.
There will inevitably be challenges along the way. My advice would be to not turn a drama into a crisis or, as one of my coaching clients said recently, ‘don’t turn a pothole into a sinkhole!’ We may have to accept that our journey won’t be in a straight line but, if we persevere, we will get there in the end.
Finally, it’s important to accept help along the way. We don’t have to complete our journey (New Year resolution) alone. It’s often good to get support from someone, be that a professional life coach, a specialist in a specific subject or a trusted friend.
Now make those New Year resolutions really happen!