It can be tough sticking to your New Year Resolutions but they are achievable, writes Colm Fitzpatrick
All of us are guilty now and again of putting something on the long finger; we’ll start that daunting diet next week, clean the car at the end of the month, or look for a new and fulfilling job next year. This propensity to procrastinate is usually based on fear of failure or lack of motivation. Perhaps you want to hit the gym but your inexperience is deterring you from taking that extra step or maybe you have a desire to start a bakery business, but worries about how successful it will be dissuades you from pursuing the project.
Humans are excellent at making excuses to avoid activities that take us out of our comfort zone. However, this mindset briefly changes in the New Year when millions promise themselves to finally get a move on with their goals. The most popular resolutions are to exercise more, eat healthier and save money. While this desire to better ourselves should be praised, the majority of people fall short of their resolutions – and very quickly.
Numerous studies show that by the second week of January, the motivation to keep up with resolutions begin to falter and that by February, 80% of hopefuls abandon them. This is why gym membership spikes in the New Year only for it to wane significantly after a month.
This mass exodus doesn’t mean that making resolutions is futile, but it does show us that the way we go about trying to achieve them isn’t working. Instead of falling into old habits this year, try out these helpful tips to make your New Year resolutions stick.
Establish the why
Before you even attempt a New Year’s resolution, you need to understand the motivation behind your goal. If your ambition is to write a book, then it’s important to introspect and examine why you have this desire. It might be because you love writing or have a life-changing idea you want the world to know. Whatever your goal is, make sure to have your resolution in written form where you’ll encounter it everyday, like on the wallpaper of your phone. It will act as a constant reminder when you’re having a tough day to stick to it.
Only choose one goal
There are probably 100 different things we want to work on when it comes to bettering ourselves, but it’s vital to just pick one resolution. If you try to achieve a number of objectives over a year, there’s a high chance you’ll end up accomplishing nothing. Tackling everything at one time will leave you overwhelmed and confused. By focusing your efforts on one goal, you can give it your all and make it more achievable.
There’s no point aiming at a target that is impossible to hit. You won’t, for example, be able to lose 100 pounds of fat in a month nor will you learn how to be proficient at public speaking in a week. Creating an unrealistic goal in an extremely short time frame is doomed for failure and will leave you feeling discouraged. Be honest with yourself and try to discern what you’re capable of and what you’re willing to do to achieve your goal.
Take baby steps
If your goal is to hit the gym five days a week when the only exercise you’ve ever successfully completed is walking up the stairs, then it’s likely your resolution will grind to a halt early. This momentous ambition is possible but you have to take it one step at a time. Write out a list of how to best achieve it and do some research to seek out the advice of other people who were in your position. You might begin by exercising three days a week at home before finally making the financial commitment to join a gym. By having a plan of action rather than vague notion in your head of what you want to achieve, there’ll be a much higher chance of success.
It’s never easy taking on a new challenge alone so enlist the help of a family member or friend who can support you. If you want to start jogging more, then there might be a close companion who would be willing to join you. On days where you’re feeling apathetic or discouraged, your partner will be able to pick you up and point you in the right direction. Of course, there are also plenty of social groups you can join that will allow you pursue your resolutions in a communal environment, like a running or knitting group. Being able to speak to someone about the struggles you’re encountering and the subsequent reassurance you will receive will keep you inspired and committed.
Make a connection
Sometimes it’s easier to pick a new habit by connecting it to one you already do. If your goal this year is to start flossing daily then associate it with your brushing your teeth. You already do this everyday so it will be effortless to integrate this resolution into your normal routine. Brushing your teeth will always be a reminder that you must floss afterwards.
Use reward system tactics
Resolutions shouldn’t be a punishment; they’re all about improving yourself. Particularly for those ones that can be more difficult, it’s important to remember to reward yourself for your efforts. At every small milestone in your journey, mark it with a celebration. For example, if you manage to stave off cigarettes for a fortnight, treat yourself to a night at the cinema or your favourite meal. A reward system is a simple but effective way to ensure that when resolutions become difficult there’s something in the near future to look forward to.
Go easy on yourself
Making significant changes to your life and breaking old habits isn’t easy so there will be times when you fall off the ladder. This blip isn’t an excuse to give up on your overall goal nor should you beat yourself up about it. Rather, get back up, dust yourself off and don’t lose momentum. You’re only human and it’s inevitable that at some stage on your journey you’ll hit a speed ramp but it’s how you recover that will determine what effect this has on your goal. If you have a smoke, make sure it doesn’t turn into a whole packet. Instead, remind yourself that glitches happen and consider it a lesson learned. It might be helpful to write down what triggered the lapse in judgement so you’re more cognisant of how to avoid this pitfall.
The New Year is a moment in a time where we reflect on the 12 months that have just passed and look forward to the future. There is always opportunity to better ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually. By perceiving ourselves not as ‘human beings’ but as ‘human becomings’, we can instill the principle that there is always work to be done.