How are you all getting on with the resolutions you made at the start of the year? Still as motivated as you were on the 1st January? I’m proud to say that so far I’m doing OK with mine, but I must confess that I am finding some easier to stick to than others. I haven’t given up on any as such, but let’s just say that I may have bent the rules a teeny tiny bit on some of the harder ones!
Unsurprisingly, I’m having no trouble keeping to resolution #1 stay in regular contact with friends and family, especially when it involves a coffee shop, and resolution #4 do more exercise is also still being very much adhered to, as is resolution #40 give our livers a break and resolution #21 walk more. However, resolution #38 cut down on sugar has been adapted to become ‘cut down on sugar, apart from weekends’ and #resolution 35 sleep better has been severely affected by resolution #25 drink more water, because of the countless times I’ve had to get up in the night to go to the toilet!
Studies into the effectiveness of making resolutions in the New Year show that only 1 in 10 of us will actually stick with it and make it to the final goal. After the first couple of weeks, the initial enthusiasm and positivity we had for our new goals, start to be replaced with self-doubt, cravings and even a small amount of laziness, which results in resolutions being broken and forgotten about.
The most common resolutions are to do with losing weight, saving money, doing more exercise and quitting a habit, such as smoking. Where most people go wrong is by not making the end goal specific enough and by setting up unrealistic expectations of how quickly they will reach their end goal. Professor Tory Higgins of Columbia University, claims that there are two very distinct types of goals; promotion goals and prevention goals, and recognising the difference between the two is key to keeping a resolution.
Promotion goals are linked to our hopes and aspirations of what we think our life will be like once we have achieved our goal. These can often be highly unrealistic, often unattainable and therefore the most likely to fail. An example of a promotional goal is wanting to lose weight with the aim of looking like a particular celebrity. It is obvious that even if a person stuck to their resolution, it is highly unlikely they will ever look like that celebrity, particularly as the image they are aspiring to has probably come from a magazine, which will have been manipulated, touched up and filtered way beyond reality. When a promotion goal is broken, it will lead to discouragement, negativity and a complete lack of motivation to try again in the future.
In contrast, a prevention goal is something that has more force and more responsibility attached to the reason for wanting to achieve a particular goal. It carries with it a sense that if you don’t keep to the resolution, it will impact on not only yourself but on others around you. Take the promotional goal example above about wanting to lose weight. To lose weight purely for aesthetic reasons may well bring failure, but to lose weight due to health reasons, or because you want to be able to run around and play with your children or even as an extreme example, you want to be able to see them grow old, then suddenly you have a resolution that becomes a responsibility and failure is not an option. Higgins explains, “When someone starts to do something in the prevention system, they’re very likely to continue. It’s as if, once they do it the first time, it becomes the status quo. Individuals are actually motivated by slip-ups because they feel anxious about not maintaining their new habit and they become more vigilant. Instead of losing sight of a lofty goal, an individual’s thought process is more along the lines of, “I’m not going to do that ever again”.
On average, most people have given up on their resolutions by January 17th, that’s 5 days from now, so I thought we could all do with a bit of a motivational boost to get us through the rocky patch and out the other side with our resolutions intact!
10 Top Tips To Keep You On Track!
One at a time
We’re all guilty of it; New Year’s Day arrives you’re full of renewed determination and energy about how you’re going to change every aspect of your life for the better and you vow to make a million and one resolutions with the aim of creating the new and improved you. However, the simple fact is that the more resolutions you have, the more diluted your focus and the harder it becomes to stick to any of them. Resolutions are traditionally made in the New Year, but who said you had to follow tradition? By all means write down each and every resolution, but this year why not try tackling one resolution at a time. Focusing your attention on one goal will give you much greater chances of success and only when you have reached one goal should you consider moving onto the next.
Being too vague and not specific enough with our resolutions is another major reason for failure. Simply stating that your aim is to lose weight or to exercise more does not give you enough of a plan to mark success against. Instead you need to break the goal into smaller goals, each with their own individual target, for example ‘I would like to lose 7lbs by the end of the month’ or ‘I will walk to work instead of drive’. These smaller goals are far less daunting, but added together they all work towards achieving the same end goal. Smaller resolutions that are measurable, time based and achievable help keep us motivated and positive about the changes and sacrifices we have had to make.
When setting yourself a goal remember the word SMART:
More often than not, resolutions are made with very little proper thought behind them. Instead of forcing yourself to make quick decisions on New Years Day, spend some time either before or after to carefully think about what it is you really want to achieve. Write them down and then rank them in order of what is most important to you and what will benefit you the most. Resolutions that have been planned and carefully thought out are much more likely to be stuck to.
Record your journey
Keeping a journal as a means of recording your progress, any hurdles you’ve faced, words of motivation and the achievements you’ve reached, is a fantastic way of not only keeping yourself motivated and full of positivity, but it also helps you to stay on track and remind you of why you are doing what you’re doing. How you do it is up to you; maybe you work best with visuals, so perhaps setting up a Pinterest board would be best for you, or maybe you prefer to keep it old school with a handwritten journal that you can lose yourself in and jot down all your inner thoughts? Either way, recording your journey, gives a resolution much more substance and instantly makes you more accountable for it, which in turn is much more likely to see success.
Being surrounded by a positive support group of friends and family works wonders when it comes to keeping you on track. If you let people know about your intentions, not only does it make you more determined; no one enjoys admitting failure, but they should also be able to offer you encouragement and may even have a similar resolution themselves, in which case they can join you on your journey. Joining a new exercise class is always far less daunting if you have a friend with you and, if you’re anything like me, a bit of healthy competition is fantastic at giving some focus. You may get some people who turn their noses up at what you’re doing. To be quite frank with you, you do not need this negativity in your life, so I would suggest you turn to other, more positive friends for support. A good friend will be keen for you to succeed, will avoid putting temptation in your way and will encourage you at your most bleakest of moments.
For every goal you reach, no matter how small, always remember to reward yourself. I realise this all sounds a bit like training a puppy, but I promise you it really does help! Whether you treat yourself to a massage, a manicure, a new book or maybe even a coffee in your favourite coffee shop, whatever works best as an incentive for you will help train your mind to understand that with hard work comes a prize. Habits can be incredibly difficult to break, so in a sense we are all very much like puppies when it comes to retraining ourselves to behave in a different way. Obviously the biggest reward of all is to reach the end goal, but a few treats along the way would certainly help to keep me motivated, wouldn’t it you?
And talking of habits…A new resolution is basically a new habit, but trying to break an old habit and bring in a new one is the most difficult part of all. This is the reason why we all struggle to keep to a resolution after a couple of weeks. The old habit hasn’t had quite enough time to fully disappear and will therefore keep popping it’s head up to remind us how much we enjoyed eating cake, or sitting in front of the TV, or smoking that cigarette. Apparently it takes approximately 21 days for new behaviour to become a habit, so if you can stick to your resolution for pretty much all of January, things should start to get a bit easier. One thing you do have to be careful of is that your resolution doesn’t become stale. By that I mean it is advisable to change your strategy from time to time so that you don’t get bored with it. For example, if you are on a diet, come up with some new meal ideas and have fun playing around with new, healthy recipes.
Accept that it is hard work
Nothing is easy and the sooner you accept that, the sooner you can focus your energy on putting in some hard work to achieve your goal. There are no real quick fix solutions, yes there may be some companies out there that promise you one, but trust me there are not! Many of us underestimate just how difficult keeping a resolution can be, which is why it’s important to continually remind yourself of the end goal and any progress you have made. Hard work pays off in the long term, so making a few sacrifices now is an investment well worth making.
We all lead busy lives and resolutions that were made during the holidays, when it seemed easy to focus on that and nothing else, can easily become lost among day-to-day interruptions from work, family, household admin and in fact life in general. It’s not realistic to expect a resolution to take over your life, but slotting some time into your weekly timetable to work at it is completely possible and necessary if you want to succeed. Writing a journal will again help keep your focus, but you may also find booking into a regular fitness class, for example, will also keep you committed. You must also try not to be influenced by others, particularly if it will have a negative impact on your end goal. It’s hard to say no to your friends if they invite you to the pub when you were meant to be going to the gym, but sometimes you have to be strong and learn to say no.
We are all human
Sometimes we have slip ups, but it’s how we deal with these slip ups that will determine how successful we are at reaching our goals. There are countless motivational quotes about how to be truly successful you must have at first experienced failure, but I think Winston Churchill put it best when he said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”. Failure should not mean that’s the end, view it as a temporary blip, a lesson learned and swiftly move on. Don’t view it in a negative way, or this will inevitably result in you giving up completely, instead think about it from a positive point of view. Yes you made a mistake, but use that to spur you on towards reaching your goal and promise yourself that you won’t make the same mistake again.
The act of writing this article has certainly given me a fresh burst of motivation and I’m hoping it has also helped spur you all on to reach your goals, whatever they may be.
I’d love to hear from you – email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what your resolutions are and how you’re getting on with them.