It’s hard to resist making New Year resolutions. Even if you have a history of finding them broken by mid-January.
When a new year dawns we dream again of a better version of ourselves. One in which we’ll be more productive, happier, thiner, wealthier, nicer...the possibilities are endless.
If you’ve set resolutions for 2017, here are some tips to maximise your success.
Learn from the past
Reviewing previous year’s resolutions can provide valuable information on how and why they didn’t work out as hoped. Generally, setting the same goal isn’t as problematic as deciding on the same strategy.
If you’re a night-owl and evening hours are your most productive time, stop resolving to get up for a 6am run. You’re more likely to feel energetic and motivated later in the day.
Do some research, anticipate challenges and put in place the necessary solutions and support. Taking a new approach or angle to an old resolution will allow you to start the year with more hope and commitment to change.
Set realistic goals based on your priorities, strengths, preferences and rhythms. Someone else’s prescription for achieving health, wealth, or any other goal is unlikely to work in exactly the same way for you.
We probably all know someone who’s lost weight and declared that they ‘have the answer’. Only to describe an approach that you’ve tried but hasn’t worked for you.
Working with your own nature, rather than against it, will help you make smarter choices and position you for long-term success. Gretchen Rubin provides some great guidance on this in her book ‘Better than Before’.
Keep track of your progress
You’re more likely to continue with a new activity that’s measured and progress is visible. This is one reason why fitness trackers have been found to increase people’s activity – the feedback is satisfying and motivating.
So find a way to track and chart your progress. It can be as simple as a star chart on the fridge, a new app for food monitoring, or software to track finances. Just make sure you update and access the information regularly to keep you on track.
Don’t rely solely on motivation and will-power
We have a finite supply, so it’s important to build routines and systems that support our resolutions. For example, an accountability partner can maintain motivation once the initial enthusiasm has waned.
This might mean sitting down with your partner weekly to review your goals, or networking your activity tracker so your movement is visible to others.
If fitness or weight loss is your goal, consider booking an event (such as a race or holiday) later in the year to help you focus.
Think about how you can realistically schedule new activities so they become automatic routines – walk part of the way to work, tidy and organise for 10 minutes before bed, or schedule an electronic transfer for savings.
Re-frame resolutions as habits
Resolutions encourage ‘all or nothing’ thinking that can have us giving up at the first hurdle. Instead try to cultivate positive habits to create a more forgiving and sustainable mindset.
Habits are actions that occur regularly but with little thought or determination. They can be harmful, such as critical self-talk, or helpful, such as cleaning your teeth.
Ideally we need to turn our resolutions from new, easily over-looked activities, into a central part of our lives. This is the difference between knowing that you have vegetables with lunch everyday, to vegetables being an ‘optional extra’. From always having clean gym gear in the car, to finding yourself without equipment when an opportunity arises. From a regular date night with your spouse, to realising you haven’t had a conversation about anything other than the children for months.
Make your habits work in your favour and you just might find yourself winning the resolution game this year.