New Year’s Resolutions – don’t pick a fight with yourself!
Most of us have tried and failed to keep New Year’s resolutions. As a Coach, I often work with clients on setting goals for change and finding the motivation to reach them. So here are some tips drawn from my experience of what works for my coaching clients. There’s also some good advice here https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/are-new-years-resolutions-waste-time.
First and most important – don’t pick a fight with yourself. There is no point in setting yourself a difficult target that is a constant struggle to reach. It will make life miserable for you and those you live or work with. January is bad enough anyway, without adding to the pain. Make your target something that you can enjoy along the way rather than battle against. If you want to lose weight, enjoy exploring and experimenting with interesting recipes. Take the type of exercise you enjoy rather than forcing yourself to go to the gym. And while exercising, engage your attention with something that interests you, rather than noticing the drudgery of each step.
Focus on what you can have, rather than on what you can’t. When someone tells you not to think about a pink elephant, you can’t get the pink elephant out of your mind. The same applies to diet or drink – if we think about what we can’t have, we can’t get it out of our minds, we crave it. Replace this with the positives of what you can have. If you are trying to reduce your alcohol intake, see is as an opportunity to try out some new non-alcoholic drinks. Look forward to your lime and soda at the end of the day or to your non-alcoholic G&T or beer. Savour the flavour of a juicy fruit salad and try out new fruits and colours.
Set a goal that excites and motivates you. Rather than a “negative” target (such as losing weight or giving up smoking), express your goal as a positive (eg looking slim, feeling healthy, being able to run up the stairs). This will be more motivating and will attract you towards it.
Set short term steps towards your target and reward yourself along the way. We often say that when you have an elephant task, you should break it down into mouse-sized chunks. Have a plan for each day. If you succeed in staying on track, give yourself a pat on the back. If you don’t, you can go again tomorrow. Mark each milestone (eg a week when you walk every day) with something you like to do as a reward.
Get social support. Knowing that other people are also working on their resolutions can help you to stick to yours. People trying to give up smoking often find it easier if their partner does the same. Campaigns like Dry January mean that other people support you as they know what you are doing. Tell your friends and family about your resolution and ask them to help you.
Plan how to deal with temptations. Work out what you will do and say in situations that might tempt you away from your target. If you are asked out for a meal, you don’t have to deny yourself the pleasure of going, but you can rehearse mentally what you will do – what meal you will choose, how many courses you will have, what you will drink. Thinking about it in advance primes your brain and makes the behaviour easier.
Finally, visualise the future when you have reached your target. What will you be doing? What will people be saying to you? How will you feel? Find ways to remind yourself of your goal – have a picture on your desk or an object to remind you. Imagine how good it will feel to succeed.