Strategies for Achieving Your New Year’s Resolutions By Amanda Gore
You rush around for the holidays — eat and drink too much and then find the best party you can go to on New Year’s Eve, drink buckets more, and the next morning think about what resolutions you need to make for the new year. You decide to change your life or give up every bad habit you’ve ever had or may make some other simple changes.
The new year is a fantastic opportunity to spend time (preferably a couple of hours) working on your life rather than just being caught up, running around in circles, in your life. Time is so precious that we are flat out getting the basics done, let alone thinking about our lives and how we are functioning.
How long since you stopped and thought about how your life is going — even if it seems to be going well? And asked yourself the questions we most need to ask:
Am I happy?
Am I angry?
How do I feel?
What needs to change about me or my life?
It may help to pretend you are in a helicopter up above your life looking down on it. What do you see? Is that person’s life balanced? What advice would you give the person in that life? (I know it’s you, but pretend you are observing someone else and giving them wise advice.) Help them to live a more fulfilling and satisfying life.
What does that person need to do? Or is there something that person wants to do? Do they need to have more (or some) time for themselves? Do they need to stop doing something?
I was thinking about New Year’s resolutions and what usually happens to them. We forget them! Or it’s too hard. Or we change our ways for two weeks on holidays and then return to normal habits and the culture we left that reinforces the rotten old habits we are planning to give up.
So, here are some strategies to help you make those changes you think you want to or know you should…
1. Make sure all of you wants to change
We have lots of little parts of us that can pull us in different directions and it may be the case that most of those parts want to make the change but there’s one persistent part of you that clings onto the old habits or patterns. That one part is often enough to pull you down. If you are aware of this part (or it may be a couple of parts), you need to negotiate with it. I know this sounds bizarre but it works! Talk to the part of you that you think is blocking the change — thank it, acknowledge it by knowing that it has your best interests at heart and that the behavior it wants you to continue would have worked for you at some time. It’s just that it’s no longer useful. So discuss it and see, hear or feel what has to happen for that part to relinquish it’s hold on the old behavior and allow in the new.
2. Make the changes simple
I know we often think we’ll change every aspect of and transform our whole life to make things better — but it’s too much! Think of a series of small things or perhaps just one “biggie!” Or if there are several biggies then plan to tackle them over a long period of time — for example, every two months start the new project, when the previous one has become a habit.
3. “Chunk down” big resolutions into small steps
Smaller steps are more manageable and do not upset your routine dramatically. When we aim a dart at a dart board, if the second we throw, our hand moves a fraction, we miss the target by miles. In the same way, small, consistent changes now, can make dramatic changes in the long term.
4. Give yourself rewards when you keep to your resolution.
Probably not chocolate if you are giving up sweets! But something you really feel is a special treat so you have something to keep you on track when you are being tempted. They can be simple rewards or something like a holiday at a wonderful resort. It has to be something that would motivate you.
5. Be kind to yourself
Tell yourself that you have been doing the best you could, given the skills and knowledge that you had at the time. You need to be gentle with yourself. It’s just that now you have some new information that may have made a difference to your thinking and made you decide to change your previous ways. Forgive yourself for how you have been behaving or for having some of these habits. Instead of berating and beating yourself up as being bad and feeling that you should have known better, or been better, or done better, be kind to yourself. It’s OK to not be perfect (something I have to keep reminding myself!).
6. Set up some support mechanisms
It helps to surround yourself with people that applaud the changes you want to make and that will help you stick to your goals. People who will pat you on the back for succeeding and who will gently help you back on track when you veer off course. Or better yet find people who might want to change with you.
7. Work out why you want to change
Think about what has been motivating or driving the behaviors you want to change, or what has stopped you from sticking to the new behaviors. Do you tend to be motivated by the thought of a new “improved you” or driven to change by the thought of being unhappy with an “unhealthy you”? It helps to know if you have a “move away” strategy or a “move towards” strategy, because you will have a better sense of how to stick to your resolutions.
8. Understand your behaviors and habits my be a coping mechanism
Some behaviors and habits maybe coping mechanisms, and a way of handling stress in your life. This doesn’t mean they are worth persisting with, but you probably need to think about what you are trying to cope with and how can you change the cause of the stress rather than changing the habit or behavior which represents the coping mechanism. If you can’t change the thing causing stress choose another, possibly healthier, coping mechanism. Sometimes just realizing that you have adopted this behavior as a coping strategy allows you to change more easily or deal with the real issue.
9. Learn why you haven’t changed in past.
What has stopped you? What triggers have started you on the old habits again? Can you avoid them? Or at least prepare for them? For example, if you are trying to give up smoking, it’s not smart to immediately go to a party where people are smoking like chimneys — it would be very difficult to avoid an old habit you are trying to break when you return to an environment that has always been associated with that behavior. Do yourself a favor — minimize the triggers of the old behavior in the first few weeks of your new resolutions. Think about the culture you are in and will be in, and create an environment that will facilitate the change instead of constantly reminding you of the unwanted behaviors.
If you practice your new resolution every day for a couple of months you will find that your new habit will largely be formed. Research shows that this may take less time or more time depending on the individual, but the average time for a habit to form for most people is 66 days. If you were really serious about regular exercise (remember you only have to walk 4 kilometers in 30 minutes four times a week to be pretty fit) then you would need to walk every day for at least two months to create the new habit.
Here are some ideas that may help you have a stronger resolve — just keep in mind people who live a fulfilling and satisfying life acknowledge (among other things! ) that they are human and it’s OK not to be perfect — we’re all doing the best we can and that’s pretty good in most cases.