Most of us have set ourselves amazing, life changing new year's resolutions. I will run a marathon, give up sugar, pay off all my credit cards, start a new career, read War and Peace. We are all fired up on January the 1st, less enthusiastic by January 21st, making excuses on the 31st and feeling like a failure by February. Does that sound familiar? Only about 12 percent of people succeed in sticking to their resolutions.
Why do we put ourselves through it? Why do we annually set ourselves up for failure? A fresh new year seems to bring such opportunity and hope. It seems like such a good time to start something. But it is really just an arbitrary cut off point in the calendar year.
If you are determined to set yourself goals and break bad habits, try not to set yourself up for failure.
1. Be specific. Try to map out what you will do, how you will do it and how you know you have succeeded. Break it down into smaller manageable steps, each with a goal which is achievable. Celebrate your success along the way. For example, if saving for a special holiday is a goal, write down specific ways you can save money daily, weekly, monthly. Set monthly targets so you can feel you are making progress. Small goals increase your chance of success. This is because they create new habits. 'Get fit' is too vague and too big a goal. Use the stairs at work instead of the lift is a small, specific goal.
2. Be realistic. Be honest with yourself about what is important, what you can realistically achieve given what is happening in your life right now. Aiming to learn a new language when you know you have a busy spell at work and several weekend commitments is not realistic. Wait until you have the time and opportunity to practise. Do you need to learn to speak Mandarin right now? Or could that be a longer term goal? Be aware that how you feel right now might not be how you are feeling in the future. For example, giving up sugary foods seems easy when you have overindulged on mince pies and christmas cake. A few weeks down the line, avoiding all sugary treats might feel more difficult. Being honest with yourself about your own behaviours increases your chance of success.
3. Join forces. Find family and/or friends who will join you on your quest or at the very least support you with it. Join an exercise class with a friend, make changes to the whole family's eating habits. Sharing a goal dramatically increases your chances of success.
4. Spread the resolutions through the year. Don't limit goal setting to one day a year. Develop new habits throughout the year. Focus on one thing at a time. Feel good about yourself and the control you are taking over your life. Setting goals at the right time for you increases your chances of success.
5. Visualise success. I know this sounds a little bit 'wooly' but it is what all top sports people do. They visualise how they will win and how winning will make them feel. There is evidence to support the theory that 'training' your brain this way helps you to achieve your goal. So spend a few minutes every day imagining what you will do today to achieve your goal and how you will feel when you have succeeded. Visualising success vastly increases your chances of succeeding.
What helps you to succeed at achieving your goals?
If you think counselling may help you to make positive changes in your life, contact me.