4 tips to make your New Year's resolution stick.
It’s the old cliché: the first week or two of the new year is a bumper time for gyms, only to have the crowds die down to normal levels by the end of January. It may be a cliché but it is nevertheless a real phenomenon year in, year out.
So why do we continue to make resolutions on January 1 that we rarely keep? For starters, we all love a fresh start, and it doesn’t get any fresher than the beginning of a brand new year. It’s all about new opportunities and renewal. However, this is also the time of year that we are socialising and eating too much, spending money, attending events and overindulging on holidays. It’s little wonder then that it’s difficult to stick to a major life change when routine is thrown out the window and fun-filled days have been ushered in.
Here’s how you can make a change and actually stick to it
I bet you’ve heard the saying that it takes 21 days to change a habit. This is one of those things that is often repeated but simply not true. What makes a habit stick depends on each person, on exactly what you’re trying to change, and on a variety of other circumstances and factors. The good news is that there has been a whole lot of research into this field about what works and what doesn’t.
1. Realise that tomorrow never comes
We place an awful lot of trust in our future self – one that apparently has acquired stronger willpower than our present self and has robot-like determination. The fact is, this future self is not real. Stop placing so much emphasis on this fictional character and start looking at what your present self can do. If you take this view, you may find you can start making changes right now, today, instead of waiting for an imaginary perfect time.
2. Change just one thing at a time
Once a decision has been made to, say, start eating better, it can be tempting to think that we can also become an exercise fanatic and quit alcohol cold turkey at the same time. While there are some people who can do this, this strategy will most likely set you up for failure. A better approach is to tackle just one thing. You may find that once you have one under control and it has become routine, you are in a better space to attempt the others.
3. Be specific with your goal
Just saying “I want to lose weight” is vague. How much do you want to lose? Over what time frame are you going to lose it? How are you going to lose it? What steps will you take daily to taste success? Get into the nitty-gritty details and even write them down if necessary.
It also helps to break your whole goal down into specifics. One big, long-term goal looming ahead of you can be overwhelming, so break it down into bite-sized chunks that you can easily handle. You’ll gain confidence from ticking off each achievement, which will spur you on even more.
4. It’s not about willpower: make things easy for yourself
Take a look at the weight loss example again. Rarely do changes come about from willpower alone, so you should do everything possible to help yourself along the way. Are you making meals in advance and keeping junk food out of sight? Do you avoid going to the shops hungry? Remember that willpower doesn’t have a lot to do with it, so make sure you put practical steps in place to ensure success.
It seems fitting to end with another cliché: you must walk before you run. Be realistic, go slow and practice the habit every day if you want to turn over a new leaf.
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