Every year there is a whole heap of pressure on us to set our New Year’s Resolutions and stick to them. Usually we over stretch, over promise and then feel extra crappy when we can’t maintain them passed the end of January.
I choose to set realistic goals rather than resolutions because I will feel energised and accomplished throughout the following 12 months.
It’s that time of year again when we start looking forward to the clean slate that the New Year offers, and making big plans about how this one’s going to be bigger and better than ever. But as we all know, making New Year’s resolutions and actually sticking to them are two entirely different things!
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re setting your goals, keeping to them in the first few months, and how to eventually make them a habit you don’t even need to think about anymore.
Setting goals – make them fun, realistic and easy to track
Loads of people set a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight and get in shape – but seeing how this one keeps coming back year after year, it seems most of us are not succeeding! The issue for most people is that we’re clear on what we want – a sleeker, fitter frame – but not so clear on the how. Just deciding that you’re going to put in more effort and have more discipline might work well for a few weeks, but at the end of the day we’re all human. We get bored, we lose focus and motivation – and this is perfectly natural!
This year, try something different – instead of putting that initial burst of energy into starving yourself and signing up to the gym – spend it on educating yourself about making small, healthier changes that can add up over time. Fad diets come and go, but the science is always going to be the same – calories in and calories out. If you know what foods are packed with good things like vitamins and minerals, fiber and antioxidants, and low in overall calories, (hint: start in the fresh produce aisle) you know what to start replacing the foods in your fridge with. The more you learn, the better equipped you are to continue to make better choices – and the scale will start reflecting this.
The same goes for any long term goal – you need small, manageable steps that you can aim for over time, rather than just one giant finishing line in the distance. If these steps can be enforced by some outside party (think setting up a monthly debit order into a tax free saving account if your goal is to save money, or paying in advance for a month’s worth of yoga lessons you then feel obligated to attend) then so much the better.
If you’re struggling to keep motivated with an activity like exercise, then see if there isn’t a more fun way to reach the same result. Paintballing in London might be a more attractive way of getting in some weekly activity than hitting the gym, for example! Trying something new (or even better, a few things new) and broadening your horizons can be a fun way to find an activity you might never have discovered otherwise – try a dance class, join a hiking club, buy a Wii or Xbox Kinect, maybe even try your skills at a martial art that makes you feel like an action movie star! If you’re lucky, you might even find you have a hidden talent that could have lain dormant forever!
Sticking to goals
Don’t just write out a list of the things you want to accomplish this year – take the time to write out a step by step breakdown or progress tracker too. Stick this up on your bedroom wall or on the fridge where you can consult it and monitor your progress. If the plan needs changing, then feel free to make adjustments – the important thing is that you keep your goal in mind and have a clear path forward. This can take whatever form you wish – a daily or weekly tick list, an electronic reminder system on your phone or PC, whatever works for you.
What to do when it just isn’t working
So a few weeks or months have gone by, and you can see your motivation waning already. Now is not the time to give up – it’s the time to reassess. Be completely honest with yourself about why you’re not sticking to the goals you set, and get input from those close to you if it’s an issue you really do want to change. Perhaps your goal is less realistic than you thought? Maybe you hadn’t factored in other commitments?
There’s an endless list of potential reasons, but you can’t let those reasons become excuses! Your goal now needs to be finding creative ways to work around the issues that have presented themselves and still come out on top. You haven’t failed, far from it – you are now even better equipped to reach your goal because you understand the hurdles better. Get your mind right, formulate a fresh strategy, and keep your eyes on the prize!