Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Why most New Year's resolutions fail

This year, my daughters and I saw in the New Year,  sitting on a hilltop watching dozens of firework displays light up the horizon.

It was an exhilarating, uplifting experience and I was overwhelmed by joy and excitement.

There is something powerful - mystical even - about staring into the night sky as its canopy of stars is temporarily eclipsed by the streaks and flashes of the pyrotechnic displays.

Add to that the incredible symbolism of the passing of one year and the birth of a new one and it is probably not surprising that I started to think about the future and what it might bring.

Last year was pretty good actually, especially the second half and, for the most part, I really enjoyed it. But, I am still carrying hopes and ambitions that were not fulfilled last year and now I have one less year in which to make them happen.

So, this would be the time to load "Auld Lang Syne" into iTunes, dig out pen and paper, and get writing a New Year's resolution or two, right?

Well, No, actually.

You see, most New Years resolutions never come to pass and the more promises we make to ourselves, and fail to keep, the less confidence we have in ourselves and the more passive we become.

I think it's a great idea to start the new year with some resolutions for the future. The problem is that most of the promises we make to ourselves are too vague, too ambitious and under-resourced.

So, here are my tips for making resolutions that will actually work:

Start Small

Whenever we complete a task, our bodies release serotonin - the feel-good chemical that enables us to maintain a positive mood. Conversely, working for long periods of time without success undermines our mood very quickly.
By setting modest goals, and then achieving them, we end up feeling better and are far more likely to tackle our next goal - and with a more positive mindset.
So, rather than setting out to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, or attempting to lose 20% of your body mass, why not lower your sights a little and aim for a half-marathon or 1 Kilo weight loss.
As your confidence grows, you can always set more aggressive targets later.

Make It Measurable

A goal that cannot be measured is really just a pipe-dream.

"Lose weight" is not a goal, "Be happy" is not a goal, "Spend more time with my kids" is not a goal. All of them are just wishful thinking and will probably never happen.

You see, we need to be able to track progress if we are going to maintain our drive and our ambition to make changes.

So, "lose 1 Kilo in the next 4 weeks" is a measurable goal and you will probably achieve it - because you can measure progress. 

The first time you stand on the scales and see that you have lost 250 Grams, you get that little shot of Serotonin and you start to get excited and determined about losing the next 250 Grams. and so on and so on.

Allocate Resources

It is easy to tell what someone's true priorities are. You just need to see their diary and their bank statement. We automatically spend our time and our money on the things that really matter to us.

So, if you are going to set a goal for this year, the first thing you should ask yourself is:

"how much time and how much money am I willing or able to spend on this?"

Of course, these days, time is the most precious commodity and therefore it is the one we may need to think about the most carefully.

So here is my New Years challenge for you:

Set yourself a budget you can easily afford - lets say 15 minutes and £1 per week. Then ask yourself how can I change something that I really care about without exceeding this budget?

Then ask yourself "How will I be able to measure and track progress?"

Make yourself accountable

Telling somebody else about the promises you have made to yourself makes it way more likely that you will keep those promises.

Choose carefully and make sure it is someone who you trust and someone who wants you to succeed.

They can cheer you on when you start to flag and they can help you measure your progress. They may even have to challenge you if you start to lose interest but you will be many, many times more likely to succeed with them than you are without them.

So, give it a go and let me know how you get on, in the comment section below.

Happy New Year