We’re now just over a week into the new calendar year. Many people, around the world, have announced their commitment to change over the next twelve months. It may come as no surprise that a fair few of those who made New Year’s resolutions have already broken them. That’s the trouble with New Year’s resolutions; for a number of reasons, we don’t always stick to them.
So before you proclaim your commitment to a change this year, (or abandon it, if you already committed) here’s my Top 10 Dos and Don’ts for making commitments to change, and advice on how to turn your New Year’s resolution into something you can really live with.
Know your goals, and your limitations.
While aiming high can help motivate us to go that extra mile, setting your sights on a goal too distant can have the opposite effect; you become disheartened at your lack of progress and abandon your resolution.
Choose the right goal for the right reasons.
If your resolution is something you will enjoy doing—taking those dancing lessons you’ve been thinking about for many years; spending more time with your friends and family than at the office; picking up a new hobby; taking better care of your own health and well-being—then your chances of success are significantly higher.
Define your goals from the outset.
The holiday season brings its own special brand of indulgence. An extra slice of cake, another glass or two of wine, some chocolates while watching a film; creature comforts play a large part in our lives.
Naturally, a common resolution is to lose weight in the new year. That’s great, but it’s not a good resolution to make, and one many of us will likely break.
Rather than leaving your weight loss goal floating in ambiguity, choose a number to aim for, and commit to it. While you’re thinking in specific terms of the what, take a moment to decide how you’re going to achieve this. Choosing to lose weight doesn’t just make those extra few pounds disappear—I wish it did!
Whatever your goal, and however you decide to approach it, bear in mind point 4.
Be realistic, remain optimistic.Whatever goal you set, however large that change may be, try to keep it almost within reach. Being closer to our goals makes us more motivated to continue. Decided you want to lose weight? Great. Break your goal down into monthly targets; this gives you an immediately smaller yet much more achievable goal, with the end result you want.
Friends are worth their weight in gold.Once you’ve got your resolution settled in your mind, talk to your friends about it. They can help keep you on track, and provide a motivation boost when you need it. They might also find your resolution is a good fit for them, too, and join you in your commitment.
Keep a record of your successes, and learn from them.
Sticking to New Year’s resolutions, indeed, to change of any kind, is a challenge in itself. Writing your goal down helps solidify your intent, and helps channel your focus to achieving it.
Do you keep a diary or journal? They’re both excellent ways to keep track of your success on a daily basis. If writing longhand isn’t your thing, try keeping a record of notes on your smartphone or computer. Learning what works for you, and what doesn’t, will make your goal easier to achieve.
Celebrate your milestone victories.
Another common resolution is to give up our vices. Many people use the New Year as their reason to give up smoking or drinking. Whatever goal you have set for yourself, celebrate your victories as they come. You’ve made it through a week without a cigarette or a drop of alcohol? Fantastic! You’ve lost five pounds so far this month? Brilliant! Your first salsa class is next Thursday? Great, break a leg!
Remember that change is gradual.
Whatever your resolution, remember that like evolution, change takes time.
You may not notice the subtle changes as they happen. Keeping a diary will help you see the progress you’ve made, and motivate you to stick with it even when you feel like giving up.
Giving up is not the same as failing.
Life invariably happens. Sometimes unexpected and often unforeseeable, we adapt and do the best we can. If your resolution is no longer feasible or is causing you undue difficulties, and you’re unable to find a suitable alternative, there is no shame in giving up.
Nothing says you have to abandon your commitment to change completely; you may need to wait for the renovations at the dance studio before picking up your salsa class or take a fortnight off your daily jogging resolution to get over a nasty cold.
Choose the right time to commit to change.The middle of winter isn’t the best time of year to take up jogging; it’s cold, invariably wet, and the days are short. And while you might be happy to jog in the inclement weather, you won’t look forward to it in the same way as you would once the world has thawed.
Once you know what you’d like to change about yourself, choose a when that suits you too. That doesn’t mean putting it off until the ideal circumstances present themselves, (they rarely do,) but timing your efforts and taking the path of least resistance may be the difference between meeting your goals and falling short. Say you decide you’re taking up jogging, but that you’re starting in March. Why March? Well, there’s better weather, more daylight hours, and the orchestrations of nature wherever you look.
Whatever your goal, and whenever you decide to begin, remember
there is no wrong time to make a change.