Tuesday 31 December 2019

How To Set New Year's Resolutions That Actually Work

Nicki Edgell

It's that time of year when thoughts turn to the future and new beginnings. Typically these thoughts are formulated by setting plans and resolutions for the new year. Also typically these resolutions tend to turn to nothing after a few weeks or even days.

Reasons Our Resolutions Fail

There are many reasons why such good intentions may fail including:

1. Unrealistic Goals - be sure to make your aim relatively easy and not too time consuming. If you achieve this aim easily enough you can always add to it later on.

2. Attempting Too Many Things At Once - this is linked to having unrealistic goals. Many people having not taken on any new challenges all year think it is feasible they can suddenly do 3 or 4 new things all at once. Not satisfied with aiming to lose weight, they also attempt to change their job, save money, write a novel, and train for the London Marathon all from Day 1. Once one of these challenges falls by the wayside it is easier for the others to fall off too.

3. Unrealistic Timeframes - again this is linked to the problem above. You may have time to achieve a number of goals through a year, but there is no need to start them all on 1st January. So why not concentrate on just one goal in January, achieve that, and then turn to another afterwards? People think major changes in lifestyle or habit can occur quickly and get despondent without immediate results but it is perseverance that is more important in the long run. Imperceptible daily changes will resolve into something tangible after a few weeks.

4. Lack of Immediate Reward - don't expect immediate benefits. Progress is not always made in a straight upward linear line. You may have setbacks, you may think you are not getting anywhere. It is worth reassessing your goals as you go and making adjustments if necessary, or complete changes, but do give yourself time.

5. Not Allowing Enough Time - this can apply to problem number 4 above with reference to allowing time to notice results or simply the practical ability to dedicate enough time on a daily basis to your resolution. If you are a busy person and you decide you are going to take up jogging where do you think the extra hour a day is going to come from for your training? If you are beginning a novel or starting a gym regime you have to accept that there is only one way to achieve this - you simply have to put in the time. This means removing time from somewhere else, for example commuting, family time, or sleeping. It will obviously be easier to do something that only takes 5 minutes a day and impinges less upon your present commitments.

6. Disconnection With What We Actually Want - think carefully why you really want your goal. Is it the process you will enjoy or the actual outcome, the journey or the destination? - there is a big difference between the final benefit and the means to achieve that benefit. For instance do you want to save more money without any particular cause or is your ultimate aim to go on an exotic holiday next August? The means and the journey is important, and your chances of success are greater if you will enjoy the actual method, but a clear intention towards achieving a result will provide the drive to get the task done. In fact some maintain the intention is the only important part of the left side of this equation ie. I = R where M is zero. In other words if you intend for something it doesn't matter what method you use, you will achieve the result.

Intention + Method = Result

7. Lack of Personal Motivation - make sure you choose something you really want or need. The stronger the desire the stronger the chances of achieving the goal. You have to have a strong personal motivation to achieve your goal. If you are doing something as someone else suggested it, or you just feel you "should" you are more likely to give up early.

8. Non Specific Targets - all the literature on setting goals and aims always stresses that any goal has to be measurable and specific. So instead of a vague notion to "get fit" for example, set a deliberate plan to do 10 press ups a day.

9. Relying on Others - although it can sometimes be useful to publicise your goal and/or work together in a group this does lay you open to others' whims. If your goal relies on someone else also doing the same thing your challenge could fail for practical reasons (the lift to the gym you rely on fails to turn up) or personal reasons (your friend's circumstances change and they can't continue).

10. Procrastination - some potential new resolution makers feel unable to take action until all the conditions are perfect, for example: "I'll start running when I get those running shoes" or "I'll launch my new business when my new website is up". There can also be deflection of the actual task in hand whereby people deceive themselves into believing the laying of the ground work (such as purchasing the running shoes) fulfils the task rather than actually starting the real task (the actual running). It helps to accept that conditions are never perfect and you are better off just starting. Then by the time conditions become perfect (conditions tend to align with you after you have started something anyway) you will find you are already half way there.

Two New Things To Try This New Year (Or Any Other Time!)

1. Think in 30 Day Blocks

This is one of the most powerful tools I've ever used to achieve things. Once you commit to a goal resolve to stick to it for 30 days. Mark the start date in your calendar or diary, and the end date. Tick off the intervening dates if this helps.

If you miss a day start again with a new 30 days (but you'll find this is actually rare). The interesting thing about setting the 30 day goal is your mind becomes immediately conditioned and does not forget.

When you get to the end of the 30 days readjust the goal, start a new one, or simply carry on! But be sure to set a new timetable - again in blocks of 30 days (so for some goals you may set a 60 or 90 day challenge, although I would recommend you break down the more long term goals into 30 day sections anyway).

As an example, say if you want to write something like a short story or even a novel, you make sure you do that, every day! It doesn't matter if you do it at 6am or 11.55pm, but you must write at least a sentence every day. Tick!

The increments may seem small but it is the compounded accumulative effect which counts.

80 percent of success is showing up
Woody Allen

If your challenge is to get fit by running set a specific challenge to run around the block once a day. This may only take two minutes so can easily be done first thing in the morning before work (or possibly on the way to work?), or last thing at night, or at a number of opportunities during the day. You will feel the benefit after only a week. After 30 days adjust the challenge to twice round the block for the next 30 days.

For fitness challenges like this I do advocate forms of HIT training (high intensity training). Not only does it take a lot less time, science has shown it generally gives us more health benefits too. So why jog for an hour and a half a day when a sprint up a hill in 30 seconds achieves as much? A good HIT technique to try is 8 on/off sprints/walks. So you walk for 30 seconds, sprint for 30 seconds, walk again etc (repeat 4 times).

The 30 days represents a significant challenge, but is also realistic and does not appear too far into the distance or unattainable. This timeframe also fits in with "The 21/90 Rule" which says that if you commit to a personal or professional goal for 21 straight days, after three weeks, the pursuit of that goal should have become a habit. Once you’ve established that habit, you continue to do it for another 90 days. If you can keep up something for three weeks and then ninety days, then it should become a permanent lifestyle change.

2. It Doesn't Have To Be New Year's Day

Finally although it is New Year's Eve right now, at the time of writing, I hope people read this throughout the year and take action whatever time of year it is. It doesn't actually matter when you decide to do something. There may be some small psychological power to certain times of the year, such as New Year, the Solstice, your birthday, but this energy may not actually be helpful. It could actually add stress or peer pressure unnecessarily. If you have a good idea for a plan whenever it occurs, just do it, right then, right now.

Just decide and start immediately. Now, today. There is no good reason why any decision to change something or do something different needs to be associated with one day of the year. What if a new idea comes to you on 24th October? - it would plainly be ridiculous to wait another two months to take action. What if it happens on 3rd January? - you haven't really missed the boat - there is a boat every day. The 1st January is just an arbitrary man made construct. As is midnight on the 31st (if you want to put your clocks forward a couple of hours and celebrate early, and grab an early night, no one is stopping you!).

The key word is action. You can read all the online advice and self help books you like but I don't know any that will actually achieve anything without action on your part. You do need to take responsibility and do something. There isn't a magic bullet.

Take a step towards something you'd like to do by taking some immediate action, however small, today, and go from there. You'll be surprised, it could change your life!

If you enjoyed my post and found it useful you can support my blog below. Many thanks, Nicki

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