I love a fresh start so when January 1st rocks around I am one of those weird people who feels that the start of the year is an exciting time for us to take a few minutes and think about the big picture of our lives. Where do we want our life to be? What would we like to see change? What do we want to keep working on? What new things would we like to try?
"I love change and I love the feeling of opportunity that a brand new 12 months can bring."
I know that not everyone shares my enthusiasm, especially when it comes to New Year's resolutions.
For many of us making New Year's resolutions is filled with good intentions. Maybe we would like to be fitter or healthier or perhaps happier at work or have more ‘me’ time. These desires are important to us and we know that when we feel fitter, happier, healthier or more balanced, life feels really good. We believe we have the ability, and perhaps even the experience, to facilitate these changes and to get ourselves to where we want our life to be. Anything is possible right? Right.
So why then does it seem like as each new year rolls up, our resolutions are the same as they were the year before? What are the traps we fall into when it comes to making New Year's resolutions and why we do we so often fail to keep them?
I think that more often than not we go all in, all at once, and feel like we need to make a ton of changes in order to truly start the year on the right path. In the back of our minds we think that if we don’t start now then it will never get done. We pretty much put all our good intentions and desires in one resolution basket and try to achieve all of them in one foul swoop! Good on us for starting the year with such awesome enthusiasm and optimism!
The hard part about this is that we are setting ourselves up for a really hard time before we have even started and we haven’t managed our expectations. Trying to eat better, exercise more, sleep more, work less, have more free time, read more books, try a new restaurant once a fortnight AND walk the dog every other day soon becomes a monumental list of ‘things I need to do’ as part of what is most likely, our already busy lives! We don’t stop to think about how much time we actually have to fit all this stuff in, and soon enough, we find ourselves exhausted by all this change, movement, thinking, planning, shopping, healthy recipe hunting and dog walking! It is pretty much a recipe for disaster and a really good recipe for giving up.
"When we try to overhaul our entire lives overnight, it is really hard work and we end up not moving forward with anything."
I also think that we often make resolutions based on what we think we should do, rather than what we really want to do. A really good example of this is trying to quit smoking! Anyone who has ever been a smoker will know what I am talking about. Sometimes we decide we will do something because of pressure from our loved ones or our families, our jobs or even because of society. When we think we ‘should’ do something, the desire does not come from the heart. We are not really committed and we are not driven by the end result. So once again, our resolutions are doomed before we even get going.
So how can we make New Year's resolutions that we will actually keep? Here are my 6 steps to help you move forward with the things you would like to achieve this year and perhaps cross them off your list once and for all :)
Step #1 – Decide what it is YOU really want.
First things first ask yourself ‘what do I really want?'. What does your heart tell you that you would really like in your life and what you would you be happy to take out of your life? Get out a pen and paper and start writing them down. Look for anything that seems like it might come from a place of ‘should’. Take that off the list. Start picking out the weeds and start finding the little blossoms of your true desires. When you have written this list of ins and outs, have one more look at each item and ask yourself again, ‘Do I really want this?’. Check in with yourself one more time.
Step #2 – Think big. Act small.
We want to turn this list of great ideas into something we can actually measure and achieve. We want to turn these desires into real goals that are achievable, realistic and yet motivating and we want to figure out exactly how we are going to reach them.
The top 2 points on my ‘in’ list this year are:
- Have a more consistent exercise routine.
- Use my time more wisely.
These are two very positive desires that I really feel will make me happier and healthier this year and more importantly they are things I really want. But what exactly does it mean ‘use my time more wisely’? How will I achieve that? And what exactly does ‘have a more consistent exercise routine’ look like? How will exercise fit in with my current schedule? How often am I going to do each of these things? What is the first step that I need to take? Well, the answer is that I need to take the first step of many. We often feel like we have no idea where to start but all we need to do is take a single step to get us moving in the right direction.
It’s kind of like following the instructions for putting together IKEA flat pack furniture:
Step 1 - Pull all the parts out of the box.
Step 2 - Pour all 3 hundred screws, nuts and bolts on the floor.
Step 3 - Pick up the Allen key.
Step 4 - Cancel all your other plans for the next 4 hours.
Step 5 – (After 7 frustrating hours) Screw in the one millionth bolt.
Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a sturdy looking TV stand! All jokes aside, what this example demonstrates is that everything has a process and everything has nice little manageable steps that will lead us to where we want to be and to the places where we can celebrate our successes. The big take away here is that it takes time and there will definitely be bumps along the way! So think big but start small. What is one action you can do tomorrow that will move you towards your goal? Make the step realistic but challenging enough to keep you motivated and inspired.
Perhaps you want to lose 10kgs and you have not done any exercise for the last 2 years, so starting up again will be part of how you accomplish this. While you may have once been quite the sporty young thing who was really into running, is that really you now? :) Telling yourself that you will go for 5km runs 4 days a week is probably a little bit ambitious and is too much to start with. So start small and instead, set something that will challenge you but is realistic and something you will actually be able to do.
For example, plan to go for a 30 minute walk 2 to 3 nights a week for the next 2 weeks. Then after 2 weeks, ramp it up a bit. Either walking 4 to 5 nights a week or walking 2 nights and jogging for one and continue for 2 weeks. After this you might move to 3 nights a week jogging and so on. The idea is to make one small change that is moving you in the right direction and is something that you can achieve. Work with this one change in a manageable, realistic way and then when it starts to become easy or you feel better, fitter, stronger, happier or more positive, build on it and take the next logical step forward.
Step #3 – Let’s get specific!
We’ve now taken our desires and dreams and turned them into actual goals. We have a rough idea of how we will set about getting them accomplished but to really get things going in the right direction, let's get specific!!
When will you do this step? Who might you do this with? Where will you do it? What do you need to help you do this step? What other things in your life do you need to manage in order to make time for this? For everything you want in your life, what are you going to let go of to make room for it? The more specific we are about how we will achieve something the easier it is to execute. If we leave our goals at ‘I’ll run twice a week’ we can very easily let Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and even Thursday slip away by telling ourselves ‘I’ll do it tomorrow!’ and before we know it Sunday has rolled around and we never got around to it.
Use a diary or the calendar on your phone. Look at the other commitments you have in your life and be honest with yourself about your available time and energy and plan accordingly. Also, look to see where you can make time for what is truly important to you. If we really look hard enough we can always find time. A great example of this is my resolution to exercise more. When I thought about where I would fit in going to the gym, getting in a run and doing yoga I immediately saw a great hour that I could add in more of what I wanted in my life and let go of something that doesn’t serve me. For me that is the hour (or more!) that I waste in the mornings checking Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and all the other time waste-agrams on my phone while having my morning coffee. Instead of doing this I’ve decided I will get up, have my coffee and then spend the next hour either at the gym 1km from my house, going for a run or doing a yoga class online at home. And to get more specific, to start with I am going to go to the gym on Mondays & Thursdays and do Yoga on Fridays.
So schedule in your goals and their action steps. Lock in the day and time for your walks, runs, yoga classes, shopping time for new foods, play time with the kids, down time for yourself and then honor those commitments. Just like paying bills on time, make the same commitment to the things that are really important to you.
Step #4 – Measure up and reward.
Now we are just about ready to crack on with executing our awesome New Years resolutions. There are just a few last little details to clear up and we’ll be on our way to success. Have a think about how you might measure your progress. How will you know that you are moving in the right direction? How will you know you are actually getting anywhere?
A great way to do this is to set ourselves a few little milestones or markers along the way so that we know we’ve made progress. This also gives us a chance to take some time out to congratulate ourselves on all of our hard work. For example, for me to work up to a more consistent workout routine, my first milestone would be that I have consistently done 2 gym workouts and a yoga session each week for one month. I choose one month, because things have usually fallen apart before this, so if I keep this commitment for a whole month I’ll be stoked and I will reward myself with a 1 hour massage. After that I will add in running days to my weekly schedule and will set a milestone of doing all 3 each week consistently for another month. This will be a challenge for me, but this is something that I really want, so it is a goal I am driven to accomplish. I’ll reward myself for achieving this by getting some funky new gym gear. You get the idea right?
So whatever your goals are, be it exercise, healthy eating, better work life balance, reducing stress in your life, spending more quality time with your family, think about 2 or 3 milestones or markers that you can set which break down your steps even further and will act as a guide to tell you how you are doing and remind you of where you are trying to go. Take some time to reward yourself for your efforts when you reach a milestone and then keep on going.
Step #5 – Write it down!
There is a great saying “goals that are not written down are just wishes” so write them down and look at them often. Maybe save a file on your computer and leave it on the desktop. Save it in the notes on your phone. Print them out and stick them up at home, in the office, on the fridge, beside your bed, around the bathroom mirror, anywhere and everywhere! Put them in places that you will see them everyday so that you can be reminded of what they are and where you want to be heading.
Step #6 – Get support.
Finally, if you need it, get some support. This can come in so many shapes and sizes. Maybe it’s getting a cleaner to come in on a Friday so that you have more time on weekends to do the things you want to do. Maybe it’s a babysitter once a fortnight so you can go on date nights with your husband or wife. Maybe it’s a personal trainer to help push and guide you at the gym. Maybe it’s a friend to join you in trying out a new sport or newclass or to take that photography course with you. Maybe it’s joining a running group to make it more social and meet new people. Maybe it’s a Health Coach to help you really get your teeth stuck into your goals, to inspire and motivate you and to hold you accountable. Consider what areas of your life or which of your goals might be easier, more achievable or more executable with some support and then find the right person for the job.
And there you have it my friends! My 6 steps that if followed, will make your New Year's resolutions stick.
Above all else though, remember that you don’t have to achieve everything NOW!! Goals and dreams are works in progress and they take time. Every day is a new beginning and if you seem to get lost or off track choose a new starting point and continue on the path you want to be on. Life happens! Remember your goals and why you want to achieve them and get right back to it. There is no such thing as failure; there are just lessons along the way on how not to do things!! I really hope that these steps help you make the changes you are looking for in your life and to create some awesome resolutions for 2016.
I would love to hear about your plans for the year!