How to make those new year resolutions stick
As the clock struck 12:01 am on New Year’s Day, were you one of the many people who resolved to make changes to their life?
It’s always a good idea to start the New Year on the right foot and no doubt many of us will have made New Year resolutions, but although we are still only in January, how many of us have managed to keep to those resolutions? Did you toss your resolutions away with the Christmas tree, or are you one of those people who think that New Year resolutions are made to be broken?
Regardless that our plans for New Year 2021 may well be different to previous years, and that instead of seeing the New Year in with family and friends at a party it may be more like sitting on the sofa watching a feel-good film, we can still make resolutions – albeit different ones – focusing more on health than wealth.
January is probably the worst time to make resolutions after the stress of the holiday season, when bills are piling up from the excess of spending on presents and food, and the pounds are still piling on after too much Christmas fare. Life is exhausting enough without trying to stick to those rash resolutions you made – right?
Maybe you vowed to lose weight or to quit smoking. Maybe you promised to cut down on your alcohol consumption. These are just some of the most common resolutions that we make, the others being: to exercise more, get organised, learn a new skill or hobby, live life to the fullest, save money and spend less, spend more time with family and friends, or to travel and read more.
Did you know that there is actually an annual Quitter’s Day? The third Sunday in January is the day that you are most likely to quit New Year’s resolutions and in 2021 this falls on the 17th. Research has found that over 5.5 million Brits abandoned their 2020 New Year’s Resolutions by the end of Quitter’s Day, despite their best intentions.
How can we salvage those resolutions and make them work in the long-term? Think of them as short-term goals to help you to grow day by day. You’d be badly mistaken to think you can achieve great things in just one month of the year, regardless of your resolve to learn another language or to lose 2 stone in weight!
Make those resolutions as realistic as possible and set yourself challenges that you feel confident you will be able to meet. Take diets for instance. If you’ve put on a lot of weight over the past five years, you’re not going to be able to lose it in five weeks. What you need is to make sensible, behavioural changes to your diet.
How to get those resolutions back on track
Understanding where you failed to keep to your resolutions is the first step to getting back on track. What were the stumbling blocks that you failed to account for when you made them? Maybe you underestimated your work schedule or those family commitments that you knew you had to keep to but which would sabotage your plans. Above all, don’t beat yourself up if you eat one more mince pie. Life’s too short.
Set yourself up for success
Strange to say it but we shouldn’t make resolutions on New Year’s Eve. They should be planned well before 31st December for the biggest chance of success.
Make a list of the pros and cons of keeping to your resolutions and refer to it when you need motivation, or buy a new daily planner and fill it in to help you stay on track. Choose specific resolutions that are achievable and that you can realistically turn into a habit without turning your life upside down
Reboot yourself in 2021
Don’t you just hate those articles that tell you how to transform your life? Well, here are some suggestions that aren’t resolutions but instead are long-term life changing ideas:
Take risks: Open yourself up to change and embrace it rather than running away. Say ‘YES’ to something that you may have previously said ‘NO’ to!
Live in the moment: Stop worrying and try not to live in the past. Practice mindfulness and concentrate on the present. Engage in active listening and use all your senses when talking with someone instead of tuning out and thinking about other things.
Stay in touch with family and friends: Pick up the phone or send an email. Make the first move in a relationship that has foundered.
Take time out for yourself: Banish that guilt and just relax. Go for long walks, indulge yourself with a good book, get those watercolours out and paint a landscape or unwind in a hot bath. Don’t feel guilty about taking care of yourself because in the long run it will benefit your mood and your relationships.
Share your talents and skills with others: Maybe you are artistic or creative, or maybe you are adept at fixing technology. Have you noticed how good it feels when you share your passion or a skill that you perform well? Not only do you feel good, but those on the receiving end will really appreciate you.
Stand up for yourself – whether that is at work or at home: Communicate clearly and let people know what you’re willing to tolerate and not tolerate. Being assertive doesn’t mean that you ignore other people’s feelings, but it does mean that you are not spending your life doing what other people want.
Laugh more: A good dose of hearty laughing relieves stress and anxiety and stimulates endorphins. Sharing a laugh with others is a great way to connect and bond.
Can we really create the person we want to be by repetitive actions and thoughts? It will definitely take willpower, but how long does it take to form a habit? Have you heard of the 21/90 rule? Some experts say it takes 21 days to build or break a habit and 90 days to make it a lifestyle. It won’t happen overnight, so be patient!
Start small, build on that resolution daily and then keep going. Make microscopic goals that you’re almost guaranteed to hit. Very few people have achieved great things through luck. Most resolutions fail because they’re just too broad a goal. If you do lapse, don’t let it become an excuse to give up on your goal. Forgive yourself and start again.
Change just one of your habits that creates the most difference to your life. Write it down on paper, along with your motivations, obstacles, and your strategies for overcoming them. Log your progress. Commit fully in a public way and report your progress to someone else each day. Look for support when you falter. If you fail, figure out what went wrong, plan for it, and try again.
Take responsibility and take charge of your future. Don’t blame everyone and everything around you and always bear in mind what the Greek philosopher Aristotle said:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”