I have never been a fan of New Year’s Resolutions; it strikes me that January is about the worst time (especially in the Northern Hemisphere) to start committing to enormous goals and making sweeping promises about our consumption, or denial of, certain pleasures from alcohol to sleep. It is cold, dark and miserable for a large part of the time and this is not a great way to motivate yourself, indeed the simple lack of Vitamin D we suffer at this time of year has a significant enough impact on mood to almost guarantee challenges.
In addition, I have a sense that Resolutions are not for the long term. They are announced to our small community of friends and colleagues, often on Social Media, with much sincerity and complete belief that we are going to do “it” this time. Who are we making these announcements for? Who are we trying to convince that this year, this time, we really do mean it and really will do all the things we didn’t bother to finish the last time we set this challenge for ourselves. Some kind of self-punishing cycle we perpetuate year after year that, often, results in little being achieved other than a confirmation that “I never finish anything” or “I am a quitter”.
When I work with clients who feel trapped in this cycle, we look at things with a view to making change; change that is a long-term commitment to doing something in a way they have not been doing them consistently until now. Perhaps you’ve experienced that initial feeling of belief and commitment that comes with the new year, and set yourself the challenge to change a pattern in your life that has become a habit with a negative impact for you. It can feel overwhelming, so here are my top tips on making real, lasting change without running out of steam before it has a chance to make the impact you want:
- Set yourself up to succeed, not to fail. The easiest way to make change difficult is to make the goal so vast that you believe it is beyond reach; don’t get carried away by other’s stories of success or the “amazing” results promised by programmes or courses. Set your own, realistic and small targets that allow you to celebrate lots of small successful steps towards constant change.
- Change one thing at a time. Yes, there is time. No, you will not achieve more if you change everything that is wrong at the same time. Small, single and repeated change makes you stronger and more able to make the next change, and the next…..
- Wipe the slate clean; every day. And then wipe it clean again. When we constantly hold ourselves up to measure against what we used to do, or what others do, we are focussing on things that we have no control over. If you had a bad day yesterday, wipe it out. You can no longer change yesterday. We can certainly learn from our past, but when you start to use the past to create excuses to block your own success, it is time to wipe it clean and start with a positive mindset.
- Surround yourself with your “why”. Lots of Coaches and Mentors will help clients find their true motivation, the reason they do what they do, the real “why”. And often, once we’ve identified what we’re doing it for, we forget to focus on this. When the hours we’re putting in seem crazy, or we’ve got another weekend scheduled, it’s helpful to have photos, written goals and successes on view, where we can reconnect with our motivation and let go of the resentment that can undermine our success.
- Create accountability. This is where we often go to Social Media and “announce” a goal we’re setting. Great idea to share, as this creates accountability. However, I would advise caution here; sharing with a wide audience, who may not understand your personal motivation for change, can be the quickest road to being talked-out of change. Perhaps wiser, as a first step at least, is to share with a person (or people) who you know will help and encourage you and understand how important the change is for you. Ask them to help you stick with your goal for change, especially when you ask them to stop!
Making change that lasts is never a straightforward process; there will be twists along the way you could not control or predict, and your ability to see these are bends in the road instead of an excuse to give up, is what makes the most impact on lasting change. I have changed my entire lifestyle to accommodate changes to my health and every day, in some small way, I have to adapt what I thought I had now got :the way I want it:. Be open to the possibility that some of the twists and turns, and challenges, might also be opportunities to see a different option; change is flexible and a work-in-progress.
What changes are you most proud of from the last five years? Think about how you achieved them and what your motivations were behind them.
Have a great day