The secret to keeping your New Year's resolutions
The new year is here with its promise of new starts, new adventures and new achievements. Half of us adults make new year’s resolutions that commonly include: losing weight, exercising more, stopping smoking and sorting out those finances. However, Statistic Brain Research Institute states that one in 12 doesn’t manage to keep these resolutions.
But what makes these resolutions so hard for us to stick to, knowing they will improve our lives for the better?
Psychology lecturers Rachel Grieve and Catherine Lang from the University of Tasmania focus on about self-efficacy. They believe this is the crux to keeping these new year’s resolutions; when you believe in our own ability to perform an action you are rich in self-efficacy, which is needed if you want to attempt any change in your life and believe you can push it through. So how can we get more of this self-efficacy?
One thing at a time
To make a change in your behaviour you need to take it a step at a time. It’s all about the small wins. Writing down all the things you want to accomplish is great as long as you know you won’t be working on all of them at the same time. It’s about prioritisation and working on a select few. Start with one goal and then grow your list once you see yourself making progress. Every time you succeed in moving closer to your goal, even if it’s a small win. You’ll feel more confident in yourself and your self-efficacy score will go up.
Steps to accomplish your goals
Grieve and Lang believe the reason people don’t stick to their NY resolutions is that they take on too many unrealistic goals. They seem to give up because they have miscalculated the amount of effort or time that goes into achieving a goal and crucially haven’t planned this out properly to help them succeed, demotivating you through the journey. Like any goal, we seem to think our life goals should come easy and thus we haphazardly plan for them instead of creating a detailed action plan, as we are more likely to be expected to do at work.
If more exercise is your New Year’s resolution, it’s important to check your goal is a ‘smart’ goal. Is it specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound? ‘More exercise’ isn’t a smart goal and won’t make achieving your goal easier, if at all possible. The more specific the goal the better. For example; ‘I want to go running Monday and Wednesday at 6.30 pm and run 15 minutes oscillating between 2 minutes running and 1 minute walking’, is a smart goal. Think about your goal this coming year and make it smart.
Once your goal is smart, ensure you are ready for the challenge and you aren’t procrastinating over your goal as it looks too big to achieve. This might discourage you from moving forward or even attempting to tackle the goal. If your goal, for example, is to complete a 10km run, once you have bought your new trainers and sweatband, make sure you also take the next smart & small step by walking to the local corner shop in them. Especially if exercise hasn’t been your norm, your expectations need to be realistic and achievable to help yourself succeed.
So start small and consistently. The next day, move up a notch and walk a bit further and so on until you swap the walk for a jog to the corner shop or around the block and then increase gradually until you arrive where you want to be. Like any skill, self-belief in achievement can be built and allowing yourself to start with little steps will help you see your own progress (motivation), grow your belief that you can do it and move forward with your goals.
Sometimes we believe we can’t accomplish something because we haven’t attempted it before. Remind yourself of the times you have accomplished something, maybe in a different area but nevertheless an accomplishment. What accomplishments are you proud of? How can you use your previous experience to accomplish the goals you have for next year?
Friends are there to encourage us on our adventures. We are all smart individuals who know the pitfalls and pros of our aspirations and so does our brain. Our brains are wired to protects us and are more likely to focus on all the pitfalls there are. We don’t need more fuel in that department. What we do need is support, encouragement, love, constructive feedback once asked and help with planning strategies on how to get where we want to go. Not discouragement. Make sure you know who is on your team.
Who has achieved what you are about to embark on (or keep working on)? Find out about how they made it. Don‘t select the world’s best in the field at first, find someone who is a few steps ahead of you. This is far more realistic for your mind and will enable you to take action steps that you can do now and see the progress quicker. You’ll be far more motivated and encouraged in reassuring yourself that you can do this. But do read about those who are wildly successful, they have a lot to teach us. Everybody has been a beginner once.