Time to ditch New Years resolutions. Say what now?

January the 17th is officially 'ditch the New Year’s resolution day'.

To be honest, when I first heard about this, I was horrified. Really, a day encouraging people to ditch their intentions to be a better version of themselves? But then I read into it and was relieved to discover that the day is about getting rid of unsustainable resolutions that won’t make meaningful change. Well, hell yeah, I can get on board with that!
Whilst studies vary in their findings of how many people keeps their New Year’s resolutions for at least three months, all studies show that the figures are low, between eight and 20 per cent! A large part of this comes from hardly thought-out, vague resolutions, many of which stem from a feeling of what we should be doing. This is why gym membership booms in January while gym usage declines as the year goes on. 
If you’re thinking about (or have already.) abandoned your resolutions, then here are some ways of refreshing or changing them to help you make a permanent lifelong change.
I want to be healthier is a typical New Year’s resolution and it is typically vague (One of the key reasons these types of resolutions get ditched!) Now, there’s nothing wrong with this sentiment at all and we’ll use it here as a good example. But please bear in mind that this principle also applies to other resolutions and you can use the same steps.

Being healthy is not a goal. It is a vision, and that is great! I always recommend that you start off with a vision.

What does being healthy mean to you?

  • Is it setting a good example to your kids? 
  • Is it living a longer, more enjoyable life?
  • Is it feeling more confident in a bikini? 
  • Is it smashing a triathlon?

When you know what that vision actually means to you, you can tailor your goal to get there accordingly. Let’s assume for this example, that part of being healthy includes weight loss. This will not be the case for everyone, but again, use this as an example.

This is a really common New Year’s resolution, and people take all of their sweets and chocolates into the office and sign up to four new gym classes a week and commit to only eating a {insert faddy diet of choice.}, all at the same time. Well, it’s no wonder that asking this of yourself, especially after the best part of a month of eating whatever you want, skipping exercise and drinking more than usual, is a big ask and people tend to not achieve all of this. Then they feel like they’ve failed and they may as well give up.
But committing to one aspect of weight loss at a time is a much better way of getting long term and sustainable results. First I’d ask, what matters more to you to sort out first, eating or exercise? Pick one goal that’s highly specific. For eating, examples may be ‘I will eat 1500 calories a day’, or ‘I will eat eight portions of fruit and veg a day’, or ‘I will have a very healthy breakfast of either porridge, boiled egg and toast or a smoothie every day.'

In general, I advocate adding actions rather than limiting as it helps avoid a deprivation mindset.

For exercise, how about saying:

  • I will go for a lunchtime walk every day.
  • I will walk at least 10,000 steps a day.
  • I will run twice a week.
  • I will go to circuits on Wednesday nights.

Depending on the goal, set an appropriate time frame. If your goal is something you do daily, about a week is a good time frame; if your goal is weekly, about a month is a good time frame.

At the end of that time, assess how you’ve done. Be honest with yourself if you’ve not met your goal. Does this action feel like something you can carry on doing easily? If you think it’s still a bit of a struggle, stick with this goal for another time frame, but look at what else you need to achieve it.

Do you need some social support like co-opting an office buddy to come with you on that walk? Do you need to reduce the goal to make it manageable e.g. five portions of fruit and veg? What can you reward yourself to make it more likely you’ll commit to this goal? 

If you think that you’ve established this initial goal and it’s feeling like a habit, what can you add to it that gets you closer to your vision? It may be that you increase intensity, frequency or duration of the goal (e.g. I will run three times a week, or I’ll eat fruit with every breakfast as well.), or it could be a wholly new element, like adding a yoga class or substituting all snacks with apple and peanut butter, carrots and hummus or rice cakes. Set the same time frame and assess as above.

Slowly, you’ll build a series of new habits that support your vision.

And it will be slow, but that is good! Slow for new ways of living is the only way of getting there that won’t feel like you’re sucking all of the joy out of life. Remember you’re not looking at what you can do in January, you’re looking at how you can make permanent changes for the rest of your life. Keep coming back to your vision and assessing how you’re getting on with your goals.

Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Manchester, Greater Manchester, M1
Written by Angharad Boyson, Bright Rebel Coaching (ACC) Online and phone life coach
Manchester, Greater Manchester, M1

Angharad is a personal and business coach who specialises in helping people live fearlessly with passion, purpose and balance. She also volunteers for the Young Women's Trust and Recruit for Spouses, helping young women and military spouses into meaningful employment.

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