When January comes, we get new year’s resolutions fever. After a month of lavishness, exuberance, parties, mostly too much eating and too much drinking, we feel we need a change. The chips and cakes are abolished, we get a new gym subscription, we make a long list with all the books we will read; the goals are clear. The goals are high. And we go for it! We make greens smoothies are our daily diet, we go to the gym every other day, we put a pile of books next to our bed. And, we stick to this resolutions for …about 3 weeks. Guilty, I have been there. Research shows that more than 80% of the people start giving in after 3 weeks. And only the people who continue to respect their resolutions for at least 3 months, are the ones who can really reach their goals and complete the change.
Resistance to change is one the most human traits. Our human brain likes to use patterns, to stick to known paths, where there is the comfort of familiarity and experience. Even if it not the best thing to do, our brain prefers the known to the hypothetic better thing. Even if the known is being too sedentary, not having enough time for yourself or staying in a bad relationship. This is what we know to do, so even if we want to change, it is easier to get back to what we already know.
How come we all tend to fall back on to old habits? And how can we make that change for the better? There has been a lot of research done about it, and even though there is not yet a magic pill for the prefect outcome, here are a few things we need to take into account in order to stick with our new year’s resolutions.
1. Expect resistance. You should be aware of the fact that you will face resistance to the changes. It can happen in a couple of days after you start, or a few weeks in. Even if you have a great meal plan or a coach who’s a great help you will be tempted. Don’t get discouraged, it is very normal. It happens to everyone. And by knowing so, you can prepare yourself for the moments when you want to give in.
2. Prepare yourself. Be proactive and don’t let yourself be surprised. Recognise the behaviours that indicate you might be resisting the change. Whatever your goal is, you can ask advice or just google your struggles and find many indicators what you might be expecting. Do you find excuses not going to the gym? Do you keep on swiping on your phone instead of reading your book? These are quite clear indicators that you are self-sabotaging your resolution.
3. Be aware of the needs. After you’ve recognised those indicators, be aware of what you need to do in order to stick to your plan and goals. Thinks like having a healthy snack ready instead of grabbing the cookie jar, or asking a buddy to join you to go outside and get jogging, or talk to your support group. Knowing what your needs are when tempted and being aware of your need to act in the proper way, is already an amazing thing. Anticipation is key.
4. Set sensible goals. If you expect to drop 2 sizes in one month or to read a book a week, you should ask yourself: is this reasonable? Do I have enough time to read when I have a full-time job and two little kids? There is nothing wrong with being ambitious, but it has been proven that the higher the goals, the higher the risk of getting confused, angry and disappointed. And then you of course quit. So, in order not to get that frustrated and disappointed with yourself, set smaller goals, and go from there. The satisfaction is big when your reach a goal. And that motivates you to keep going.
5. Adopt new routines. When you want to really make a change, very often you really need to adopt a new routine. Meditating in the morning instead of sleeping half an hour longer, eating a salad instead of pizza, not filling your schedule to the max… it is really hard. The best thing to do is really to embrace your new routine, make it your mantra. Implement it in your daily life. Writing your new routine down can help a lot, making a chart or a drawing helps to also visualising it. Also keeping a diary, with your progress and set backs, helps.
6. Allow mistakes and just go back on track. So, you ate that piece of cake, or you skipped a gym appointment. It sucks, but it doesn’t mean that you might as well eat the whole cake and that you should to just unsubscribe from your gym. We all have weak moments. We all make mistakes. But the smart thing is to just go back to the new routine, continue with your plan, keep the change going. Even if you were sidetracked for a moment.
7. Understanding why the change is needed. It seems very logical, but ask yourself, why do you really need that change? Is it that you feel too heavy or is it the lasted ‘fitgirls’ fashion? Do you want less social activities, or actually more time for yourself? Do you find watching Netflix unsatisfying, or reading a book is really giving you more joy? This last point, of understanding your needs and your wanting for change, that is a tricky one. Sometime it is hard to see that for yourself. A coach could help to clear your mind and figure out what your emotions are doing to you, of course. But already thinking about the ‘why’ will help you a lot. So, ask yourself this question and give yourself an honest answer.
There is nothing wrong with new year’s resolutions. Whenever you want to start with them. Prepare yourself well, be aware of what it takes to make all those needed changes in your life, take a deep breath… and just go for it!