How to crack your New Year’s resolutions


Did you start off the year resolving to do 100 crunches a day, cutting out doughnuts, or spending less time on gaming apps? Bouncing bright-eyed and bushy-tailed into the New Year chock-full of good intentions!

But now it’s February and your willpower is starting to crumble. Thoughts of comfort food start to come thick and fast. You are doing really well, until you bump into a colleague after a tough day at the office who says: “Fancy a drink?”

What can you do manage your way through these conflicts? Don’t panic. There are plenty of ways to make your New Year’s resolutions stick. Instead of giving up, here are 8 tips on how to re-set and get back on track.


1. One goal at a time


One problem with the ‘resolution fever’ that grips us at this time of year is the temptation to go for a total life overhaul. We tend to set the bar too high. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with setting lofty goals like: “This year I’m going to get that promotion, curb my spending, get really fit, and be kinder in interactions with my family.

But don’t try to accomplish all of this at the same time.

Instead, focus on one or two resolutions that are achievable. A psychological study published by the Journal of Consumer Research showed that people who tried to work on a number of intentions simultaneously were ultimately less successful at sticking to their plans. Intentions are most effectively achieved when you work on one goal at a time. 


2. Train your brain


Ever heard of the pleasure principle? It’s a simple one: we’re more likely to do things we enjoy - so find the fun in your resolutions.

While it’s easier said than done, it’s possible to trick your brain into finding pleasure in even the most unappealing tasks. For example, if your goal is to replace chocolate with healthier snacks and salads, try getting creative with your recipes. It’s one way to feel more excited at the prospect of eating your super-healthy lunch, even if you would prefer to wolf down that double cheeseburger.

Attaching pleasure to a resolution can be achieved in many ways: through rewards, receiving support from others or simply blasting out your favourite tune and singing along as you power through.

3. Don’t be too hasty


It’s the question on everyone’s lips once January hits: what can I change? It becomes almost a competitive sport amongst colleagues and friends: who is clocking the most hours in the gym or becoming a convert of ‘Veganuary’. But what’s stopping you from taking some time to plan exactly what you want to focus on for the year. You can also begin some of your resolutions a little later, rather than following the crowd with that January 1 launch date?

Now, this doesn’t mean lounging on the sofa waiting for the dark days of January to pass. Use the month to research and plan your long-term goals, and to chart how these objectives can be achieved. Whether you are looking up classes you might like to take, or working out the cheapest way to join the gym, a slow and steady approach will increase the likelihood of achieving your goals.

4. Use your past failures


We’ve all heard the saying: one third of resolutions don’t make it past January. Why not defy those odds? Take stock of your past resolutions: what went right? What went wrong? What would you do differently?

One suggestion is to split a page into three columns. In the first column list past resolutions, and in a second column describe exactly what you wanted to accomplish. In the third column, write a list the reasons why a particular resolution didn’t work out. Or, if you were successful, detail what you did right.

Yes, actual paper and pen is required, as well as some solid thinking time, but it could help you spot the patterns that trip you up. Perhaps not seeing any results caused you stop going to the gym by week three? Or by the end of week one you again started secretly eating biscuits late at night? Armed with an honest account of past successes and failures, you can set super-specific and realistic goals.

5. Know your limits


Let's be honest, a sure-fire way of maximising our chances of sticking to resolutions is not pushing ourselves too far. Introverted people tend to get energised by thoughts and ideas. If this describes you, it might be easier to get motivated by setting a clear inner vision of what you hope to achieve. For introverts, scheduling time to reflect on your progress, such as keeping a diary, can be helpful

If you are an extrovert, get yourself fired up by sharing your goals with others and basking in their approval when you’ve achieved success. Sign up for a group activity where everyone has a common goal.  This will help to to strengthen your resolve, as can sharing even small progress with others.

Learn the coping skills and cues that match your personality type. The temptation will always be there, and it often comes from the environment: the people, places or things that act as magnets to challenge your willpower. In other words: if your vice is the sweet stuff, it might be best to find a route home that doesn’t take you past the artisanal doughnut shop.

6. Repetition is key


We are nothing if not creatures of habit. According to research, forming a new habit takes time – 66 days to be exact. Researchers also found that for an action to become a habit, it was best to repeat it in the same situation.

It is also important to keep the setting consistent so that it can trigger the behaviour. For instance, getting that 100 extra steps in will be easier if you make it part of an already-established routine – like getting off the bus a stop earlier or taking the dog that extra block. Then build make these extra steps your new daily base.

7. Be kind to yourself


Most importantly, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t at first succeed. Look at what you have accomplished so far and console yourself. Maybe you’ll give in and sprinkle real, not vegan, cheese on your pasta, or make it to the gym only once a month, not every week: that’s OK. After all, you are asking a lot of yourself, trying to form new habits. Not an easy task. Sometimes, if you’ve really tried but just haven’t made it, it can help to think about what you have achieved.

So, there you have it - whether you smash it, get half-way or slip-up at the start - give yourself a hearty pat on the back for trying. Then picking yourself, dust yourself off and make the most of 2019. One thing is certain. You’ll only have one crack at this year, so you want to make the most of it.

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