The New Year: a blank page, a fresh slate. What a wonderful excuse to wipe off the misfortunes of last year and start again. But don’t we say that every year? Although it seems like an excellent starting point from which tochange our bad habits and make ourselves better people, the reality is that it’s just so hard to actually change. The clock strikes midnight and… nothing feels different.
Having spoken to a lot of people about new year’s resolutions, I was surprised (and a little relieved – it’s not just me!) to find out how many of us end up writing a small novel of things we’d like to achieve and ways we’d like to change in the new year. Usually they’re generic things that fall under categories like ‘health’, ‘academic aims’, ‘money’, ‘career steps’, ‘organisation’ and ‘leisure’ – incredibly broad topics that the majority of us would all like to improve on. And 99.9% of the time they are TOTALLY unachievable, relegated to the bin by week two.
With that, here are some tips to help you stay on track with your New Year’s Resolutions – and don’t forget that if you really want to change you can start a resolution ANY TIME, so don’t be put off just because January 1st has been and gone!
- Achievable – Make one or two resolutions, rather than lots, as changing fewer aspects of your lifestyle is much easier to stick to and achieve. Make your goals realistic as there’s nothing more off-putting than disappointing yourself, so by making less resolutions you’re actually more likely to make a difference.
- Specific – Set specific goals and time frames. Being vague puts you off as you don’t know where to start, so finding motivation and guidance is very difficult.
- Plan – Make a written plan outlining exactly what you want to achieve, by when, and how. Stick to it!
- Pro-active – Don’t just hope or wait for the right circumstances to come to you, go out and seek them. If your resolution is to get a job in a pub, don’t wait for vacancies to appear on the window or in the local paper – go in and enquire. Don’t put it off as the longer you wait the more motivation you’ll lose and the harder it’ll be.
- New – As long as you want it enough, it’s often good to come up with a new resolution. It can be difficult to achieve failed ones from previous years as the déjà vu is often disheartening. However, if there’s something you’ve been meaning to achieve for a long time then go ahead, but plan it properly and set yourself small, realistic goals.
- Personal – It must be something YOU really want to achieve, not just a random, generic resolution that you found on Google. If yours is common, for example to lose x amount of weight, that’s fine – as long as it’s not just because your best friend is doing it, or because it sounds good.
- Other people – Tell your friends and family about your resolution. They can help with motivation, and by sharing your goals then you’ll likely want to prove to them, as well as yourself, that you can do it. Also, if it’s something like ‘learn to cook 10 dishes without a recipe’ or ‘go jogging twice a week’, having someone to cook or jog with you can be great motivation and good fun, and you could be helping them too (even if they have different resolutions).
- Reward – Allow yourself a small treat when goals are achieved, whether it be a relaxing bath, chocolate and wine, or a movie night. This helps motivate and encourage you to keep your goals in mind.
- Write – Use a notepad, a computer, a journal – whatever you like – to note down your plan, reasons you want to change, what will be better when you achieve your goal, and steps you’ve taken towards it. This gives you a sense of productivity and fulfilment and it makes you feel like you’re getting somewhere. Also, putting post-it note reminders in obvious places – mirrors, cupboard doors, the fridge – will help you remember your pledge to wash up straight away, visit your gran more, or eat an apple instead of a chocolate bar.
- Incentives – As well as post it notes, use pictures (or anything else you can think of) for motivation. A conveniently placed photo of yourself looking slim or of a sandy beach in the Caribbean can work wonders when you’re trying to lose weight or save up for a holiday.
- Stay positive – It’s so easy to revert to old habits, but don’t put yourself down too much when you do – it happens. Just think of it as a temporary setback, a one-off that you can make up for by working half an hour longer, or running an extra half mile.
- Habit – In the end, resolution success all comes down to getting into the habit. It only becomes easy once you’ve got used to it, so be patient at the start. This is why it needs to be realistic and well planned – to change your lifestyle and habits at all will seem difficult at first, let alone a big change.
- Willpower – Lastly, stay strong and don’t let anything get the better of you. Be motivated, keen and as stubborn as you like, because ultimately the only person who can achieve your resolution is YOU.
And remember, if you really want to change then any time is a good time to make a resolution. Good luck!