What’s your New Year’s Resolution?
If you’re like most of us mere mortals, it’s probably around losing weight, or exercising more, or saving money. And, if you tried a resolution last year, you probably abandoned it a whole twelve days later.
There is heaps of really interesting research which has gone into how we set and keep habits. But, interestingly, one of the big things we can do with our goals is think about them in a new way so that we’re more likely to achieve our goals.
Let’s talk about what we can do to set better New Years’ Resolutions to begin with.
Know your ‘why’
We can’t achieve anything unless we are really clear about what we want. Keeping goals so vague that we can’t work with them is not helpful. Something vague like ‘lose weight’ isn’t very practical because we don’t have any tangible to help us get there. We could make it something more practical like ‘alternate desserts to be fruit three times a week’.
However, most specialists in behaviour change recommend connecting your goals to something tied in with your core beliefs and values is even better. It isn’t just ‘lose weight to look like Miranda Kerr’. It’s ‘lose weight so I can be there for my family longer’. Or ‘buy less junk food so I’m not damaging the environment from my plastic waste’.
What this means is that you’re making change not just on a superficial level, but one that connects with your beliefs. This will help you stick to your goals because they are bigger than you.
Habits are stronger
Motivation can inspire you, but habits will keep you going long term. We know that being motivated can help a lot of us start a new routine (for twelve days, amirite?). But what will keep us going when life gets busy and things are tough? Habits and routines.
Building habits are important so that we don’t need to rely on willpower to make change. You rely on the ‘autopilot’ of a habit to get you there.
A trick called ‘habit pairing’ is a great way to build a new habit. Tie a new habit onto something you already do every day. If you want to start journalling, why not leave your journal on the bench outside the bathroom, so every day once you’ve brushed your teeth (an existing habit), you see your journal and remember to do it.
Make it easy and fun
Make change something you look forward to. It doesn’t need to be something we punish ourselves with (yep, I’m looking at you cardio-based resolutions!).
If you want to exercise more, go to the beach with your BFF and go a long walk while you’re there. Or go for a walk in the park and load up a playlist of amazing daggy songs you would never confess listening to, or snag a trashy audiobook from your library.
If you want to save money, put your savings on autopilot and set up your bank to automatically transfer your goal amount each week to another bank account that you can’t touch easily. Make it so you don’t even need to think about it. Celebrate milestones along the way with a something which won’t blow your savings. My vote is on a rom-com pyjama party with homemade pizza.
If you want to cut down eating processed sugar, switch to your favourite fruits like mangoes, strawberries and rockmelon. Keep them at home (or freeze them in summer!) so they are around and easier to get to than processed sugary snacks. Yep, they still have natural sugar, but have fibre too, so it’s in the right direction!
It’s all about making progress, and it doesn’t need to be something we hate doing. Make a goal that you look forward to!
You’re human (and that’s okay!)
Self-compassion, self-forgiveness and flexibility are shown to be tools you can use which have proven to have higher success rates with new goals.
Let’s say that you’ve set a goal to go to the gym three times a week, but you’ve got a big project this month, so struggle to make it even once a week. Instead of calling yourself a failure and giving up, be open to coming up with alternatives to meet that goal, acknowledge you’re human and life is full of curveballs, then count what you did do to get towards your goal. Maybe you did walk up three flights of stairs to the office each day. And you know what? It counts as exercise.
This is also why having a clear ‘why’ is essential: the ‘gym’ part isn’t actually critical if your goal is ‘to exercise more so you are less stressed’. Just exercise counts. Any exercise.
Know the direction you’re heading in, make progress, learn lessons and enjoy the experience. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re learning. And that’s okay.
Change your perspective
Changing your perspective can make the difference. Let’s say that you want to lose weight.
You could set a goal of eating a salad every night. It’s restrictive and might be unrealistic if you’ve currently got UberEats on your most-used apps list, and if you slip up and have pasta for dinner after a long day, it’s devastating. You might give up entirely because you’ve slipped up once and feel like a failure.
But what if your goal was to make a salad from a different country each week? It’s now a creative, playful exploration of food. It’s changed it from being something restrictive to something fun that you look forward to.
And, by the end of the year, you’ll know so many salad recipes, that for the rest of your life you and salad will be serious BFFs.
Changing your perspective on your goal from being something inflexible, to something fun and creative that leads you in the direction you want to head in is a tactic that might just work for you.
Further listening: PODCAST Michelle Segar on Making Lasting Changes
New Years Resolutions are infamous for not lasting. But what if we change our approach to them? Keep them open, heading in the direction you want, make them creative and fun, make them easy, and tie them in with habits you’ve already got to get kickstarted.
In the end, it comes back to ‘why’ and setting a goal that is truly important to who you are and the kind of person you want to be in the world. That means there is no wrong way to get closer to that goal.
Know where you want to be, and build new habits and routines that get you closer towards it. Approach it with self-compassion, creativity and fun and remember that you’re human.
Have you changed your New Years’ Resolution? What is it now?
Reflect on what is the most fun possible way to reach your New Years’ Resolution goal? Why not work that into your plans for the year?