How many times have you made a resolution over the New Year to lose weight, yet remained the same weight by the end of the year? Or decided to give up smoking, but are back at it within a couple of days? Or vowed to spend less and save more, but given up halfway down the line? Why does this happen? What is it about these well-meaning New Years’ resolutions that you just don’t end up keeping?
This year, we want you to make sure your resolutions actually stick. Whether it’s something relatively easy like cleaning your cupboard every week or something more challenging like exercising for an hour five days a week, the key to making your New Years’ resolutions stick is to plan them well. “To start with, make ‘SMART’ goals,” says health and life coach Nipa Asharam. “Make sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely – that way you know they are actionable and everything else is an excuse.”
It is most important to clearly define your goals. Explains behavioural psychologist and author of Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work, Dr Paul Marciano, to Forbes, “Many people, in the spirit of New Year’s, loudly proclaim, ‘This is the year I’m going to finally get in shape.’ But what does that mean? Do you intend to lose a certain number of pounds? Reach a body-fat percentage goal? Run three miles without rest? Bang out 10 pull-ups?” If you don’t define what you’re setting out to achieve, it will be difficult to make it happen. Avoid general, non-specific goals.
Avoid non-specific goals such as these
It’s also equally important to set realistic goals. You might want to lose 10 kilos in three months, but that is realistically unlikely. Besides, you’ll run out of steam pretty soon. It is far better to plan to lose that weight over a period of six to nine months, and space out your exercise and diet regimen so you don’t feel too pressured and decide to give up the goal altogether. It’s also a good idea to make a list of the things you’ll lose in the process of achieving the goal and make peace with them. For example, if you want to lose weight, you’ll have to make time for exercise, which probably means you’ll have to sacrifice your sleep, you’ll have to spend more money on health foods and make more of an effort to cook healthy meals instead of ordering food home. Make peace with this and you’ll be on your way.
Another thing to remember is to set goals you actually want to achieve. If you’ve bowed under pressure from friends and family to quit smoking, but don’t feel like you’re ready to do so, chances are that you’ll fail in the endeavour. Instead, motivate yourself and get mentally prepared before you actually set out to do it. Don’t let other people influence your New Years’ resolutions – you have to set goals that you will be fully invested in.
You must do daily visual manifestations of your goal – how do you want to feel? How do you envision your life? How does your day feel? When you realise this feeling, you’ll want to set it into action mode – make it achievable and feel nothing less than what feels good
To motivate yourself and get on your feet, write down the rewards you will get after you achieve the goal. Visualising the benefits of achieving your goals can help you to stay focused. This could be anything from fitting into that sexy cocktail dress after you lose five kilos to going on that luxury vacation with all the savings you’ve put aside through the year. Imagine how that would make you feel and keep your eyes set on the end result.
You can even break up your main goal into smaller ones to make it easier for you. Explains Asharam, “Make baby goals to the achievable resolutions, so that they don’t scare you. Getting to one baby goal at a time makes you feel closer to the end result, which you actually are.”
Patience is another factor that is often overlooked and can make the difference between making and breaking that New Year’s resolution. Says Marciano, “Realise that progress is never linear. Some people will see rapid gains only to hit resistance later in their efforts. For others, initial progress may be painfully slow but then they suddenly achieve rapid breakthroughs. Making lasting changes takes time.”
To make sure you don’t lose focus, share your goals with your family and friends. “Make someone accountable – a friend, a colleague or an acquaintance who wishes well for you, who you listen to and look up to. Catch up with them over a coffee every month. This is like a monthly for the achievable resolutions and keeps you on track,” says Asharam.
Finally, never go for the ‘all or nothing’ approach. We’re all guilty of this – ‘we don’t have time to exercise for an hour (we only have 30 minutes) so let’s skip the gym today and go tomorrow instead’, or ‘We’ve already had that pizza – a dessert won’t hurt’, and even ‘We’ll start our diet from tomorrow’. But remember that every little bit counts. Any effort towards your goal is better than no effort. Go to the gym for those 30 minutes and work harder; skip the dessert and have a bowl of fruit instead. Every little bit counts. “Find your own internal motivation that is personally rewarding and find your external motivation that earns you the brownie points. Strengthen these every day to strengthen your willpower to the achievable resolutions. Procrastination can be conquered by motivation,” says Asharam.
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