How to Stick to your New Year’s Resolutions
By Judy Churchill
Happy New year to you all and the very best of luck to all TRW readers in succeeding in any new resolutions you have set yourselves.
In fact unless you have a strategy, a good dose of luck is about the only thing that will work as in general most of the goals that people set themselves at the beginning of the year fail miserably to be accomplished. Why? Well, there is a very good reason for that. The very title of this article implies that unless you know how to make a new resolution work then it won’t and I’m afraid that’s the cruel, brutally honest truth. It’s better to know this now and how to remedy the situation than to be disappointed when two weeks or one month down the line you are angry at yourself for once again failing to stick to your goals.
Let’s first look at why it’s not enough just to set goals and make resolutions:
The human brain works in a protective way and is hard wired to resist change. Goals that require a major behavioural change, or thought pattern change, will automatically be resisted. Do not underestimate the power of your own thought patterns to sabotage your plans.
Human will power is very, very limited. In fact studies have now shown that we have a limited amount of will power per day and once we’ve used it up on one set of objectives we will fail at the rest.
We set ourselves too many goals and too big and too drastic a challenge. We are not realistic about what and how much we can achieve.
Our goals are based on hopes and pipe dreams and lack strategy and a clear plan.
We go for things alone with little or no support mechanisms or help.
We start by setting a final goal as our measure of achievement and fail to pace ourselves by aiming for ‘milestone’ achievements that will lead us towards our final goal.
So how can we give ourselves the best possible of chance of succeeding?
Most of the resolutions that people set themselves tend to fall into the following categories:
Change of diet (weight loss, improved health and wellbeing)
New sport/fitness regime (weight loss, fat loss, building strength, improved health and wellbeing)
Giving up something (smoking, sugar, swearing, TV, de cluttering the home)
Taking on something (a new language, a new skill, reading, a new sport)
A radical professional or personal change (a career change, retirement, a location change, a relationship change)
Although they look good when you write them down, not one of these changes, will be perceived as positive by the brain – they are perceived as dangerous and outright attacks on the clear thought pattern and behavioural routine that your brain thrives on.
The three keys to success are small Focused steps, Integration into all aspects of your life and Support from experts, a method I have developed and call FIS.
Let’s look at an example of what I mean. Let’s imagine that you have decided to radically clean up your diet. You’re going to give up all your unhealthy eating habits, eliminate sugar and processed foods, cut out alcohol , stop binging on sweets and chocolates and eating up all the children’s left overs etc. etc.
If you have no understanding of how the changes will affect your appetite, energy levels, mood and hormones, you will be on a fast track to cravings and depression by about day 5. However by implementing the FIS method , the picture would look quite different. You would be begin by focusing on a small change which could be organisational (i.e. breakfast – every morning I’m going to eat a mixed superfood salad and some form of protein and I’m going drink…..) and then be easy on yourself for the rest of the day. Or it could be purely based on dietary ingredients (i.e. none of my meals will be processed food; whatever I eat will be made from fresh ingredients). Alternatively the change could be supplementary (i.e. I’m going to start by adding the right food supplements to my diet to balance out the deficiencies).
So you get the idea, as the months go by, fuelled by the success of one smaller change, you gradually introduce other changes until your new food regime becomes the ‘norm’ and while never denying yourself the occasional cheat treat. Some dieticians recommend one cheat day per week.
Integration means keeping each small change integrated into the flow of your daily life wherever you are and whatever you are doing. This means that the changes are not restricted to when you are at home and things are easy to plan. When you are travelling the regime continues on board a plane or at the airport lounge, or when visiting friends and family or when in the office. If you are introducing small gradual changes, this is easy to do as your brain will naturally seek out the best food choices for you wherever you are, as it only has to make small adjustments at any one time.
Perhaps the most important of the FIS trilogy is S – Support.
Many people tend to set themselves the IMPOSSIBLE task of relying on their own willpower thus setting themselves up for immediate failure. We all need help at the best of times and even more so when undertaking a new challenge. Heads of industry/state have mentors, athletes have coaches, students have instructors and professors, children have parents and teachers and patients have doctors and nurses; so why oh why when we are making a drastic change to our lives should we be any different?
How does this work in the case of the above example? The ‘Support’ for changing your diet would be a nutritionist or dietician. This person will be your will-power monitor, planner and support system. You have a very high chance of success if you use the services of a professional for any of your new resolutions. If it’s sports and fitness you are targeting, your support would be a personal trainer or the instructor at your chosen gym. If it’s a life style change or career change then a Life/Business coach is the person to see and if it’s taking up a new skill or language then a language tutor or professional skill instructor in the related area is the person to seek. A good coach will show you how to change your thought patterns so that your brain is reprogrammed for success. These professionals will show you how to map out and dose the changes so that you succeed at each milestone along the way to your ultimate goal. They should also provide you with the encouragement and positive feedback that is so essential if the brain is to sustain a long-term behavioural change.
If you try to go it alone or set the bar too high and fail, all you are doing is creating the negative feedback loop, which will ensure your brain will reject any further attempts at a painful experience. If you practise FIS, progress will be measurable and steady, creating a positive feedback loop that tells your brain that it is able to handle and manage small challenges that (like regular savings in a bank) accumulate into a larger lump sum success story.
Judy is based in Monaco and specialises in transformational coaching working with both individuals and companies.
Judy is also a qualified language teacher/trainer for adults and children in French, English and Spanish.
If you would like to receive coaching, communication skills training, language tutoring or certified translating from Judy, you can contact her on:firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com via Facebook messenger and www.judychurchill.com