It's that time of the year, dreaded January! You've probably recently looked in the mirror to see a disgusting bulge piling up over your waistline. And then there's that depressing bank balance and the realisation that party time is over and you have to go back to work. Yes, I know how you feel. I get many people coming to me for help and advice in January with exactly the same seasonal 'symptoms'.
We all want to begin the New Year with the best intentions, ditching our bad old habits for good new ones but, according to the University of Scranton, Pennsylvania only 8% of people ever achieve a New Year's resolution. So why do people have such a hard time sticking to their New Year's resolutions?
Researchers have found that the first two weeks go smoothly but then it all starts to fall apart: you get complacent and start making mistakes. You believe that because you made such a great start during those first weeks, you can take the pressure off a little. You start to cheat and bad habits begin to creep back into your routine. Eventually you become discouraged and give up. A lot of the problem stems from the fact that we all want results 'tomorrow'. We believe our New Year's resolutions will deliver instant solutions for us. Unfortunately not! Research shows that it takes on average 29 days to create a series of healthy habits and engrain them into your subconscious.
The most common New Year's resolutions are related to physical and emotional well-being whether it's to lose weight, eat healthier, get fitter, cut out alcohol or complete a half marathon. The fact is we all place ourselves under enormous pressure when setting our New Year's resolutions. But take a step back and ask yourself: if you want to achieve a goal, why do you have to begin on 1st January? Why not start when you feel ready to? It doesn't have to be when everyone else wants to start!
So what are the reasons you are likely to fail to keep your New Year's resolutions?
You've made them too complicated
Many of us use the New Year as an opportunity to make large bucket lists of things to change about ourselves or to otherwise attempt unrealistic extreme makeovers. The fact is that the average person has so many competing priorities in their life that this 'I want it all' approach is doomed to failure. Keeping your resolution list short is the best way to guarantee you're going to keep them!
You're too ambitious
Setting ambitious resolutions can be fun and inspiring but often they can be too challenging and you will become frustrated with yourself very quickly. It's much easier to follow a clear and specific plan that says no chips, no sugar, no alcohol and no ice cream for eight weeks rather than making a vague resolution to lose some weight, which will not be so easy to follow. Be as specific as you can, e.g. committing to go for a 30-minute run on Tuesdays and Thursdays or drinking 1.5 litres of water daily for the next four weeks. Courtesy of bigstock images
It's much easier to measure! If you can't measure it, it becomes a vague non-specific goal, leading to failure. Breaking down your New Year's resolutions into a series of do-able behaviours or habits will make them far more achievable.
You haven't created a 'vision board' or diary
You have to create a vision board or a diary if you want to succeed! My vision board consists of images of healthy, nutritious food, role-models with great physiques, and great holiday destinations that I want to enjoy with my family. A constant picture reminder of what you want to achieve will give you added motivation and the driving force to keep on meeting your goals on a regular basis. Keep an exercise log or a food diary, too. It's a great way of monitoring your progress and building your resolve.
You will quit too early!
January always sees a surge in gym memberships as a result of everyone wanting to get fit and lose the pounds, but studies have found that 59% of men and 15% of women stop going to the gym even before the month is out! It's clear that we all have the capacity to act irrationally by wanting results far quicker - and with far less effort - than is possible. The secret to achieving successful long-term goals is perseverance and the realisation that results take time. So stay with it and keep going! If you hit an obstacle, find a way to overcome that obstacle: it will all become worthwhile in the end.
You keep your goals a secret
Make a big noise and tell your friends and family! Using social media is a great way to build accountability and drive motivation. Writing down your results will significantly strengthen your resolve and turn your new actions and activities into regular habits and behaviours - just like remembering to brush your teeth!
You lack willpower
Starting the New Year by attempting drastic life-style changes isn't the best approach. Going over-night from smoking twenty cigarettes a day to none, committing to going to the gym four times a week when you've never previously exercised or attempting a rapid weight-loss diet are going to be massive shocks to the system. They're the equivalent of lifting a 150kg barbell without any previous training! Willpower is like muscle. It has to be built up first, and then conditioned and trained. Setting small achievable goals will increase your focus and help build your willpower, giving you the confidence to achieve what you want.
You're too strict
Yes, the damage has been done - you can't change the past! But keeping to your new resolutions and goals doesn't mean you have to punish yourself for weeks on end. You should allow yourself small treats from time to time, perhaps an odd glass of wine or chocolate bar as a reward for all your hard work. My dietary advice is to follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of your diet should be sticking to your plan. For the other 20%, you should feel free to eat as you wish.
So now you've got the facts, there's only one thing left to ask you:
Do you have any New Year's resolutions? How are you planning to approach them?
I'd love to hear your comments and thoughts about this article, please post your comments at the bottom.