30/12/2013 08:56 GMT | Updated 28/02/2014 05:59 GMT

How To Make Your New Year's Resolutions Work (Better)

You are in charge of making or breaking your resolution.

How many, if any, resolutions do you have this year? Anything you tried before, but it didn't quite work out? Anything you don't feel ready to tackle just yet, and would like to postpone? Or you don't have any resolutions, in order to avoid the disappointment in yourself and embarrassment in front of others in case you 'fail'? Or you may not believe in time-tabling important changes in this way?

Whatever your position on New Year's resolutions, you are not alone. We all think about changes to our lives throughout the year and throughout our life-time. Changes we hope for or are afraid of; changes we wish had not happened or were beyond our control; changes that came about, because we misjudged a situation or a person, or we took our eyes off the ball.

Change is tricky - part of us may crave for it, while another part may prefer the predictability of things the way they are. What if it goes wrong? Can I cope? Often we end up replacing one unhelpful habit with another. Why? Because we did not consider the root causes of the habit we want to change; or we did not think about other habits, which may build on the one we want to stop.

Every habit fulfils a need. Changing the habit does not necessarily address the need, which, if left unattended, can make things more difficult for us, and we may be unable to make the change. Take smoking, drinking, eating, relationships - we might see reasons for changes, but we might also be afraid of the consequences. If you want to make changes to any of the above (or anything else for that matter), you might wonder how to cope without it, if it is a crutch in moments of stress or loneliness.

It is not uncommon for people who give up smoking to start eating more (even if it is just carrot sticks), because we are used to doing something with our hands and our mouths. We seek distraction in moments of stress, fear or boredom.

Unless we address our difficulty in facing up to and dealing with such uncomfortable feelings, stopping our reliance on a crutch might just open the backdoor for a replacement crutch and continuing unhappiness.

If your crutch behaviour combines several habits, say you smoke, drink and overeat at night while watching TV, you might need to address, what you do with your time in the evenings, as watching TV on its own may re-trigger the other habits.

You need to have a strategy. For every resolution ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do I want this change? What are the benefits?
  • Who am I doing this for? What is in it for me?
  • What does my inner voice tell me: Go for it? I am worried how I will cope? I am ready or not?
  • Is what I want to change connected to other habits, which I may need to change or adjust as well?
  • What is my time-table for change? Do I need to set goals?
  • Do I need to tell others about my plan, or should I keep quiet about it, and see how it goes?
  • How much does my success depend on the support from others, who may need to make some changes themselves?
  • How will I feel and cope with not sticking to the resolution?

Resolutions take determination, tenacity, strength and commitment. Too often we feel bad about ourselves or ashamed if we don't make it or delay a resolution. Whereas there is another way of looking at it.

Failure only exists in our heads, if we let it. Both trying and delaying a resolution are part of the journey, and success should not just be judged by arriving at a pre-set destination on a pre-set date. Making resolutions in your own time, at a time when you are ready, well prepared and with a Plan B, if things do not work out, is all part of a sensible strategy.

You are in charge of making or breaking your resolution - not the other way around. Picking yourself up and carrying on with your resolution is what it is all about. Even if it takes you longer than you would like. Not wasting your time and energy on half-baked resolutions and scolding yourself if you struggle can help you stay focused on what matters, and keeping faith in yourself that you will get there.

It takes what it takes. Over to you, whenever you are ready.