In January 2011, Time magazine ran a pretty dispiriting article entitled 'Top Commonly Broken New Year's Resolutions'. The list read as follows:
• Lose Weight and Get Fit
• Quit Smoking
• Learn Something New
• Eat Healthier and Diet
• Get Out of Debt and Save Money
• Spend More Time With Family
• Travel to New Places
• Be Less Stressed
• Drink Less
It is true that many people end up putting the same resolutions on their list year after year and not making it much past the end of January before they are broken. If this resonates with you, how great would it be to achieve your resolutions during 2012 and not experience that groundhog day moment when you're writing your list next year? Here are a few principles that might help.
1. Be specific and realistic about your goal.
Your unconscious mind likes specifics and to achieve your goal it must be realistically achievable too. If you are intending to lose weight, write down exactly how much weight you would like to loose and then break it down into manageable chunks (for example, studies show that 2lb a week is a healthy target for most people). If fitness is one of your resolutions, what exactly does that mean to you? For some, a fitness goal might be walking up the escalators or stairs on the way to work and for others, taking part in a charity run. If you would like to reduce your debts, then work out specifically where you will make savings, how much, and keep a record of them in a notebook to remind you of how well you are doing.
2. Record the positives
If you slip up once in a while, it's okay - everyone's human. However, often where people go wrong is to focus on the slip-up instead of all the good things they have achieved along the way. Keep a success diary and, in the evening, write down three positive things to do with your resolution that you have experienced during your day. It doesn't matter if you have more than three things, but write down at least three. They can be big or small, it really doesn't matter, but it just helps prime your mind for the following day and serves as a record if you start to get despondent.
3. Understand that all behaviour has a purpose
Research has shown that your unconscious mind controls approximately 90% of everything you do. If you are struggling with something that you feel 'should' be a lot easier than it is, perhaps your unconscious has a different plan for you. Maybe it's time to start to work with it rather than against it? Throughout our childhood we all receive 'post-hypnotic' suggestions from parents, teachers etc. What were you told that might have stuck? Some of my clients report phrases such as "You'll never get anywhere in life if you act like that", "All the women in our family are obese", "You're so stupid" and messages about how drinking and smoking ease stress and help you have fun. Our immature childhood mind then processes these and locks them away in our unconscious ready to comply when necessary. This can then lead to a failure to achieve what we are trying so hard to overcome - resulting in carrying excess weight, drinking too much, not achieving at work - basically a feeling that something is well and truly holding you back. The good news is that these patterns can be changed and, with the right help, often quicker than you might imagine. I work with many clients who go from that stuck feeling to achieving things they once didn't think possible. If this sounds like you, do have a look into how Cognitive Hypnotherapy might help.
4. Reward yourself
We are naturally motivated to move towards pleasure and reward and away from pain, so build in targets that you can reward yourself for. It can be anything that makes you happy. Why not make a list of ways to pamper yourself and build it into a schedule of achievement? This also means that in order to make a goal achievable we need to frame with the language of reward. Not 'I must go to the gym more', but perhaps 'I want to feel healthy and fit and full of energy'. Not 'I must be less stressed', but perhaps 'I would like to be more relaxed and laid back''
5. Visualise yourself having achieved your goal
To help guide your unconscious in the way it supports you, spend a few minutes each day going out to an imagined time in the future when you have achieved your goal. Really work up this image by picturing that you in the future as strongly as possible. Everything about the way you look, how positively you're interacting with the people around you, how they're interacting with you. Then when you have observed yourself as strongly as possible, imagine going down into the body of that you in the future and really feel how good it is to be that person, having achieved that goal. Look through the eyes of that future you. What would you see that lets you know you have been successful? What would you hear? There is strong evidence to suggest that just having imagined something allows your mind to believe more and more that it is possible, and even that it is already happening. You might be surprised how effective this can be in guiding you towards achieving your resolution.
I wish you success in creating the life you want for yourself in 2012. Just remember to note and praise yourself for each step forward, to try to learn from any slip-ups - but don't over focus on them, and have fun on the journey. You never know, it might just be as enjoyable as reaching the destination!