We have been in 2017 a total of 20 days and already social media is full of memes of people giving up on their resolutions because they have failed or fallen off the wagon. Or worse still I saw an online advert proclaiming that there were ‘only 50 weeks left’ in which to make a difference. Really?! Is the world going to end on 31 December 2017? Why didn’t anyone tell me?!
Whether you love the New Year or loathe it, it can be a good time to look at your life and see what changes you can make to help you live healthier and happier. Just don’t give up because we’re a few weeks into January!
It takes time to break a habit
I think you’ll agree that anything worth changing is really worth spending a little more time and effort on than 20 days. In fact, researchers from University College London discovered that new habits take 66 days on average to form – and that’s just an average. For larger changes, it is likely to be longer. They say:
“Breaking habits is very difficult. The easiest way is to control your environment so that you do not encounter the cue which triggers your habit. It is difficult to break any habit even when you are motivated to do so. If you are ambivalent about breaking it then you will be less likely to succeed.”
Not only is it difficult to break a habit, but it is also part of the process to have a few slip-ups as you rewire your brain and actions to this new way of living. The key is getting up more times than you fall down and not allowing those slip-ups to become reasons to stop trying altogether.
Intentions rather than Resolutions
I’ve never really bought into the whole New Year’s Resolutions thing, mainly because it’s a vicious cycle of putting so much pressure on ourselves to achieve HUGE goals without planning how to achieve them and then getting annoyed when the end of the year comes and nothing has chanced. It’s almost as if we think someone will wave a magic wand and all of the habits we wish to change will miraculously disappear without us having to lift a finger. So instead of resolutions, I set intentions (I’m not great with the word ‘goal’ either!). Simply changing the words you use so that it resonates with you can have a big impact on whether or not you’ll succeed! Seriously.
My intention this year is to be more organised when it come to both my business and my home life. Juggling three jobs, two kids and a house as a single mum is pretty demanding so I want to make sure that I give myself the easiest ride I can. As an intention that I can work towards every day rather than a resolution with a time limit of the end of the year is the way I know that it will work (and already is).
The reason so many New Year’s Resolutions fail is that we set them and then leave them to fend for themselves. Without creating a plan of action or indeed doing anything about them we are setting ourselves up to fail from the get go. You need to set achievable tasks every day that get you closer to your dream. One of mine is writing more and I’m making the effort to get out of the office for an hour once a week and make that happen. What I write isn’t really the point (although this blog post is the product of one of these hours) but just the fact that I am making the commitment to it. And more importantly, if it doesn’t happen one week for some reason – like the kids are at home – then I am kind enough to myself to not see that as a failure and get back to it the week after.
What Feeling are you Chasing?
I now know that it’s imperative to think about WHY you set yourself the resolutions, goals or intentions that you do… How do you think achieving them will make you feel? As Danielle LaPorte says:
“You’re not chasing the goal itself – you’re chasing the feelings that you hope attaining those goals will give you.”
This is the most important realisation of all. Because if you can figure out what those feelings are and then tap into them in small ways every single day, you won’t get discouraged and your intentions and resolutions will become true. Just spending 15 minutes sorting out my office/house/kids is sufficient for me to start to change how organised my life is. Little and often and taking the odd day off here and there is the way I get things done. And adding in a weekly trip to my favourite coffee place to write more is another. These make me feel great along the way so I’m achieving without much effort at all and my core desired feelings are met nearly every single day.
The last tip is to make sure that you review your progress, your tasks and your intentions or goals regularly. That way you’ll know if you’re on track or not and also if you need to change what you’re aiming for – believe me it does happen! I check in around my birthday in May and again in September when the kids start a new year at school, as well as the traditional New Year check-in. That makes three times a year that I sit down and actually look through my intentions and tweak them if I have to. I also pat myself on the back for what I have already accomplished and look forward to these three special days. I also do a quicker monthly check-in and that only takes 15 minutes or so. What’s working, what’s not and what can I do to keep myself on track. Simple.
So there you have it! A few simple steps to getting what you want. The work will take a little time and effort, but if it’s a dream worth reaching then your commitment is all part of the fun. And above all, please be kind to yourself – don’t give up on your dreams just because your calendar says we’re nearing the end of January!