New Year New You

This was a feature article for the Leader Newspaper.

The turn of the year has traditionally been a time of New Year’s Resolutions; new beginnings, dropping bad habits and learning better ones. A recent survey, however, suggested that 8 out of 10 people in the UK won’t even bother to make them this year. The top two reasons given being; “They’re a waste of time” and “I’ll give up within days”.

What is it that has given us this defeatist attitude and is it that difficult to make a New Year’s Resolution stick longer than normal? Statistics say that the majority of us will have broken all our resolutions before February arrives.

We spoke to Leader Life Coach, Mark Darlington, to see if he could throw any light on the subject and help us all finally stick to our Resolutions.

Why is it that people find it so hard to stick to New Year’s Resolutions and what can we do to be successful and make positive changes in our lives?

That’s a great question! I’m pleased to tell you that there’s quite a simple answer to it too. It’s all about how we make our resolutions and the amount of planning and preparation that we put in that makes the difference. Understanding how our mind works is really key here as well.

There are 7 steps you need to go through to if you want to make great changes in your life and amaze yourself at how easy it can actually be. Set yourself 30 minutes to do this task somewhere where you won’t be disturbed and grab a pen and paper.

Step 1 – Set the “Right” Resolution

Most people fail with their resolutions because they think them up on a whim and/or make too many. Think about the one thing that would make the biggest difference in your life right now.

What do you “really” want? Not what you think you “should” be doing or what you think you “can” do but what would be the most amazing and impactful thing you could do?

Be specific; “lose weight” or “exercise more” are far too flimsy and vague, as is “be a nicer person”. What “specifically” are you going to do? Think “I will lose a stone by 1st May” or “I will walk for 20 minutes every day except for Wednesdays” or “I will pay a genuine compliment to every person I see”.

Step 2 – Re-check that Resolution is the right one

Once you’ve decided what your goal is, re-check it to make sure it is the right one. Ask yourself “What will having or doing this do for me?” then “Why is this a must for me?” and finally “How will I feel once I’ve achieved it?” – imagine that last answer as vividly as you can. If you can’t answer those questions or the answers don’t feel right for you, go back to step one and start again. If you’re already getting excited, move on to step 3.

Step 3 – Understand How Your Mind Works

Inside each of us are a “thinker” and a “prover” part of our mind. What that essentially means is that when we think something our mind actively seeks out evidence to support our belief and filters out any evidence to the contrary. So it’s no wonder those people who think that resolutions are a waste of time or that they’ll just give up have such a hard time! So make your thoughts positive and your mind will start to work with you to achieve your goal.

Step 4 – Using Your Mind Even More

As a continuation from step 3, make sure you are asking yourself the right questions. Rather than “Why didn’t I stick to last year’s resolutions” – where you’ll just come up with a list of negative reasons; ask “How can I make sure that I’m successful this year?” This will set your mind off looking for solutions and plans rather than excuses. If you’re wanting to finally Stop Smoking for instance a solution might be to seek professional help rather than try willpower again (only 7% of people are reported to successfully stop smoking through willpower alone, so don’t be too hard on yourself).

Step 5 – Plan and Commit

You should now have the makings of a plan. Spend a few minutes writing down (that’s really important!) the action steps you are going to take. Once you’ve done that, tell everyone who is important to you what your goal is. You’ll have a big team of supporters to help you along and it means that you will have psychologically committed to yourself as well as them. Nobody likes to be seen to go back on their word.

Step 6 – Do a little each day to gain momentum

Often when we take on something new our initial enthusiasm makes us go for it and “give it 110%”. We quickly decide that it’s too hard to sustain and generally give up. Instead decide to do a little each day. Small amounts that you absolutely know you can consistently achieve. This gains momentum and belief that you can do what you set out to. So what small actions steps can you start today?

Step 7 – Make progress fun

As you consistently achieve and start to increase your effort, reward yourself. You can choose how you do it and what feels right for you. As you start to enjoy your success, things start to seem effortless. How would you choose to reward yourself?

Enjoy experimenting with this and have a wonderful year!

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