Many of us may have made New Years Resolutions. Surveys estimate that 15 – 40% of people do this, but I am sorry to say that the majority of the people who have made the effort to do this will have given up on their good intentions by now.

Most New Years Resolutions involve self improvement – stopping a habit or behaviour, or starting a new habit or behaviour. This can be e.g. losing weight, stopping smoking or drinking, or starting an exercise regime.

In this blog post (the first in a series of three) I explain some of the methods of choosing a great New Years Resolution and keeping it to improve your life in 2018.

So why do we fail?

At the beginning we are generally very motivated – it is a New Year and a new beginning!

However….we encounter stressful situations, we may not see immediate results from our efforts, and can fall back into the same old routines, which leads to temptations to forget our New Year Resolution.

It is common to say that “one cigarette won’t make any difference”. You can substitute “little slice of cake”, “night in front of the TV”, “bottle of wine” or any other habit for “cigarette” in the above sentence to get other common excuses.

At times of stress we tend to revert to our old, familiar habits. We are mostly creatures of habit. Habits can be useful, as they free our thinking capacity to be used for other things. If we form a habit of brushing our teeth each morning, we no longer have to decide whether to do it or not.

Our subconscious mind generates instinctive patterns and habits, but these can be unhelpful as well as beneficial for us. Habits can be linked to certain situations – e.g. having a drink when we get home from work, smoking when we are socialising with certain people, or at certain places.

The subconscious mind wants immediate benefit, so is initially unwilling to e.g. cut down on eating foods that we enjoy in order to achieve a long term goal of being fit and slim. The subconscious mind is impatient and wants instant gratification!

So how do we succeed?

Here are some tips on how to keep (or re-activate) your New Years Resolution

  1. Know why you are making the change. This should be for yourself, not to please anyone else.
  2. Choose one (or at the most, two) goals to work on at the time so that your attention is not split across several goals.
  3. Analyse the behaviour you want to change.
  • What do you get as a benefit from your current habit or behaviour? (e.g. you may enjoy the social aspect of drinking in a bar)
  • Do you still need this benefit? (you may be happy without this level of social interaction)
  • Can you get that from anything else? (you may find that since you started visiting this bar that you have developed other areas of your social life, and no longer need to visit the bar)
  • Can you just modify your current behaviour so you keep the benefits whilst still getting rid of the bad parts? (e.g. meeting a few of your friends from the bar, and going for a walk or run instead of drinking).

In the next blog post I will add some other tips on how to succeed in keeping (or re-activating) your New Years Resolutions.


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