Forget those New Year’s Resolutions. Read on to find how how to make sustainable change.
Whether it’s looking through newspapers, online or in magazines, it’s hard right now to avoid articles talking about New Year’s Resolutions. It’s that time of year where we seem to set ourselves goals that seem to be near on impossible to achieve.
The tradition of New Year’s resolutions is thought to have started with the Babylonians thousands of years ago and it’s hard to imagine they were any better at keeping them than us. Apparently 40 per cent of Brits and Americans make promises every December 31st, and only 8-12 per cent of people manage to keep them. Men are slightly more likely than women to keep their resolutions, but given that the most generous estimate still gives them only a 20 per cent success rate, this isn’t saying much.
Why do we do this to ourselves every year and why do so many of us fail? According to one study, 35 per cent of people blamed setting unrealistic goals, 33 per cent admitted they didn’t keep track of their progress, one in ten blamed making too many resolutions and 23 per cent forgot.
But we shouldn’t despair entirely. There are things we can do to increase our chances, not of fulfilling our New Year’s Resolutions, but of making long-lasting, successful change. In her presentation at our recent Choice, Chance, Change conference, Diane Herbert suggested one reason why our good intentions may derail is that New Year’s Resolutions “tend to be negatively intentioned goals, they are things that we perhaps feel that we ‘should’ do, rather than things we are really motivated to change. The first step in making any sustainable change is taking the time to think about your reasons for wanting to make a change. What makes it something that you want to do now?”
There are a series of steps that can increase the likelihood of being able to make change stick, whether that is personal change such as getting fit or losing weight or professional change such as embarking on a new career:
1) Take Small Steps
Research has proven that people who make changes in small steps are far more successful than those who try to take giant leaps. It is important to be realistic about what you can achieve in a given time frame.
2) Be reasonable!
We tend to adopt an ‘all or nothing’ mentality – I’m going to get fit so I’ll go to the gym every day! Now, there’s nothing wrong with going to the gym every day if you have the time to be able to do it, but it makes sense to build up to something that is realistic, can be fitted in around the other demands in your life and won’t leave you feeling exhausted by the end of the first week.
3) Reward yourself for success
Celebrating the small wins is a good way to keep you motivated. That reward can also be for getting back on track when you have been (temporarily) distracted from your goal! Positive reinforcement in terms of small, positive rewards or from friends and family will also go a long way in helping you keep on track, especially when the going gets tough.
4) Document how you are doing – Accountability is Key
Keep track of how you are progressing on your journey. It helps to jot down the things that are working, the things that get in the way of you achieving your goals. Lasting change takes time, energy and commitment.
5) Accept setbacks
One of the unpalatable truths about change is that there will be setbacks – that’s just part of the process. Accepting that it is not a smooth, linear process will help you overcome the hiccups when they happen, it helps you focus on the parts of the change process that need a bit more attention.
So, as we progress through January, whatever type of change you want to make, our tips to making sustainable change will help you be in the 8-12% people who manage to keep their resolutions!
If you would like more information on coaching or mentoring with us, or our series of Choice, Chance, Change conferences, contact me, Vic O’Farrell or Diane Herbert at: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Diane@Mindshift-ltd.co.uk
Download the article as a Word doc here