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Achieving your New Year resolutions

January is the time of new beginnings when we think of New Year resolutions. Why is it that all too often these do not last beyond the end of the month? In this article I offer some tips for turning these aspirations into permanent change.

  • Write it down.  Writing down your resolution makes it more definite, and also helps you to think it through carefully.
    Be positive.  When writing it, focus on the positive things that will happen, rather than what you might be giving up. Goals such as “lose weight” or “give up smoking” highlight something being lost – try rephrasing these as “being slim” or “feeling healthier because I’m a non smoker”
  • Use the present tense.  Express your resolution in the present tense (“I am…”), as if you are already achieving it rather than putting it sometime in the future (“I will…”). Saying “I am cycling every day” will influence your unconscious mind more powerfully to change than a more vague statement such as “I will exercise more”.
  • Make it measurable and detailed.  Be specific. If you want to be thinner, set a target weight. If you want to earn more money, how much? If you want a promotion, what is the new role you are seeking?
  • Set a date.  Set yourself a definite timescale for achieving your goal – things that we plan to do “tomorrow” rarely happen. Mark your target date in your diary, and on your calendar, together with reminders as the target date approaches.
  • Reality check.  Ensure that your resolution is practical and realistic. Is it achievable in the timescale you have set yourself? What resources are you going to need to help you achieve your goal, and how are you going to get them?
  • Small steps.  If the goal seems to be too far off and unattainable, break it down into smaller steps and work on them one at a time.
  • Reinforce your resolve.  Use a multisensory approach, using as many senses as possible – visualise your goal, write it, say it, record it and play it back. Pin up a picture at your workplace, or put it as wallpaper on your computer. Program reminders into your phone, your computer.
  • Setbacks.  Don’t be discouraged by failures and setbacks. Reframe them as learning opportunities, look at what caused you to miss your target, adjust your plans accordingly and start again.