There is an apparently non-stop supply of cakes and chocolates in our office at the moment and I always laugh when I catch some one leaving with their 3rd or 4th hand-full of the day/morning and they sheepishly grin “but it’s Christmas – the diet’s starting in the new year”.
I’m not being a grinch – it just amuses me. It’s also not just December. It can happen on birthdays, holidays and so on, but Christmas seems to be THE time of year when most people just accept that they will over indulge in spending, drinking and especially eating. The gym is definitely a lot quieter and health & fitness seems to go the back of people’s mind…..
But once Christmas is over – and we’re sat in front of the TV, our belly aching – we can start to feel a little remorseful and vow that the diet/exercise regime will start in the new year……. along with a whole list of other things that we want to improve.
I understand the logic behind it. It’s a new year so new calendars and dairies are required. Psychologically this provides a nice clear break from bad feelings and habits of the past as the old calendars and diaries are stored away or binned, the decorations are returned to the loft and the house cleaned up.
We have also been given Christmas gifts or bought in the sales – new toiletries, clothes, gadgets and so on – ready to be put to use to help and present to the world, our new and improved selves.
New Year really does make sense in terms of making resolutions and starting something new – but you can ask people how they are doing a month or two later and it’s not surprising to find that 80% have already been broken.
So how can we help the odds, make our resolutions stick and achieve our goals? After doing some digging around (together with learning from experience) I’ve come up with hint and tips that may help:
Why are you waiting?
Try asking yourself why are you putting it off? Are you delaying because your scared? Do you need advice or help? Are there obstacles such as money/time/other people? If so, is there a way around them or an alternative? On the other hand it may be that you’re delaying because it’s not something that you really want…..
Why do you want to do it?
Ask yourself, is this something that you actually want to, or are you doing it because others want you to do it or that you think others want you to do? If it is for someone else, whether that is your partner, family, public image it can add a lot more pressure on yourself, and then if you stumble or fail, it can cause a huge amount of guilt. Whatever challenges or changes you want to make – make sure you’re making them for the right reasons and you will be more likely to succeed.
What do you want to achieve? Set some goals.
It might sound simple but be realistic! If it’s something new then get advice/help e.g. if it’s health related then see a fitness instructor/personal trainer/online forums/professionals. Don’t be afraid to ask. – just make sure it’s your goals!
Set short, medium and long term goals/plans and make them SMART (Specific/Measurable/Achievable/Realistic/TimeBound – Locke & Latham, 1990). Studies have shown that setting these types of goals helps to improve both motivation and adherence to a plan as they can help show progress.
Change ONE thing at a time.
Setting too many goals can be overwhelming for the brain and body, and so one or both may fight-back making you give up completely.
There have been years of research that shows if you want to change something, change one thing at a time gradually adding in other/additional goals.
By easing them in, the body and mind are better able to cope with the additional demands of extra/more intensive goals, and from a motivational view, seeing the positive effects of one change will help encourage you to progress onto another. Even if the first change is not successful on the first attempt, as it is only one – it is easier to try again.
Know your motivations & distractions.
What gets you going? What motivates you?
Are you someone that needs to be pushed? A negative image such as an unattractive photo of you on the fridge, a diseased lung, the threat of illness etc. can help motivate some people take action.
Alternatively – you may prefer the “pull” and attraction of a reward? Positive images of yourself, financial/material rewards, or even the feel-good factor can help with motivation.
Also try to understand what distracts you – gaming, the internet, social media, tv…… can you incorporate these into your plans or can you avoid them?
On a similar note, knowing who your supporters are, that will help you when it gets tough and knowing who your “enemies” are that may try and pull-you down, is also useful to understand. So that you know who you can turn to for support and who to ignore/avoid.
Have a back-up plan
Life is full of surprises that can throw up obstacles and barriers to us achieving our goals so it’s a good idea to think about what might happen. Injury/illness, an expensive bill and even holidays and parties can all cause disruptions. By thinking about them in advance, if and when they do occur – it is easier to pick yourself back up and get back on track.
Hope that it helps – it’s definitely worked/working for me – so I hope others might find some of it useful too and may start making those changes today rather than waiting. I’m certainly not eating any mince pies this year! One thing at a time……. 😉