Oh, January. A month of promises to oneself and to others that you’ll be better, do better and fulfill your potential as a human bean. But what’s the secret to resolutionary success?
We’re going to take a real-world example to help illustrate how our tips can help.
In a survey for The Times , YouGov said that the most popular resolution for 2014 was to lose weight. The second was to get fitter and the third was to eat more healthily.
Maybe your 2016 resolutions are pretty similar, but whatever goal you have set yourself for this year, you can find ways to boost your chances of success.
Do one thing at a time
New Year’s resolutions are tough. That’s why we keep making them year after year. So why make life more difficult by trying to do multiple things?
Is there any other part of the year when we announce to our friends that we’re going to learn to play the tuba, perfect our tango, go sky diving and start rearing prize ponies all at the same time? Of course not, because they’d think we were taking on too much. And they’d be right.
By trying to do multiple things, we’re stretching our attention and our willpower, which makes sticking to a resolution more difficult.
Make your life simple. Pick one goal.
Don’t tell anyone
A idea so good we’re talking about it twice (we mentioned this just before Christmas): telling people tickles the part of your brain that deals with achievement, making you feel like you’ve already done what you promised to do.
Personally, I also think telling people makes sticking to resolutions more stressful. Why? Because they always, always ask you about them. And if you’d had a bit of a wobble in terms of dedication, you either have to fib a bit or tell the truth – which always ends up with a look of disappointment in the eyes of the person you’re speaking to. (Or maybe that’s just my experience.)
Be precise, not improbable
It’s great to want to lose weight, but how much and over how long? All the time we see people go on yo-yo diets where they drop several stones, only to pile it all on again.
So think about a precise number and try to make it realistic. That way you won’t feel the need to lose too much too quickly and you can congratulate yourself when you hit your goal.
(As an example, I knew someone that set themselves a 350g a week weight-loss goal. I thought it seemed a bit low – I’ve read it’s supposed to be about 1kg – but they said it was what they could manage and didn’t drastically affect their diet or enjoyment of life. So far it’s been working for them – and I was happy to be proved wrong.)
If you want to be more precise, you could even decide how little of something you’ll eat. If you normally have a packet of crisps with your packed lunch at work, just eat half a packet. I know it sounds inconsequential – you might save 60 calories or so – but think about this: 1. You’ll feel like you’re doing something, which is super-important for your sense of progress and self-esteem and 2. You’ll save more then 13,000 calories per year.
For the average man, that’s the same as fasting round the clock for five days.
Make it part of your daily routine
The problem with sticking to resolutions and self-improvement is that life gets in the way. So make your resolutions part of your life. Let’s think about getting a bit more exercise. One option is to sign up for the gym, then to spend a couple of hours there a couple of times a week. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
Well, except you’ve got to go to the gym. And maybe that’s not on your route home, or isn’t close to work. It requires a special trip and extra effort.
So let’s start small. If you take the bus, walk to a stop that’s a little farther away. In case you drive to the office, do so early enough by just a few minutes, that you can take a walk around the block before and after work. And if you get the Tube, walk up and down the escalator.
Stratford station, which has just become part of zone 2, has the shortest escalator in the Tube system, a mere 4.1 metres. If you walked up and down that on each working day, you’d stroll an extra 1.8km a year.
And if you just walked down the escalator at Angel, you’d cover more than 13km a year. (Hmm. I wonder if you should take part in our Don’t be Stationary campaign…)
Some is better than none
Finally, I think it’s important that we’re not too tough on ourselves. Of course, we have to try to stick to our new habits and routines, but we should also acknowledge that we’ve had years of not doing them.
If you haven’t exercised regularly since school, or if you’ve been packing on the pounds for the last decade, why would you expect to be successful every time you try to go for a run or to keep an eagle-eye on each morsel you nibble?
Accept that you’re going to have wobbles. Realise that you may not feel like being pious seven days a week. But that’s OK, you’re still on the same journey. Be kind to yourself and understand that even a stumble is a step forward.
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Previously on The Euroffice Blog…