The thing about the New Year is that it's easy to believe that you're back on the starting line and the follies of the previous year don't matter much. You give yourself new goals, roll your shoulders and crouch, ready for another dash to December in the hope that this time you'll do better. Research shows that about 50% of us make New Year's resolutions. The rest of us say things like, "my resolution is to not have a resolution this year."
New Year's resolutions are infamous for being abandoned with as much gusto as with which they are formed in the first place. Only 46% have any success for at least six months. In fact, about 25% of the resolution makers won't even last a week. So why is it so hard to stick to decisions that are good for us? Whatever be the reason, here are a few time-tested ideas that might help you stick with it.
1. Keep it realistic
It goes without saying that you need to believe that you can achieve it. If your subconscious just knows that there's no way you'll get there, here's the truth: there's no way you'll get there. Don't be a victim of "false hope syndrome". False hope syndrome is characterised by "unrealistic expectations about the likely speed, amount, ease, and consequences of self-change attempts," says this paper on the subject. Ambitious is fine, but keep it doable.
If your subconscious just knows that there's no way you'll get there, here's the truth: there's no way you'll get there.
2. Tell your friends about it
Letting others know about your plans gives them form. Out in the open, they're more real than they are within yourself. Also, now that people know what you're up to, they can motivate you and hold you to it. Now you're not just answerable to yourself, but also to people who've patted you on the back and are probably monitoring your progress. There's a chance you'll keep going just so you don't lose face.
3. Make it visual, get creative
Write down your goal on paper or, even better, make a "resolution binder" where you put down your ideas. Elaborate the end result with paper cuttings, drawings and write-ups. Jot down your favourite motivational quotes along with your personal reasons for doing this. Make it graphic and compelling enough for those days when you just couldn't give a sh**. Make sure to paint a very clear picture of what it would be like to have what you're working towards. If you want to fit into those skinny jeans from your college days, put the sexiest picture of yours from those days. If it's a house you want to save up for, put a picture of the kind of house you would buy when you have the means.
Now look at that book every single day in the morning. A lot of achievers swear by this focus-building tactic. Robin Sharma has a formula for this:
Focus + Time = Mastery.
"What you concentrate on, you cannot help but get great at. The more you focus, the better you get," he says.
4. Make your goals measurable
Don't just say I will lose 10kg in three months. Write down how. Make an exercise plan. How many hours of exercise every day? What will be your diet? How many kilos will you lose every month? Where will you work out? Break down the big goals into smaller, everyday goals. Review your progress often. Have mid-season targets, and try to stay as close to these as possible.
If you punish yourself all through the way, you're creating a craving. At your weakest, you'd be more likely to say, "Screw it!"
5. Give yourself small rewards on the way
Push yourself enough but don't stress yourself out. Be the good coach. In 2012, researchers from Germany revealed that stress hormones cause the brain to switch from goal-directed behaviour to established routines.
If you punish yourself all through the way, you're creating a craving. At your weakest, you'd be more likely to say, "Screw it!" So moderation and understanding of yourself is essential while hiking on your goals trail. Reward yourself every now and then for short-term achievements.
6. Don't be shy to start over
It might be tempting to give up on your goals because you lapsed a few times. Don't. Forgive yourself and keep going. Look for fresh starts by resetting the milestone, says an article in the Washington Post. "Research has shown that other natural breaking points -- such as starting a new job, or even just the start of a new week, month or financial quarter -- can also be effective for motivating us to make progress on our goals quickly," writes Jena McGregor.
Finally, remember that 1 January is only one of the many starting points. If you missed this white line, draw another. When you hear the whistle, run.
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