New Year's Resolutions

There are various times throughout the year when we decide we want to change something in our lives.  The New Year is probably the most popular time to do this . Perhaps because this is the time of the year that we look back at our lives and look forward to future challenges.

Millions of people will be making New Year resolutions on the 31st December.  Unfortunately, most won’t follow their promises through.  So what happens and how can we succeed where others have failed?

Top ten resolutions

In my experience the following are the the ‘most popular New Year resolutions’.  Have any of these been a promise to yourself?  And will they be again this year?

  • Loosing weight

Those of us who know we are heavier than we should be, or our GP has told us, also know the problems that being overweight can bring.  We know that if we don’t do something then our weight will continue to increase putting our health at further risk.  Hence the “I’m starting on a diet after Christmas’ promise.

  • Going to a gym

Tied in with the feeling that we are overweight is usually the attitude that we need to get more exercise.  We know that if we are more active not only will we feel better about our bodies but also feel better about our lives.  Which is why new gym memberships shoot up at this time of year.

  • Quitting smoking

For those of us who smoke giving up can be a perpetual New Year’s resolution. With adverts on television showing us graphically how deadly smoking can be, even if it continues to be a legal activity, you’d think it would be easy to stop and stay off. But it isn’t so what is going wrong?

  • Reducing my spending

Millions of us around this time of year swear that this is the last time we are going to spend so much money over the festive season.  But, those of us who have children, the possibility of disappointing them and not giving them as much as their school friends get is a form of self blackmail which is not helped by all the advertising encouraging us to feel guilty if we don’t buy the latest innovation.

  • Finding a partner

Christmas is very much about getting together with families.  So if you don’t have a partner to share you can feel more left out than at most times of the year.  Pressure from friends and families also increase and so the promise that this time next year you will have found the right one.

  • Spending more quality time with my family

As our lives get busier and busier more of us are feeling disconnected with our families.  We feel that our children, if we have any, are growing up quickly and we haven’t been around to share.  How many times do we hear that to be an effective family we should sit down to a meal a day together.  How many of us actually do this?

  • Learning something new

Perhaps not as popular as other New Year resolutions but still one that most of us think we should do even if we don’t make it a resolution.  I wonder why this is.  Could it be because we have too many other challenges?  Perhaps it is because starting in the New Year isn’t quite the time to do it.

  • Finding a better job

This is the time where most of us stop to review the previous year and to reassess our lives.  If we are really unhappy with our work it may be because of what is happening at work not the actual job.  So think carefully or you might change companies and still be unhappy with the job.

  • Volunteering to help others

Volunteering is something some people do naturally but others have been brought up with the attitude that one should be paid for doing ‘work’.  For those who find a bit of time for others the rewards can be huge and your life can change for the better.  Society needs more people to get involved and there are so many ways to do this.

  • Getting better organised

This resolution usually comes about because people feel less in control of their lives than they want to be.  Of all potential resolutions this is the one that needs much thought and preparation.  We are talking about a life time of habits and also, perhaps in some cases, doing things in a certain way so as to avoid other things.  Forgetting to do something is a useful way of avoiding and is easy if people think you’re disorganised and are more likely to forgive you.

The eight steps for success.

All too often our New Year resolutions get as far as trying to change for a week and they then fizzle out.  But they can succeed if you are realistic.  Here’s what to do:

Decide on realistic goals with steps that you can measure. For example if you are thinking of losing weight then instead of saying you are going to lose 20kg (about 3 stone) decide to loose 3kg in a month.  Then figure how how you are going to do this and how often you will measure your achievements.  I’d suggest that you only weigh yourself every two weeks and always at the same time - perhaps when you get up in the morning.

Write down your resolution and the steps you are going to follow to achieve it. Think about why you might slip up and write these down too and set up a  plan of action to avoid these traps.  Hang this piece of paper somewhere you can see it and read it every now and again.

If you have a set-back don’t worry. Just accept that it may happen and that you not only will learn from whatever went wrong but that you will be even more determined to succeed.  If it does happen look at what may have derailed your focus and avoid whatever that was in the future.

Tell friends or family who will be supportive what your New Year’s resolution is. Tell them you won’t mind them asking how you are getting along.  Hopefully these friends will gently encourage you if you are weakening!

Avoid negative thinking. Believe you can do it even if you have slipped.  Too many of us don’t try because we remember the other times we haven’t succeeded and so decide why bother.  But this time you will because you have set achievable goals.  If you decide you want to stop arguing with your partner (a very challenging goal) then you may not succeed.  But if you decide to reduce the number of arguments you have (a more viable goal) then you probably will achieve that resolution and then move on to almost zero arguments.

Get out and do it. So many decide to wait until they feel motivated. Well you could be waiting a long time.  Just do it.  If you are planning to do more exercise then start walking.  Don’t bother with the gym.  It can come later if you want and there may be special offers later in the year to attract you.  Just getting out and succeeding a bit can be the start of your motivation.  You’ve done a bit so you now know you can actually do it.

Support groups may help. So instead of going cold turkey when you want to stop smoking joining a cessation group may give you the support and knowledge to help you stop.

Be realistic. It isn’t easy to change a lifetime of habits.  Small steps, supportive friends and accepting that you might slip but are determined to succeed will help you stick to that resolution.  And don’t decide to change everything in your life concentrate on one habit changer.  Don’t try to loose weight and stop smoking at the same time for example.

And remember - you can do it, you will do it.  The power of positive thinking.  This year, even if you do nothing else, start believing in yourself.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Owen Redahan. MBACP. B.Sc.(Agr)

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Written by Owen Redahan. MBACP. B.Sc.(Agr)

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