Editor’s Note from Carolyn White: In the last months of the year, do you find yourself so involved in the holidays that you lose perspective of your goals? Does the partying and feasting eat at your plans for a healthier you? The New Year naturally evolves as the time when you renew your resolutions and intentions to live a lifestyle that promotes balance and wellness. It’s when you participate in active goal setting to map out your goals and action plans. What can you do to energetically support your resolve? Amada Gore shares ten strategies to help you evaluate and successfully attain your goals for the New Year.
Will this new year be the same as usual for you?
You rush around for Christmas, eat and drink too much and then find the best party you can go to on New Year’s Eve, drink buckets more and the next morning think about what resolutions you need to make for the new year. Like….change your life? Or give up every bad habit you’ve ever had or some other simple or easy task?
The new year is a fantastic opportunity to spend time (preferably a couple of hours) working ON your life rather than just being caught up, running around in circles, IN your life. Time is so precious that we are flat out getting the basics done, not thinking about how we can change our lives and how we are functioning.
How long since you stopped and thought about how your life is going – even if it seems to be going well? And asked yourself the questions we most need to ask: Am I happy? Am I angry? How do I feel? What needs to change about me?
It may help to pretend you are in a helicopter up above your life looking down on it.
What do you see? Is that person’s life balanced? What advice would you give the person in that life? (I know it’s you, but pretend you are observing someone else and giving them wise advice.) Help them to live a more fulfilling and satisfying life.
What does that person need to do? Or is there something that person wants to do? Do they need to have more (or some) time for themselves?
Do they need to laugh more, play more, lighten up? Get fit (again, this time I really mean it!)? Exercise more? Study harder? Sleep more? Give up smoking? Lose weight? Be kinder? Love Better? Eat properly? Be nicer to their parents? Siblings? Change jobs? Leave behind a relationship that isn’t working? Do things to reduce their stress levels? Meditate regularly? Have a massage once a week?
I was thinking about New Year resolutions and what usually happens to them. We forget them! Or it’s too hard. Or we change our ways for 2 weeks on holidays and then return to normal habits and the culture we left which reinforces the rotten old habits we are planning to give up.
So, here are some strategies to help you make those changes you think you want to or know you should…
1. Make sure all of you really wants to change.
We have lots of little parts that pull us often in different directions and most of those parts want to make the change but there’s one persistent part that clings onto the old habits or patterns. And that’s often enough to pull us down. If you are aware of this part (or it may be a couple of parts), you need to negotiate with it. I know this sounds bizarre but it works! Talk to the part, thank it, acknowledge it by knowing that it has your best interests at heart and that the behavior it wants you to continue would have worked for you at some time. It’s just that it’s no longer useful. So discuss it and see, hear or feel what has to happen for that part to relinquish it’s hold onto the old and allow in the new. It may need to be acknowledged and given a very small role as a monitor to check that all is OK.
2. Make them simple.
I know we often think we’ll change every aspect of and transform our whole life to make things better – but it’s too much! Think of a series of small things or perhaps just one ‘biggie’! Or if there are several biggies then plan to tackle them over a long period of time – like every two months start the new project, when the previous one has become a habit.
3. ‘Chunk down’ big resolutions into small steps that are manageable and that do not upset your routine dramatically. When we aim a dart at a dart board, if the second we throw, our hand moves a fraction, wemiss the target by miles (and often pierce someone else’s head!). In the same way, small, consistent changes now can make dramatic changes in the long term – and relatively painlessly!
4. Give yourself rewards when you keep to your resolution.
Probably not chocolate if you are giving up sweets! But something you really feel is a special treat so you have something to keep you on track when you are being tempted. They can be simple rewards or something like a holiday at a wonderful resort. It has to be something that would motivate you.
5. Accept ourselves as we are and be careful to tell ourselves that we have been doing the best we could, given the skills and knowledge that we had at the time. So we need to be gentle with ourselves. (no one else is!) It’s just that now we have some new information that may have made a difference to our thinking and made us decide to change our previous ways. And forgive ourselves for how we have been behaving or for having some of these habits! Instead of berating and beating ourselves up as being bad and feeling that we should have known better, or been better, or done better, be kind to ourselves. It’s OK to not be perfect (something I have to keep reminding myself!).
6. Set up some support mechanisms.
It helps to surround ourselves with people that applaud the changes we want to make and that will help us stick to our ‘guns’. People who will pat us on the back for succeeding and who will gently help us back on track when we veer off course. Or find people who might want to change with you.
7. Work out why you want to change and adopt these new resolutions.
Think about what has been motivating or driving the behaviours you want to change, or what has stopped you from sticking to the new behaviours. Do you tend to be motivated by the thought of a new ‘improved you’ or driven to change by the thought of a ‘fat, slobby, ugly you’ that you don’t like much? It helps to know if you have a ‘move away’ strategy or a ‘move towards ‘ strategy because you will have a better sense of how to stick to your resolutions.
8. We need to understand that some behaviours and habits are coping mechanisms and are a way of handling some stress in your life.
This doesn’t mean they are worth persisting with, but you probably need to think about what you are trying to cope with and can you change the thing causing the stress rather than changing the habit or behaviour which represents the coping mechanism. If you can’t change the thing causing stress choose another, possibly healthier, coping mechanism. Sometimes just realizing that you have adopted this behaviour as a coping strategy allows you to change more easily or deal with the real issue.
9. Think about why we haven’t changed in past.
What has stopped us? What triggers have started us on the old habits again? Can we avoid them? Or at least prepare for them? For example, if we are trying to give up smoking, it’s not smart to immediately go to a party where they are smoking like chimneys and we are drinking – it would be very difficult to avoid an old habit we are trying to break when we return to an environment that has always been associated with that behaviour. Do yourself a favour – minimize the triggers of the old behaviour in the first few weeks of your new resolutions. Think about the culture you are in and will be in, and create an environment that will facilitate the change instead of constantly reminding you of the unwanted behaviours.
10. If we practice our new resolution every day for 30 days it becomes a habit.
If we practice it every day for 3 months it can become a habit for life. If you were really serious about regular exercise (remember you only have to walk 4 kilometres in 30 minutes four times a week to be pretty fit) then you would need to walk every day for a month to create the new habit and then it will be set in concrete after you have done it every day for three months.
There are some ideas that may help you have a stronger resolve – just keep in mind people living a fulfilling and satisfying life acknowledge (among other things! ) that they are human and it’s OK not to be perfect – we’re all doing the best we can and that’s pretty good in most cases.
Happy New Year everyone – here’s to a nurturing, safe, giving, kind, loving, fulfilling and wonderful year ahead!