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How to make a successful new year resolution

Are you making resolutions for 2014?

Improve your chances of sticking with them this year by following these guidelines:

Define measurable and specific targets

Want to get fitter?  How much fitter?  In three/six/twelve months’ time, what do you want to be able to do?  Run a marathon, or run in a 5k charity run?  Be selected for the local football team, or be fit enough to knock a ball around the park with your grandkids?

When my clients describe a goal, the two questions I ask first are “When do you want to have achieved this?” and “How will you know when you’ve achieved it?”

So firstly set a date – without a deadline you’ll drift.  What’s another day of not working towards your goal if there is no date by which you have to have it done? Set a date.

Then be very specific about what you want to achieve.  How many inches will you have lost in order to say “I’ve lost weight”, or what will you be doing and what will you have achieved in order to say “I am more organised”?  Write it down.

Using the current state of affairs as your starting point and your documented, specific target as your end point, you can now chart your progress.  Think about creating a journal or spreadsheet or download an app which you can use to record progress – you may only be recording small improvements, but those small improvements will add up to one great big improvement if you stick at it, and a record of your progress to date will make it more likely that you’ll persevere.

There’s a saying which goes something like “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up somewhere else”.   You need to know exactly what you are aiming at, and by when, so that you can work out how to get there.

Which leads on to my next tip:

You’ve got to have a plan

Without planning, things go awry.  Take the example of eating healthily at the office – you’ve eaten healthily all day, been to the gym at lunchtime, but unexpectedly find yourself working late – you get hungry and the local shops are now closed.  What do you do?  If you have no healthy snacks to hand, you’ll go and find a vending machine and end up with crisps and chocolate.  With a little planning, you can ensure that you have a stash of healthy snacks in your desk drawer for moments just like these – eating crisis averted.

Take another example – you know you want to fit in three workouts in a week, but you’ve not planned when.  Monday night comes along and you’ve got that Monday feeling, so you say to yourself you’ll go to the gym tomorrow.  But you then realise you’re meeting friends on Tuesday, which means no workout, and you’re going away at the weekend, so opportunities to fit in your three workouts are disappearing fast.  If you’d looked ahead and diarised those workouts, this wouldn’t have happened.

With a little planning, you can build your own contingency plans, and be prepared to overcome unexpected stumbling blocks.

Is your goal achievable?

Is your goal actually possible, with the time and resources you are willing to dedicate to it?

This is not an attempt to pour cold water on your ambitions, nor is it giving you a get-out clause, but you need to think about how much time and effort you’re able and willing to commit to sticking to your resolution.

For instance, you want to get a new job, which will require some retraining.  Consider how much time you can spare for retraining, without overloading yourself, and how much you can afford to pay for courses.  If you set yourself the goal of qualifying in a year when you don’t have the time and/or money for a one year intensive course, you’re setting yourself up to fail.  So think about the resources you have available and work with them.  It’s great to set ambitious deadlines, but not so great if you’ve no chance of hitting them.

Finally, consider this:

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got

If you’ve made the same resolution every year for the past few years, this is a particularly important point.  You genuinely want to improve on something, or achieve something, but the way you’ve approached it in the past hasn’t worked.  How are you going to approach it this time around?  If you’re planning on using the same approach again, what do you think your chances of success are?

What could you do differently this time?  Think of new ways of moving towards where you want to be.  A change of approach (a different gym/activity, a different diet, a different smoking cessation plan) could make the difference between another lapsed resolution and permanent success.

I wish you lots of success in 2014!

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