Wednesday, 1 January 2014

The secrets to keeping your New Year's resolutions

New Year is upon us and this is the time of year when we traditionally make resolutions and set goals. Frustratingly, we often fail to obtain these goals. How many times have you started a new year with good intentions to lose weight / find a partner / make more money / see friends more, only to find yourself back to your old habits very quickly?

I’m going to teach you how to reach your goals, whatever they may be.

First of all, buy yourself something to write your goals in. This could be a pretty little notebook or even just an app on your phone. Write down your goal for the New Year. Make it as specific as you can. Include precise measurements and time frames.

For example, instead of writing,

“I want to be rich,” write “I will earn £70,000 by the end of 2014.”

Or, instead of writing,

“I want to lose weight,” write “I will lose 1 stone by July.”

Once you have written the goals down, read them aloud to yourself twice a day. This might feel a little strange at first. However, by reading them aloud you are embedding the goals, in your subconscious mind, in two places. You’re embedding them in the part that processes visual stimuli (the writing) and the part that processes sound (the words being spoken aloud.)

This process, when repeated daily firmly embeds the goal into your subconscious mind.

By doing this you are focussing your mind on achieving your goals. Try doing this for just a few days and you will see the difference it makes. You begin to notice opportunities you had not previously noticed. You will also change your mind set with regards to your goal.

Research shows that people are more likely to stick to their plans when they have written them down. The same research also showed that people who make their plans and goals public are far more likely to achieve them. This makes sense. If you tell people what you hope to achieve then it adds an extra pressure. We also do not like to appear incongruent, either to ourselves or to others. Therefore, when we make a public affirmation we stick to it for fear of appearing false and untrustworthy.

If you feel comfortable doing so I recommend telling people about your goals and resolutions.

 We move towards goals if we have a very clear view of them. Take some time to imagine you have already achieved your goal. Imagine you are rich or slim or confident, whatever your goal is.

Really enjoy this exercise. Take your time, close your eyes and imagine, in as much detail as possible, what life is like when you have achieved your goal.

What is the different and what is the same?

What do you see?
What do you hear?
What do you feel?
What do you taste and smell?
Who is with you?
How do you know that you have achieved your goal?

This is a fun exercise so repeat it as often as you like.

The purpose of this exercise is to focus your mind on achieving what you desire. It also changes your mind set. As you really think of yourself as being a slim / rich / more organised person, you change the way you think and behave to fit with this new version of yourself. You will find that by doing this exercise you begin to think and behave in a way which is consistent with your goals.

Often, we start the year with big, ambitious goals. Of course, it’s good to aim high. However, very large goals can be daunting and sometimes it can be helpful to break down big goals into a series of smaller short term goals. For example, if your goal is to save a deposit for a house, perhaps break this down into bi-monthly saving goals.

One of the biggest obstacles we can face when trying to reach our goals is the fear of failure. Often, people avoid aiming high, because they think it is better to cruise along where they are, rather than aim for better and risk failing.

This is a ridiculous way to think. Often, the worst case scenario is simply a bruised ego and a few “I told you so” from other people. The risks associated with not fulfilling your goals are often not that bad. Whereas the potential benefits of achieving our goals can be fantastic. Do you find yourself fearing failure?

From now on adopt the new belief that there is no failure only feedback.

No failure only feedback is a great motto. Any time we encounter obstacles or make mistakes, we can use these as learning experiences. See any issues in isolation, a small lapse. Do not view any setbacks as proof that the goal is unachievable.

Whenever you do encounter an obstacle or setback, take the time to evaluate what happened and how you can do things differently next time. For example, if you are losing weight but one day eat a box of chocolates, don’t think “that’s it, my diet is ruined.”

Instead think about what triggered the chocolate eating.

Was it that you were sad / stressed / tired?

Did someone offer them to you and it was sociable to eat them?

Then think about what you could do differently next time.

 As children, we learn how to behave by copying the actions of others. Many of us assume this learning process ends with childhood. However, this learning process, called modelling, continues through our adult lives. We can use modelling to our advantage.

Identify someone who has achieved the goal you are aiming for. It may be someone you know who has a good marriage or job. Someone who is slim and healthy. I’m sure you can think of someone you know who has reached the point where you would like to be.

Now, learn from them. Observe their posture, the way they act and speak. What do they talk about? How do they respond in different situations? If you know them well enough you can even ask them how they achieved it. 

Imagine stepping into their shoes. Imagine thinking, acting and feeling like them. At first this feels very strange and fake. However, as you absorb the idea of being that better version of yourself, you change your thinking patterns to move towards where you want to be.

 Sometimes we can put obstacles in our own way and subconsciously stop ourselves from reaching our goals. Think hard and honestly about this next question.

What are the disadvantages to achieving you goal or resolution?

If you stop smoking will you miss out on the social breaks at work?
If you lose weight will you receive unwelcome attention from the opposite sex?
Are you worried that having more money will make you a nasty person?

Sometimes we have beliefs which prevent us from achieving our goals. Firstly examine each of these beliefs to see if it is logical. It is illogical to think that simply because you have more money you will become a nasty person.

If your worry is logical then think about ways you can overcome the problem. Using the example of smoking, could you swap cigarette breaks for tea breaks at work?

The New Year is a great opportunity to set goals and make improvements in your life. What will your goals and resolutions be?

Increase your chances of achieving your goals by:

Making them specific and writing them down
Make them public
Vividly imagine you have already achieved them
Break the goal down into short term and long term goals
Embrace the fear of failure
Model other people
Identify any disadvantages of achieving your goal and find a way to deal with that.

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