I'm both a big fan and a huge non-fan of New Year's Resolutions. A fan because, who doesn't like that feeling of renewed energy and hope that comes with the start of a new year? The reason I'm not so enthralled with New Year's Resolutions is… well, how many people do you know who've actually made a New Year's Resolution and stuck to it? Or be honest now, how many times have you kept your resolutions? And how long was it between making your resolutions and breaking them?
What I don't like about New Year's Resolutions is that ultimately the end result often tends to be the same: feeling like a failure because once again we weren't able to do what we said we were going to do. And I've never been a big fan of that.
New Year's Resolutions can be just another way we set ourselves up for failure and remind ourselves in some way that we are "not enough",
So how do we keep the good stuff - the setting goals and improving our lives and giving ourselves something to feel good about - while making sure we don't end up giving up and feeling even worse than before we started?
Follow these five tips to help you keep that "fresh out of the box New Year I can do anything feeling" going all year.
Don't start on January 1st
For some resolutions there can be no worse time to start than January 1st. I'm thinking of the common resolution to get fit and lose weight. While there are still leftovers and chocolate and alcohol lurking around, it's not a great idea to start on a healthy eating regime. Trying to eat better when temptation is all around is difficult even for those with the strongest willpower.
So, give yourself time. Allow yourself a few days to clear the cupboards of treats and for the overindulgence of the holiday season to well and truly be over before you fully commit to your New Year's Resolutions.
Remember the tortoise and the hare - it's not a race or about shooting out of the starting blocks all guns blazing.
Tip: You have time. And you can set your own start date.
It's all about your actions
So you've set your New Year's Resolutions. Achieving your resolutions is now going to be absolutely dependent on all of the actions you take every day, large or small. And from this point on, every action you take is either moving you towards or away from your goal.
If you're trying to lose weight, eating a cookie will move you away from your goal. Setting your alarm for 30 minutes earlier and going for a run moves you towards your goal. So before you reach for another chocolate, or skip the gym, ask yourself: "Am I moving towards my goal or away from it?"
Tip: Be mindful of your actions. Every action you take is either moving you towards or away from your goal. Always be moving towards your goal.
When temptation strikes, focus on the feeling
Kate Moss once famously said "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels". I remember that was quite controversial at the time as many were angry about someone in the public eye condoning being skinny at all costs. But the essence of what she was saying was pretty on the nail.
When we set New Year's Resolutions, we tend to focus on the action. What we will do and what we won't do. We almost always neglect to think about how we feel. Specifically, how we will feel once we have reached our ideal weight, haven't had a cigarette or a drink in one or two or three months. Or how it will feel after stashing away money and finally having enough for that dream holiday.
Focusing on the feeling of having achieved our goals can help get us through those sticky moments of temptation.
Try this morning meditation to help you focus on the feeling of achieving your goals:
Tip: Resolution Morning Meditation: Set aside 5 minutes first thing in the morning. Make sure you won't be disturbed. Close your eyes. Now start to imagine you've achieved your goal. What does it feel like? Feel it in your body. Where does the feeling sit? Is it excitement, joy, happiness, pride, feeling great about your body? Now allow that feeling to expand in your body. Imagine it moving from the top of your scalp, down through your throat and chest, allow it to expand around your heart. Picture yourself achieving your goal while you feel that feeling expand throughout your body, down your thighs to your feet. Visualise and feel at the same time.
Now, feeling good, feeling amazing, open your eyes. Allow the feeling to stay with you and recall the visualisation and the feeling every time you feel like giving up on achieving your goal.
Try a meditation download
Just for today
Most people I know are quite capable of keeping to their New Year's Resolutions for a day, sometimes a week, sometimes even a month. But when the goal has a deadline that is too far away that can feel overwhelming and it becomes easy to lose focus and motivation.
We live our lives in days. Today is all we have and it's in our todays where we set tomorrow's achievements.
Tip: Break your New Year's Resolution into day-sized goals. Imagine your day is one whole year and tell yourself "Just for today I am going to..." and fill in the blanks, whether it's eat healthier, not smoke or drink, not buy an expensive coffee, take a packed lunch instead of eating out... whatever your New Year's Resolution is. At the end of the day, remind yourself of how well you have done and give yourself lots of praise for achieving your goals for that day.
And then do it all again tomorrow. And the next day...
Slip up but don't give up
Perhaps the most common reason why people give up on their New Year's Resolutions is that they slip up and then give up. It may be that they give in to temptation and then eat chocolate or cake or have a glass of wine, and then feel like such a failure that they give up completely.
Accept that failing is part of the process - in fact, I think room for failure should be factored into every New Year's Resolution. You have set an intention to improve your life in some way. It's not a contest, not a competition - it's a pathway, a journey, you haven't failed.
Tip: if you slip up, be kind to yourself. Achieving your goals is not an all or nothing journey. Remember to get back to moving towards your goals, focus on the small everyday actions, put your blinkers on and focus on today. Remind yourself how you will feel once you have achieved your goals. Go further and imagine you have already achieved them and immerse yourself in that feeling.
And then begin again.