It is two weeks into the new year and you have toyed with the idea of setting some New Year’s resolutions. You might have some broad ideas like get back into work or a volunteer opportunity, exercise or move around more, lose weight, find a way to take control of a certain aspect of your life, or something else. Or you may have resolutely set some resolutions but are finding you have not yet started on them. Maybe life is happening all around you, you are busy or you forgot. Or maybe the nature of the long-term condition you are living with means your energy levels are not where you would like them to be to focus on things like New Year’s resolutions.
It is normal attend to what is happening in the here and now, to forget or not have the energy at times to focus on your New Year’s resolutions.
The drawback with New Year’s resolutions is that they can feel like a ‘must do’. Look at the definition for resolution. (1)
1. A firm decision to do something
2. A course of action determined or decided on
The words firm, determined, and decided on sound, well, firm. And we may put the expectation on ourselves that we have to be decisive and taking action all of the time, progressing onwards towards our goal. You may wonder where is the room for flexibility and movement? It is no wonder many people find it difficult to follow through on New Year’s resolutions!
BUT THERE IS ANOTHER WAY
I believe there is another way to have New Year’s resolutions and keep to them.
1. USE LANGUAGE THAT RESONATES WITH YOU
If you do not like the word resolution, then bin it. Use another word that resonates for you: intention, goal, objective, whatever. Intention works for me, so I will use that language here.
2. PLAY INTO YOUR FUTURE
Have a bit of a think about the change you want to make. What will you think and feel if you make the change. Just imagine it for a bit, notice what is different for you and whether that resonates with you. Also think about what you gain from making the change, but also what you will lose. Play devil’s advocate with yourself and ask what you will you gain and lose by not doing anything. These questions help you to uncover any hidden motivators, needs or assumptions around making the change that can help you determine if the change is right for you right now, or even what potential obstacles may exist to making the change which may need to be dealt with first.
3. KEEP YOUR INTENTION SMALL
This is important. Keep your intention small. (I am not saying do not dream big. Dream big, but you do not have to see the path to your dream in detail. Knowing and taking the first small step on that path is a great start. And that first step can be your intention.) For example, you may want to feel more healthy and losing 30 lbs is part of that. If 30 lbs seems really big, far away, and a bit difficult at the moment, find a first step that feels closer to you and doable. Maybe finding a way to shave 50 calories off your daily intake of food and drink can be the first intention.
Change does not have to be big and grand. Sometimes expecting yourself to do and achieve a lot quickly can be additional pressure that results in you doing nothing. Keeping it small can be much more achievable. And you can build on the small change throughout the year. My mantra is making small changes in various parts of your life can together be a tidal wave of change.
Here is an example. My own wellbeing is important to me. And to ensure my wellbeing is where I want it, there are changes I can make in how I behave, think, feel, and what I believe and value. A change I made in the past year is to drink more water (Top Tip: it helps with energy levels and fatigue). I keep my water bottle with me. I carry it with me from room to room. At the start, I did not always drink from it. But keeping the bottle of water with me was the first step. It was a reminder for me to drink the water, which I did start doing. The next step, which was a bigger change but one that felt right, was to drink 1.5 litres of water a day. Some days, I drink over 2 litres of water and my next step is to do that consistently. This has been a process of change throughout 2014, which may seem like a long time. But I find my behaviours have continued and are leading to lasting change.
Here is another example focusing on mental change. Maybe you have identified that you think or feel a certain way which you want to change. For example, maybe you are really good at analysing something that happened to the point is it rumination and you get yourself angry or upset. And you no longer want to get yourself into that state. The first step is becoming aware that you are ruminating, just saying, ‘I am ruminating right now.’ The next step may be, ‘Ok, is this ruminating helpful to me? Am I learning anything new or different? Is this the best use of my time and energies?’ Then you might choose to think about something else, something that does not make you feel angry or upset. You do all this for a while and may even notice what triggers you to start ruminating, and then you can start to nip the unhelpful thought patterns before they start.
KEEPING IT SMALL IS NOT A NEW IDEA
The idea of making change in small steps is not new. Sir Dave Brailsford, the former British Cycling performance director who developed the British cycling team into the powerhouse it is on the world stage, used his philosophy of ‘marginal gains’ to do that. The idea is, ‘If you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by one percent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.’ (2)
I believe that philosophy can be applied to ourselves. If you want to improve something in your life, then have a think about all the different things that can enable that for you, and look for the small change(s) you can make.
A psychologist at Stanford University in America, Dr. BJ Fogg, specialises in behaviour change and is also thinking along these lines. I came across his free 5 day online course called Tiny Habits (3), which focuses on building new habits, and I am currently doing it. Dr. Fogg writes that your motivation levels, your ability and a suitable trigger must come together at the same time to create a new habit. (4) His course helps you to find a way to make the new habit easy to do so you do it consistently and only then do you build on it by adding another layer of change. This is because you are learning something new and that takes practice. He also stresses the importance of celebrating when you carry out your new behaviours.
4. ON YOUR TIME
If setting intentions at New Year does not feel right to you, but February does, your birthday, or another time, then set your intention then.
5. Practice, patience and celebrate
Practice, practice and practice. Take your time. Show patience to yourself. Remember what Dr. Fogg advocates and celebrate each time you do what you intended. (5)
OVER TO YOU
Do you enjoy setting New Year’s resolutions or rather that they did not exist? What gets in the way of achieving your New Year’s resolutions? And when you followed through on a New Year’s intention, what enabled that? Share your wisdom by leaving a comment below.
CALL TO ACTION
If you like what you read, come back for more in the next few weeks. And feel free to follow me here and share this post using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, email or one of the other buttons below.
Go forth and have a fabulous and fun 2015 making your small change(s).
© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2015
1 Free Dictionary (2014), Definition of resolution, Available http://www.thefreedictionary.com/resolution
(2015, January 14).
2 Allen, E., Sir Dave Brailsford at British Cycling – A career retrospective, Available http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/gbcyclingteam/article/gbr20140411-British-Cycling—The-Brailsford-years-0, (2015, January 14).
3 Fogg, BJ Dr., Tiny Habits, Available www.tinyhabits.com, (2015, January 10).
4 Fogg, BJ Dr., BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model, Available http://www.behaviormodel.org, (2015, January 10).
5 Fogg, BJ Dr., Tiny Habits, Available www.tinyhabits.com, (2015, January 10).