As a business and personal coach you might think I am crazy telling you not to make resolutions, but like diets most resolutions fail. The reason is you often focus on what you can't have or do, you overcommit yourself or you don't set a clear strategy or plan.
I am a goals orientated person and always encourage my clients to have goals or targets to work towards, however resolutions are often sweeping statements that have an emotional link to success or failure. In this blog I will talk about how you can change your resolutions so they work for you and you are more likely to achieve them.
I am sure I am not the only one who has decided they need to be a bit more healthy at points in their life (and certainly in 2017). However I know that when I say to myself “You can't have any chocolate for the next month” all my brain thinks about is chocolate, I am sure I have even dreamt about it. This is because our unconscious minds can't distinguish between positive and negative statements.
So, if you are thinking about changing a habit you don't like (maybe your prosecco / chocolate / online shopping habit) frame it in a positive way instead of a negative way. In addition, act as if you are already doing it so swap your resolution from “I won't eat any chocolate in January to I am eating healthy snacks and enjoying my food”.
By framing it in the future you can start to build affirmations (daily statements that help reinforce what you want to do) around your intention. By making the statement positive you are focused on the “good” behaviours you carry out. You are also less likely to see yourself as a failure if you slip up (which we all have a tendency to do)
Overcommitment is another cause of failure. As I write this I am feeling a little bit sick as I remember what I vowed to do in January 2013, I had just received notification I had a place in the London Marathon so I decided that I would train every day at my gym at work for 30 minutes in the morning and run every evening as well. I decided I would start this on the 2nd January (I wasn't quite that optimistic to think I could start on the 1st January).
One of my problems was that this was just too much for me, I was working in a very full on job and I had an active social life. I had never ran a marathon before and as I was behind on my training I really thought this approach would be the best one. However, it was too all or nothing, by about day 5 my motivation was dwindling. By day 7 I had stopped completely. I felt like a failure. I had been overoptimistic about what I could achieve and when I didn't do it I gave up.
I did run (and walk) the marathon in April that year and I can safely say that it was one of the most painful experiences of my life (and I have had two babies with no pain relief)
The second thing that I did wrong wth my marathon resolution is I didn't really believe I could do it. My self talk was “I will try…” when you aren't even convincing in your language your unconscious picks up on it and you are more likely to fail. When you use bold, positive, confident statements or you act as if you have already achieved your goal it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy and you are much more likely to get there.
The third reason lots of our resolutions fail is we have our big idea, our goal but we don't really think about the strategy. To achieve a big goal – for example to open your own business in 2017 you need to break it down into manageable chunks and have clear milestones. By breaking down your resolution into what you need to do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis it is clear what you need to do.
I would recommend that you reflect on your successes relating to your resolution every day in a journal. This helps to create a positive mindset and will help you to see the progress you have made. It is really powerful to look back on days of successes (however small) when you are feeling overwhelmed or demotivated.
If you have clear milestones you can start planning rewards to help keep you motivated along the way. I personally find that I need to have rewards to keep going and feel like I am on the right path, I also make them fun so that I am looking forward to them.
Another way to increase your success of your resolution is to share it with someone – this could be your partner, your best friend, your mum or in a facebook group you are a member of. By sharing with someone else you are creating an element of accountability which means you are more likely to stick with what you have said.
Finally, evidence from neuroscience says it takes between 21 – 66 days of doing something for it to become routine or habitual. By changing an element of our behaviour we are effectively creating new neural pathways in our brain – you want to make sure they are secure if you are keen to modify your behaviour. As we know it takes this long think about what you can really commit to doing every day to create these new pathways – a 10 mile run might be out of the question but 30 minutes of exercise a day is achievable.
So how can you make these resolutions more likely to succeed?
– Think about the way you frame them – remember to do so in the positive not the negative – so what you will gain from changing your behaviour
– Imagine you have achieved your resolution or goal and state it in the present tense, this can then become a daily affirmation
– Don't make them too overwhelming, of course you should try and leave your comfort zone but don't commit to something that is going to be virtually impossible to achieve
– Spend time thinking how you will achieve your resolution and write down a clear plan
– Plan rewards for when you are doing well and think about how you will celebrate your success
– Share your resolution with other people – this accountability means you are more likely to do it
Ruth Kudzi is a Business and Mindset coach who specialises in working with mums who are starting up or developing businesses. She offers one-to-one and group coaching programs alongside online courses. For more information visit www.ruthkudzicoaching.com or join her facebook community www.facebook.com/groups/careerchangemums