New Year is rapidly approaching, and many people are thinking of what their resolutions for 2017 will be. I’m not a fan of them, for a variety of reasons: they are too often made because people feel they ‘have’ to. They are often overambitious, and with no plan to back them up often result in failure before January is even over.
I also think why wait for a particular time of the year to change something you don’t like?
But anyway, irrespective of when you decide to make a lifestyle change (because resolutions usually are a lifestyle change of some sort) if you want it to work you need to do a bit of thinking and a bit of planning.
It doesn’t hurt, promise.
Nor is it as stressful or as boring as it might sound.
Any change that you want to be sustainable needs a bit of investment in planning.
I am a trained leadership and wellbeing coach, and am passionate about helping people achieve things that are important to them.
That leads me to my first point:
Make sure the change/resolution is important to YOU
That means thinking about WHY you want to make this change. Is it because you yourself really want to do it? Or is it because of pressure, whether real or perceived from people in your life or in the (social) media?
This is crucial because the steps below will involve you doing things differently. With anything, no matter how big or small you are more likely to be motivated to take action (especially when life throws challenges at you) if it is something that YOU want to do.
You might have heard of SMART goals. If you haven’t, it’s an acronym that means Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound.
Being specific is really helpful when you have a massive goal, and to protect against a goal that is overambitious. (That’s not to say you musn’t aim for the stars, but we also need to be realistic.)
For example, rather than saying “I want to be happier,” which is an excellent goal but vague. How would you like to be happier? What will make you happier? What does my life look like now, what do I want my life to be like, what would I like to do more of or less of? It is likely the answers to these questions will take time to answer, and may feel uncomfortable. Take your time, and try different things: talk to your friends and family; write lists, draw pictures, whatever works for you. It is worth persevering because once you know the answer to those questions you will be able to define a specific goal – perhaps going for walks in the fresh air makes you feel happier, so your specific goal might be to go for more walks in the fresh air.
A measurable goal is useful so you know how well you are doing. Using the going for walks example, you might say you will go for a 30 minute walk four times a week. That’s easy to measure. But measurement isn’t only about numbers: there might be a way to measure how you are feeling. Be creative. Perhaps you find it easier to get up in the morning, or feel more motivated when you are getting some fresh air. tracking these sentiments is another way of measuring the benefits, and can help you maintain your motivation.
Goals have to be achievable – pretty obvious, but there’s no point setting yourself up to fail! Be honest with yourself too, which leads to the point about your goal being realistic. Are there any compromises you will need to make, and are you prepared to make them? If going out for that 30 minute walk four times a week means getting up at 5am because of your work schedule, for example, are you going to do that? If not, what will you do instead?
Your goals also need to be timebound if you are going to achieve them. Most of us are guilty of leaving things ‘until tomorrow’, or have a wooly sense of going to do something in the future. Timescales help you track your progress, and keep yourself accountable.
Create Mini Goals (or how do you eat an elephant?)
It doesn’t matter whether you think your goal is big or small, or somewhere in between (and don’t forget it’s all subjective). Creating mini goals is really helpful when you feel overwhelmed and helps you to get started. Think of it like eating an elephant (not literally of course!) – there is no way you could eat it in one go, you would have think about where to start and to take it in small chunks over a period of time.
For the walking example, a mini goal might be to start with one walk a week, then build up to two a week over a period of time.
Celebrate your achievements!
Celebrate your achievements, no matter how big or small. Perhaps you might celebrate when a mini-goal has been achieved – feel proud! It helps you know you are on the right track, and can give your motivation a boost which is especially important when life gets in the way…
Hold yourself accountable, but be kind to yourself!
Regularly evaluating your goal and progress can be useful for holding yourself accountable. But be kind to yourself! Don’t beat yourself up if things are not going as planned. Life changes, and our circumstances change too. Life is stressful enough without adding to it.
Reflecting what is working and what is not working is vital reflection for helping you achieve your goal, rather than it becoming another ‘what if’ or dream that has fallen by the wayside. Make changes as and when you need to. Maybe take a break. Maybe what you thought was your goal isn’t the same anymore. Maybe you want to try something new. Maybe you want to add some new things to it. It doesn’t matter. None of it is set in stone. Reflecting and making changes where necessary is not failing, it’s helping you to succeed and ultimately enjoy and make the most out of your life which, ultimately, isn’t that what it is all about?
Are you making any resolutions? What are your top tips for sustainable lifestyle change?
Pin for later