Research suggests that New Year resolutions typically get abandoned by 15 January! So, if you set NY resolutions this year, or if you are setting new goals, here are my top tips to help you follow through.
1. Set small goals or break larger ones into smaller chunks.
Our nervous system is designed to keep us safe and often perceives larger goals as a threat. When that happens, our subconscious actively moves us away from what it thinks will cause us pain. It does that by providing plausible excuses, e.g. I’m too tired, it’s too cold, I’ll do it tomorrow. Self-sabotage and procrastination are part of this – your subconscious mind is trying to protect you based on threat signals it is receiving from your nervous system.
To combat this in-built safety mechanism, start small. For example, if you’re thinking of running a 5K, Day 1, simply put your trainers on and walk for 10 minutes. Then, on day 2, walk for 15 minutes and so on. Or download the Couch to 5K app for structured guidance.
In addition, small wins give us a dopamine hit, making us more likely to continue. So, start small and gain momentum. Build new habits slowly and release that important feel-good hormone dopamine.
2. Build your ‘thing’ into a habit
We build habits through repetition (i.e. the more we do a certain thing, the deeper the neural pathway becomes in the brain, over time, it becomes ingrained). The easiest way to do this is to tag the new habit you wish to create onto something you already do; stacking one on top of the other.
For example, if you want to get into the habit of running, leave your clothes out the night before (the path of least resistance). As soon as you’ve finished cleaning your teeth in the morning (a habit you already have), slip your clothes and trainers on and walk straight out of the door.
Tagging one habit to another is called ‘habit stacking’ and makes you much more likely to do the ‘thing’. If you’re interested in this topic, I highly recommend two excellent books, James Clear’s Atomic Habits and B.J. Fogg’s ‘Tiny Habits’.
3. Make your ‘WHY’ big enough
If the reason why you want to achieve your goal isn’t big enough, it’s unlikely that you’ll reach it. So getting clear on why you want the ‘thing’ before you begin will pay dividends.
Back to our 5K example, just deciding you want to do it because ‘everyone else is doing it’ or because you think you should be fitter or healthier is unlikely to be motivational enough for you to follow through. However, reasons like the ability to run around after your children/grandchildren without getting out of breath or wanting to feel physically and mentally more in control and resilient are much more compelling.
4. Tell someone/get an ‘Accountability Partner’)
If it’s appropriate, tell someone what you’re planning to do. When you either tell someone or, even better, get an accountability partner (a relationship where both of you want to achieve something and check in regularly to report on your progress and to support each other), you are far more likely to take the necessary actions.
That’s why coaching is so great; a coach makes you accountable. If you want to work with me, one of the stipulations is that you do the homework that we agree on at the end of each session. Showing up to our next appointment without having done it is simply not an option if you want to continue working with me, so it’s a great motivator!
What are your ‘intentions’ for this year or even this month? What challenges have you encountered, either setting or maintaining momentum? I’d love to hear from you. Either leave a comment below to mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.