This point of January is the most depressing time of year for me. Christmas is already a distant memory and it seems winter cold and rain endlessly stretches ahead of us. It’s easy to see why so many give up on our enthusiasm for changes and goals that we vowed we’d do at the new year. In the past I’ve failed miserably at the things I set out to achieve, but I think I’ve since worked out why they went wrong and what I need to do to fix it and make them happen….
I love writing lists, and at the start of January, I always write a list of things I want to change and do in my life. It’s great fun! I picture myself doing all these wonderful things whilst being at least two stone lighter and the vision is marvellous! Then real life kicks in as soon as the Christmas holidays are over and I get caught up in the every-day grind and forget to look at that list until I come across it by accident at least half way through the year. Even if the list is at the back of my mind some of the time, it’s no wonder I rarely accomplish any of it.
First of all, how many things have you got on your list? If like me, you’re over-ambitious about how many things you can get done in a day, then maybe straight away halve it! Of course, it depends on how big your goals are, but you’re better off focussing on one or two things fully, than trying lots at once. For example, if you want to lose three or four stone this year; that’s perfectly do-able, but perhaps wait until next year to do that Open University course. If you’re exercising every day for an hour after work, you’re going to be too exhausted to study as well.
Secondly, don’t just write a list and then assume that an end goal is all you need to worry about. Actually set some time to properly think it through. I’ll give losing weight as an obvious example. Don’t just write that you want to lose two or three stone this year; make notes about how you’re actually going to do it. Write a food and calorie diary and never go over 1300 calories a day? Or join Slimming World? Work out meal plans and find out what exercise suits you. If you’ve tried before but failed, write down why you think it went wrong and how you can prevent that happening again.
If you have proper strategies in place that take you all the way from where you are now to where you want to be, it will be much easier to get there.
Thirdly, make a list of all possible obstacles that might get in your way, and then work out how to avoid them or deal with them. The old Girl Guide motto ‘Be Prepared’ is key. Avoid friends who smoke while you’re trying to give up; don’t visit that person who always makes a cake even when you’ve told them you’re on a diet; find somewhere else to go that you enjoy instead of going to the pub after work if you’re trying to give up alcohol. Nobody said it would be easy, but if you’re ready for the difficult times, then it will be a lot less difficult.
If your goal is stopping a bad habit, then I find diversion tactics are the best strategy. So when you’re craving chocolate you know it’s time to walk the dog; wash the car or phone your Mum. Have a list of things to do instead of the thing you’re trying to stop doing. For example, I know I tend to snack on chocolate when I watch You Tube videos in my breaks. So I know I either have to change my snack to apples; watch You Tube videos differently – such as at a different time of day when I’m less likely to want to snack; stop watching them altogether; or take up something like knitting to do instead at the same time.
Next, celebrate the small things. Pat yourself on the back after every day you’ve taken a small step towards your goal. Refer to your plan and after each stepping stone treat yourself to a relaxing bubble bath or a trip to the cinema – whatever you like, (as long as it doesn’t interfere with what you’re actually trying to get to). If you know there’s a reward after each small accomplishment, then you can focus on that to help you through the times when you’re finding it difficult. Feel good about how far you’ve come and know that you can keep going.
Lastly, DON’T GIVE UP! You might be that person who, once you’ve set your mind to doing something, you simply go out and do it without letting anything else distract you. If so, that’s great! The rest of us however, are human, and slip-ups and problems out of our control get in the way. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Don’t think ‘Oh fu*k it, I may as well give up now then.’ Dust yourself off, accept that it’s happened and work out ways you can try and avoid it happening again. Take your time; don’t be impatient and you WILL get there. The stepping stones add up; focus on them first and the mile-stone will soon be in sight.
Go for it and make 2017 the year you finally do it! You got this!