The universe goes in seasons and cycles. The earth goes around the sun. The moon goes around the earth. The seasons follow in order; summer after spring and winter after autumn (fall). Night follows day and the month’s click around to December, which is followed by January and the start of a new year.
People’s behavior also has cycles.
The start of the year is typically the time when resolutions to change are made. Yet it is worth noting that you can resolve to make changes at any time of year. Birthdays are another time when the passing of a year can lead to reflection on how we do things and can we do them differently.
Our goal is indeed to do things differently than we have done them before. When smoking was more prevalent, quitting smoking was the most popular new years resolution. Today losing weight or getting fit are the most common.
The problem is that after a week or two things are usually “back to normal”. Why is this the case? We all know what to do. There is no shortage of information available about eating and exercise. There is no shortage of products or programs available to help us.
The problem is that we are creatures of habit. We do things a certain way. When we focus we can go against our habits but as soon as our minds are on other things (e.g. work or the family) we subconsciously revert to our default behaviors – the ones we have been doing for years. We reach for the biscuit instead of the fruit. We drink the soda instead of water.
Habits can be changed and the reversion to our default can become a positive not a negative. It is also known that it takes three months for new habits to become firmly established.
To help you achieve your new years goals here are five tips.
1) Before you start – make a plan. Setting goals without having a plan is like trying to build a house without a plan. The bricks won’t put themselves together and in the pattern you want. Neither will your new eating plan or exercise regimes just create itself. Write your plan down and consult it regularly. You can adjust it as you go too.
2) Do simple mathematics. Count and measure what you eat. With any change in eating patterns you need to measure calories and portion sizes till you start to intuitively “get” how many calories are in different foods. With exercise you need to count the minutes and do your exercise at set times so it becomes ingrained in your schedule and not something on the “to do” list. Find out how many minutes of exercise are needed to burn off a biscuit – you may be surprised and it will help you resist the temptation.
3) Enhance your willpower. It has been shown that those who believe they have willpower have more. It is not something that “other people have” and it can be learned. Even simple affirmations can get you started. Things like “I exercise regularly”. Believe you have willpower and you have more of it. As Henry Ford said, “whether you believe you can or you cannot – you will be right”.
4) Focus and discipline. When aiming to change aspects of the body you need to train the brain too as it needs to develop new neural pathways for your new behaviors. Meditation helps people focus better.
5) When you fall off the horse get back on. Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times before inventing the light bulb. So what if you have a day when you overdid the chocolate. You will lapse. What matters is what you do next. Do you use this as an excuse to say I failed or do you see it as a temporary setback and a learning opportunity? Draw a line in the sand at midnight and start a new the next day.
This is not is difficult. You do not require three tertiary degrees. You will not need thousands of dollars nor months worth of spare time. Changing our behavior is a matter of changing your mindset, creating a plan, actioning it and most importantly staying the course.
Follow the five steps outlined above and you can turn your resolutions (new years or otherwise) into reality.